CHENNAI: Aniruddhan Vasudevan, who translated the Tamil novel Madhorubhagan into English, stands by the decision of the author, Perumal Murugan, to delete portions of the book, over which some fringe outfits have kicked up a controversy demanding his arrest.
Vasudevan, who is now doing research on gender and sexuality politics in Tamil Nadu, more specifically the connections between sexuality and the idea of self-respect, for his PhD at the University of Texas in the United States, told Express in an e-mail interview: “I respect Perumal Murugan’s decision. I read his press note in its entirety. It is a very moving note. He really values his hometown Tiruchengode and its people. He is clear that he has not in anyway been disrespectful to them in his novel ‘Madhorubagan.’ But if people’s feelings are hurt, thanks to the propaganda by Hindutva groups and their supporters, and if they really feel the book has insulted the town, the god, and the temple, he is willing to address that.”
After reading the novel in 2011 soon after it was published, Vasudevan was captivated by it and wanted to translate it in English. “Penguin liked the sample chapters I translated, and once they picked it up for publication, I could proceed with more confidence,” he recalled.
“Perumal Murugan weaves in a lot of the culture, language, landscape, and ecology of the Kongu region into his writings. You see the fields, crops, vegetation, birds, etc. that pertain to that region. The language, everyday practices of the people who inhabit his fiction, social structures in which their stories are embedded - are all faithful to the Kongu region in many ways. It is fiction grounded in a specific space and the imagination it facilitates,” says Vasudevan, who do not find any justification in the protests against the book that was first published in 2010 and has seen four reprints.
“It is a brilliant novel, and its time is a hundred years ago. It draws the idea of consensual sexual practices between strangers at carnivals from a number of traditional sources and oral histories. It passes no judgment. The novel is about the anguish of a childless couple and what they undergo in their society because of that,” said Vasudevan, whose translation, ‘One Part Woman’, won the VT Ratnam translation award from the Tamil Literary Garden, Canada. The second edition (paperback) of the translation came out just recently.