Pyre by Perumal Murugan

Pyre by Perumal Murugan

Indian fiction

Original title – Pūkkul̲i, Tamil –  பூக்குழி

Translator – Aniruddhan Vasudevan

Source – review copy

I draw to a close this month with one of the major Indian writers Perumal Murugan this is the first book I have read by him it is the third book to be translated by Pushkin press from him. He has written 11 novels and five collections of short stories, which means we have a lot more books to come from the book. Murugan has been writing from an early age he was featured on Indian radio as a kid he grew small holding and his father ran a soda shop which is also what Kumaresan is doing as he saves to escape with his new wife Saroja. so some of the settings has some of his own backgrounds.

As they neared the rock, she could see the faces of the women sitting there. Their voices rose in a cacophony. As soon as they saw the couple, they all got up. Everyone was silent for a minute. Saroja stood with her head bowed, while Kumaresan set the bag on the ground and looked at them.

No one said anything. There were five or six men in the crowd too.

Suddenly, from within one of the huts, there came a wail, and an aggrieved voice lashed out at them: ‘You have ruined me!’

The rock is like the island in a sea hatred.

The book was longlist for the south Asian prize and is set in the village of Kattuppati a remote village. A young man has brought home a bride after spending some time in the city. when he returns to his village and to his house on the rock ( I always feel this maybe add to the story the rock is like an island in the sea of hatred they face) with his new bride Saroja is from a different caste to her husband they return n to sure what will happen the minute they get back you get a sense that they maybe hadn’t gathered how bad the reaction Kumaresan marrying this girl from a lower caste. His mother curse her and from the get-go there is a real sense that Saroja doesn’t want and the locals will do their best to get rid of her. Meanwhile Kumaresan  is trying to build a soda business as the plan was to get the money to move this becomes more of the plan when Saroja falls pregnant but this comes as Kumaresan has to go away maybe for a few days Saroja worries about what will happen.

Then appucchi spoke again. ‘Run away from here before your uncles return. They want to hack you to pieces.

They are very upset that the boy whom they raised has done something like this. Your uncles had plans to build you a tiled house on the rock and get you married to a nice girl Couldn’t you find a girl in our village, from within our caste? We can’t even face our people. You have shamed us all. If your uncles see you now, they will hack you to death.

Hey, you! Give them something to eat if you want and send them on their way. If our boys ask, we will tell them that we were feeding some workers’

Later on the tension and what may happen becomes clearer.

This for me has so many things I love in literature the clash of cultures here is almost like a car crash as the new couple from different castes The village is a typical insular village I was reminded of the book  Stones in the landslide (as you may know one of my favourite books) where some one from the next village down moves to the village and seems like an alien to the locals this is the same feeling but tenfold. Another feeling I had was a Dickensian feel with the bottle shop reminding me of David Copperfield but dickens also tackled marriage and relationships across the class divide. It also has that feeling of cranking up the tension as the full extent of the relationship and the outfall of this marriage on the village and his family and the locals as you feel the dark and tension grow. It if Satyajit Ray had ever done an Indian version of Emmerdale this would have been it has the feeling of tension that soap operas do well at building slow tension over time you as a reader can see it coming Ray also captures the Indian village so well in his films. this is one of those books that shows us why we need more Indian books in translation the only thing we miss is as the translator says is the subtle sense of language between the village and city folks those subtle dialects that is always hard to convey in translation but it doesn’t lose anything for not having it.

Winstons score – +A I am always a fan of books set in villages and clashes of classes (Well caste her as well)

 

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4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. tonymess12
    Sep 30, 2022 @ 09:32:20

    Glad you enjoyed this Stu, I’ve a different edition (Penguin India) and it was a novel I didn’t finish, I thought it very simple in language and style, as though a high school graduate was writing it. Too many complex books have made me bitter – lol.

    Reply

  2. Lisa Hill
    Oct 01, 2022 @ 07:04:25

    Well, two such different reactions to the same book! I’d better track down a copy to see what I think about it!!

    Reply

  3. Lisa Hill
    Oct 01, 2022 @ 07:09:30

    LOL, it’s a good thing I record my books at Goodreads, I’ve already got a copy!

    Reply

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