Perumal Murugan's Booker Prize Nomination Is A Pivotal Moment For Regional Literature

L: Perumal Murugan R: Cover of his novel, 'Pyre'
L: Perumal Murugan R: Cover of his novel, 'Pyre'Times of India

One of the most prestigious awards in the field of literature and writing is the International Booker Prize. It started in 1969 and is a literary prize awarded to the author and the translator of the best work of fiction translated into English, which has been published in the UK or Ireland. Our country was brimming with pride when Geetanjali Shree made history by becoming the first-ever Indian author to win the International Booker Prize for her novel Tomb of Sand, translated from the Hindi Ret Samadhi by Daisy Rockwell.

This year’s longlist for the International Booker Prize has been recently announced and amidst it, we find beloved Tamil author, Perumal Murugan nominated for his latest novel, Pyre. The book had been originally written in Tamil, titled Pūkkul̲i (published in 2013) and then translated into English by Aniruddhan Vasudevan (published in 2016). Perumal Murugan had previously faced sharp criticisms from Hindutva extremist groups for his prior publications. Such obstacles from religiously intolerant groups have not stood in the way of his literary brilliance and this nomination just goes on to show exactly that. With Pyre, he has created a heart-warming tale of a young inter-caste couple in love, who elope together. The novel is set in rural Tamil Nadu in the 1980s.

"This is the first time a Tamil novel has made it to the long list. It is very important for the language. It is significant not because it is my novel but because the selection is an acknowledgment of the literature in Tamil, in India. English and Hindi are spoken as Indian languages whereas the others are classified as regional tongues. That is wrong. That sort of perception will change when books from our languages — southern languages as well as non-Hindi languages from the north — make it to international award lists."

Perumal Murugan, on his nomination

The author’s statement astutely highlights how this nomination is a watershed moment for Tamil writers and what it means for the representation of Indian literature in regional languages on the global platform. The nomination follows close on the heels of Naatu Naatu’s (an iconic song from the Telegu movie RRR) historic Oscar musical win, which goes on to show how South India has emerged as a beacon of light, guiding the way for India finally getting the recognition it deserves, on the global stage.

The shortlist for the International Booker Prize 2023 will be announced on April 18 and the winner will be announced on May 23. The prize money of £50,000 (50 lakh rupees) will be shared equally between the author and translator of the winning book — a move which recognizes the delicate art of translation. The longlist for this year’s International Booker Prize contains 13 books, including some remarkable literary works in Bulgarian and Catalan.

Books longlisted for the International Booker Prize 2023
Books longlisted for the International Booker Prize 2023The Booker Prizes

You can find out more about the International Booker Prize here.

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