“A great anatomist of power and, in particular, of the deep, deforming rot of caste hatred and violence. With flashes of fable, his novel tells a story specific and universal: how flammable are fear and the distrust of others” – this is how the International Booker Prize 2023 judges describe Indian author Perumal Murugan’s intercaste love story ‘Pyre’, which is longlisted for the prestigious literary prize as the first-ever Tamil novel.
Translated into English by Aniruddhan Vasudevan, ‘Pyre’ is among 13 books from across Asia, Africa, Europe and Latin America to make the cut for this year’s prize. It comes on the back of Geetanjali Shree, and translator Daisy Rockwell, winning the 2022 prize for the first-ever Hindi novel ‘Tomb of Sand’.
The International Booker Prize is awarded annually for a work of fiction written originally in any language, translated into English and published in the UK or Ireland. The £50,000 prize money is shared between the writer and translator of the winning work, to be announced at a ceremony in London on May 23.
Murugan, 56, is an author, scholar and poet born in Tamil Nadu, southern India, and has 10 novels, five collections of short stories and four anthologies of poetry to his credit. He is a winner of the Sahitya Akademi’s Translation Prize for his novel ‘Madhorubhagan’, translated by Vasudevan as ‘One Part Woman’. In 2015, Murugan declared himself “dead” and announced his retirement from writing following protests, litigation and the burning of this later award-winning work. At a court case in 2016 centred on the book, the judge ruled: “Let the author be resurrected to what he is best at. Write.” For Murugan, the statement was both “a command and a benediction” to resume writing, the Booker Prize judges note.
The 13 Booker longlisted works originate in 12 countries and are translated from 11 languages and the subject matter covered includes elements of Indian melodrama, Korean fairy tale, French horror, Caribbean gospel and Scandinavian saga.
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French-Moroccan novelist Leïla Slimani, the Chair of judges for the International Booker Prize 2023, said: “What was very rewarding about this experience was reading books from all over the world, with an extraordinary variety of form and content. Each of the judges had different tastes and that is what we have tried to reflect in this list.
“It celebrates the variety and diversity of literary production today, the different ways in which the novel can be viewed. We wanted to give the reader the chance to discover this and to find something that will move or disturb them. The list is also a celebration of the power of language and of authors who wanted to push formal enquiry as far as possible.”
Fiammetta Rocco, Administrator of the International Booker Prize, adds: “To read a book translated from another language is to embark on a global adventure. The judges looked closely not just at what the writers and their translators were telling us about the world we live in, but also at how they told us.
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“The panel talked about ideas and emotion in fiction, about form, structure, originality, poetry, ethics, character and the importance of humour… Through fable and myth, stories and sagas, it proves that reading has no borders.”
*Info: The Booker Prizes