The virulent reaction to his Madhorubagan may have forced Tamil writer Perumal Murugan to declare that the author in him was dead. But his controversial novel has acquired a critical, and much appreciated life since.
In the latest accolade for the novel, One Part Woman, the English translation of Madhorubagan, has won the Sahitya Akademiâ€™s annual award for best translation.
Speaking to The News Minute, the book's translator Aniruddhan Vasudevan said, "This was a complete surprise. This is the first book-length translation I did. I did it because I loved the book. I sent Penguin some sample chapters. And they liked it. I think I see this award as part of the vindication of Perumal Murugan's voice and right to free expression. And I hope this pushes me to keep working, keep getting better!"
The novel, first published in 2010, came into controversy when it was attacked by Hindutva groups in late 2014. Alleging that Murugan's novel insulted the women of the Kongu Vellala Gounder community and a Hindu deity, these groups subjected Murugan to such strong harassment that he declared that the author in him was dead, and requested that all his books be pulped.
Two years later, the Madras High Court declared that the ban on the book was illegal and provided some respite to a beleaguered Murugan.
34-year-old Aniruddhan is a dancer and activist who is currently pursuing his PhD in Anthropology at the University of Texas, Austin.
When the ugly controversy regarding the book was going on in Tamil Nadu, Aniruddhan was far away in the US: "I did not encounter open hostility or violence. But then, I was not here. I was in Austin, Texas, when all of it played out. I did not fear for myself. But very much for Perumal Murugan," he says.
Though Aniruddhan did not interact much with Murugan while doing the translation, the two of them spoke a lot subsequently and continue to stay in touch.
Commenting on the Sahitya Akademi's recognition of the award, Perumal Murugan said, "I'm very happy about it."
However, asked if he saw this recognition as the Akademi taking a stance â€“ it had previously been criticized for staying silent on the murder of MM Kalburgi â€“ Perumal Murgan declined to offer a comment.
The author added that he'd written a book of poetry and a novel since the time he took up the pen again. "I do have a few ideas I'm working on for my next book," he said.