BookDragon Books for the Diverse Reader

The Story of a Goat by Perumal Murugan, translated by N Kalyan Raman [in Booklist]

Success nearly killed Perumal Murugan. Longlisted for the 2018 National Book Award for Translated Literature, his cult novel, One Part Woman, was viciously condemned and publicly burnt in his native India for revealing the culture of his remote village to the outside world. Murugan declared himself dead on Facebook, but broke his silence after winning a landmark case granting artistic freedom. In a three-month burst, Murugan created his impossibly frail, all-black, newborn goat named Poonachi who ends up in the care of an elderly farming couple. The old woman is smitten, tenaciously encouraging Poonachi’s survival.

Murugan – smoothly Anglophone-enabled by award-winning Tamil translator N Kalyan Raman – moves fluidly between human and animal viewpoints, from detailing the humans’ relationship with their land and flock, to anthropomorphizing Poonachi’s maturation from fragile survivor into playful kid, longing lover, even miraculous mother.

Yet as pastoral as this story seems, Murugan’s multi-layered intentions prove far more admonitory. Poonachi is more daughter – with all the limitations of womanhood thrust upon her – than livestock. Beyond the fields, a regime looms, fear controls, and societal rigidity rules as Murugan adroitly transforms his caprine idyll into cautionary chronicle.

Review: “Fiction,” Booklist, November 1, 2019

Readers: Adult

Published: 2019 (United States)


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