New Delhi: The English translation of Tamil writer Perumal Murugan’s novel Pūkkul̲i, Pyre, has been longlisted for this year’s International Booker Prize. This is the first Tamil work to ever be longlisted for the prize.
The book was published in Tamil in 2013 and in English in 2016, translated by Anirudhh Vasudevan.
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The International Booker Prize is awarded annually to a novel or short story collection written in any language, translated into English and published in the UK or Ireland. The prize money – 50,000 pounds – is split between the author and the translator. Last year, the award went to Geetanjali Shree’s Tomb of Sand, translated from the Hindi Ret Samadhi by Daisy Rockwell.
“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 acknowledgement of the literature in Tamil, in India,” Murugan said about the nomination.
“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,” he continued.
Pyre, set in a Tamil Nadu village in the 1980s, tells the story of an inter-caste couple who have eloped. The International Booker Prize website calls it a “powerful and compelling novel”.
A total of 13 books, translated from 11 languages, have been nominated this year. Along with Tamil, two other languages also appear for the first time – Bulgarian and Catalan.
The other nominees are Ukrainian writer Andrey Kurkov’s Jimi Hendrix Live in Lviv, translated by Reuben Woolley; Boulder by Eva Baltasar, translated by Julie Sanches from Catalan into English; Whale by Cheon Myeong-kwan, translated from Korean by Chi-Young Kim; Time Shelter by Georgi Gospodinov, translated from Bulgarian by Angela Rodel; Norwegian writer Vigdis Hjorth’s Is Mother Dead, translated by Charlotte Barslund and Maryse Condé’s The Gospel According to the New World, translated into English by her husband Richard Philcox.