Perumal Murugan's Most Beloved Book Companions
Perumal Murugan is a Tamil author, scholar, literary chronicler and associate professor. He has several novels, short stories and anthologies of poetry to his credit. Seven of his novels have been translated into English and shortlisted for major awards—Seasons of the Palm, One Part Woman and Poonachi, among them
The Tirukkural by Tiruvalluvar, Aleph Classics, Rs 399
I keep going back to it, every day. There have been several translations, but changing times can necessitate new translations for any classical text. Gopalakrishna Gandhi’s meets this necessity entirely.
Nagammal by R. Shanmugasundaram, Kalachuvadu Publications, Rs 130
Written in 1942, the novel is about Nagammal—a strong woman fighting for her property rights. Set against the backdrop of the Partition, the novel puts forth a Gandhian approach to the issue, examining it within a family. This is a novel that continues to evoke interest and one I consider a precursor to my writings.
The Truth About Me by A. Revathi, Penguin India, Rs 350
This autobiographical work of a transgender person is a startling revelation about the challenges of being an outlier. The book portrays Revathi’s struggle of asserting her gender identity, braving humiliation and neglect.
Karukku by Bama, Oxford University Press, Rs 299
A pioneer in Tamil Dalit writing from the early 1990s, Karukku is a celebrated work. A combination of autobiography and fiction, its strength lies in its expression of experience. Bama’s powerful language urges the reader to introspect, bringing together the perspectives of a Dalit and a woman.
Who Owns That Song? by A. R. Venkatachalapathy, Juggernaut Books, Rs 599
Historian and teacher A. R. Venkatachalapathy’s work in documenting the lives of Tamil Nadu’s important personalities, fills a huge gap in history. This book highlights copyright issues of poet Bharathiyar’s works, offers rare insights into the history of copyright in India and Tamil Nadu’s unique position in it. As engaging as a thriller, the book is a lesson on the art of writing.
Ghachar Ghochar by Vivek Shanbhag, HarperPerennial, Rs 299
This very modern book seeks to unravel the mysteries of the Indian mind. The book fills the reader with fear—in speaking about the family, a very small institution, that manages to hold so much hatred, ego and secrets. Gifted with tender language and a subtle style of narration, Shanbhag is a magician who can leave a reader deeply unsettled.
Tamarind History by Sundara Ramaswamy, Penguin Classics, Rs 299
Written in 1960s, this continues to be a favourite of many readers. With a tamarind tree as the backdrop, it portrays social change and human propensities through it. The tamarind tree also serves as an imagery that has various approaches. Tamarind History’s rich narration seamlessly takes the reader into the world it sets out to portray.
One Hell of a Lover by Unni R., Westland, Rs 399
This short story collection by the Malayalam writer—which I read in translation—does every Indian language proud. Putting forth new visions, meanings and language, it continues to inspire in different ways with each reading.
From Bihar to Tihar by Kanhaiya Kumar, Juggernaut Books, Rs 165
Is it a boon or a bane for someone so young to write a memoir? This memoir, that traces the life of this remarkable young man from a backward Bihar village to the Jawaharlal Nehru University, serves as a document of contemporary political history. An important work from a very promising activist.
Reshaping Art by T. M. Krishna, Aleph Book Company, Rs 399
It is rare for musicians to write—but then T. M. Krishna is rare. The book raises questions about arts and approaches it both theoretically and practically. Krishna is a person who creates an artistic opinion on every issue and puts it forth fearlessly. The book is a reflection of this extraordinary characteristic of his.