An ironic look at society, of power and abuse, bondage and greed, surveillance and the silent acquiescence of the weak in their own subjugation.
An old man is watching the sun set over his village one quiet evening when a mysterious stranger turns up with the gift of a day-old goat kid. Thus begins the story of Poonachi, the little black goat whose fragility and fecundity become cause for wonderment to the humans around her.
From the eagle that swoops down on her to the wildcat that attempts to snarch her away within days of her arrival, the old man and his wife struggle to keep their tiny miracle alive. Before they know it, Poonachi has become the centre of their meagre world and the old worman and she are inseparable.
Life is not easy for any of them - farmers, goatherds or goats. The rains play truant, the gods claim their sacrifices, and the forest waits to lure unwary creatures into its embrace. Through it all, Poonachi watches and silently questions the ways of the humans who alternately protect and wound her.
Wrought by the imagination of a skilful storyteller, this delicate yet complex story of the animal world is about life and death and all that breathes in between. It is also a commentary on our times, on the unequal hierachies of class and colour, and the increasing vulnerability of individuals who choose to speak up rather than submit to the vagaries of an ambitious if incompetent state.
Murugan writes in the preface: 'I am fearful of writing about humans; even more fearful of writing about gods... It is forbidden to write about cows or pigs. That leaves only goats and sheep. Goats are problem-free, harmless and, above all, energetic. A story needs narrative pace. Therefore, I’ve chosen to write about goats.'
POONACHI is Perumal Murugan's first work of fiction since his re-emergence again as an author. One would remember the circumstances that led Murugan, in late 2014, to pen a poetic declaration of this own death as an author. It was an act that showed in stark relief the ongoing censorship and violence stifling freedom of expression in India. His Tamil novel 'Madhorubagan' came under attach from Hinduvata and dominante caste groups in Tamil Nadu for allegedly portraying their women and gods in bad light. That the novel was a fine piece of literature, a work of fiction grounded in a regional cultural ethos, was vindicated both by Murugan's peers in the literary community all over India as well as by the judiciary. The Madras High Court crushed the cases that were filed against Murugan and his novel, and it requested Murugan to resurrect and to do what he does best: write.
'Funny and warm, POONACHI is a book that forces us gently to look at ourselves and our contribution to an unequal world. Perumal Murugan is a master storyteller who reflects profoundly on our transactional society and its inequities and struggles. Through the character of the lonely goat, he has written a powerful modern fable.'JCB Prize for Literature, The Jury
'A sly social satire through the tale of a black goat.'Vogue India
'Perumal Murugan’s Poonachi is a hard-hitting political novel crafted with the pragmatism of a survivor and the infinite tenderness of a poet.'The Hindu Business Line
Perumal Murugan, elected PEN International Vice President, is the star of contemporary Tamil literature, having garnered both critical acclaim and commercial success for his work. An award-winning writer, poet and scholar, he has written several novels, short-story collections, poetry anthologies and works of non-fiction. Some of his novels have been translated into English to immense acclaim, including 'Seasons of the Palm', which was shortlisted for the Kiriyama Award in 2005, and 'One Part Woman', his best-known work, a powerful exploration of caste and identity as well as a moving story of love and family (in Tamil 'Madhorubhagan') has been a bestseller, having sold over 100,000 copies in India. It was shortlisted for the Crossword Award and won the prestigious ILF Samanvay Bhasha Samman. Perumal Murugan’s works have won critical acclaim and earned him several national Awards.
'[Perumal Murugan] may, in fact, soon emerge as the most celebrated Indian writer of our times.'India Life and Times
'Murugan’s sarcasm speaks of the robustness of his spirit … As in all his novels, (his) story is rich in detail … (He) sustains the narrative tension right from the start.'Elizabeth Kuruvilla, The Hindu Literary Review
'The Indian ExpressIn Poonachi, Murugan collapses the worlds of the humans and the goats. Each mirrors the other and is inextricably intertwined. There is a lot of sociological, geographical detailing that Murugan does to bring these worlds alive, but it is the voice of an insider, recalling for himself what he has seen and how he has lived.(...) Poonachi and her foster parents, the old couple, will stay with us long after we finish reading their story.'
'Masterly and nuanced, Perumal Murugan’s tale forces us reflect on our own responses to hierarchy and ownership, selflessness and appetite, love and desire, living and dying. Poonachi is every woman at the bottom of every social, political and cultural ladder where she has no say in what she wants and believes and who must breathe with fear and the threat of violence. *****'Books and Conversations