The English version of Perumal Murugan’s “Pyre” was afterwards translated by Aniruddhan Vasudevan from the original Tamil. The book has been included on the renowned list of longlisted books for the International Booker Prize 2023, making it the first Tamil novel to do so.
“Pyre,” which is set in 1980s rural Tamil Nadu, tells the love story of young Kumaresan and Saroja. The story opens with newlyweds Saroja and Kumaresan exiting a bus and making their way to Kumaresan’s family hamlet in rural Tamil Nadu. Their union is between castes. After a few early questions about Saroja, Kumaresan thinks his village will accept her and stop bothering her. How naive was he, though? The villagers quickly assume that Saroja, a fair-skinned girl, does not share Kumaresan’s caste and is therefore not one of them after spotting her. Not only are the villagers cruel to the newlyweds, but also Kumaresan’s elderly mother and his own father. Due to the young couple’s defiance of caste rules in the community, the furious locals set out to exact retribution on them.
This moving story focuses on the social prejudices that the couple must contend with in a casteist society. Murugan emphasises how intolerance and brutality are aspects of human nature that are universal even though the story is set in rural India. The story of love versus social disparities is at its core in this one.