I Have a Censor in Me Now: Perumal Murugan

New Delhi
I Have a Censor in Me Now: Perumal Murugan
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I Have a Censor in Me Now: Perumal Murugan

While Perumal Murugan has emerged from a self-imposed literary exile with a new book of poems, the Tamil author who was forced to publicly renounce writing after protests against his novel Madhorubagan, says he now censors his own characteristic realistic style.

"A censor is seated inside me now. He is testing every word that is born within me. His constant caution that a word may be misunderstood so, or it may be interpreted thus, is a real bother. But I'm unable to shake him off. If this is wrong let the Indian intellectual world forgive me," Murugan said after his new anthology was released here late last evening.

In December 2014, a dismayed Murugan had declared in a Facebook post that the writer in him was dead. He described the subsequent period as "nightmarish".

"Between December 2014 and June 2016 I couldn't so much as scratch a line in the first three months. As though the fingers of my heart had become numb. I couldn't read a thing," the author said adding that it was then he realised the full meaning of the Tamil phrase 'nadaipinam', 'a walking corpse'.

The dark period, he said, ended in 2015 when he spent a few days at a friend's house in a room stacked with books.

"With nothing to do I lay dazed night and day. I wallowed in a dark hole without the urge to see or talk to anybody. But as I ruminated over my existence, there came a certain instant when the sluice gates were breached. I began to write. I chronicled the moment when I felt like a rat, dazzled by the light, burrowing itself into its hole," Murugan said.

The poems that emerged after that stay finds place in his just released anthology Kozhayin Paadalkal, (Songs of a Coward.) "As I started to write, I began to revive little by little, from my finger nails to my hair. It was poetry that saved me," he said.

In July this year, the Madras High Court dismissed a plea seeking prosecution of the author and ban of his "offensive" book in Tamil, besides forfeiting all the copies of its English translation One Part Woman saying there was nothing obscene in the book.

Commenting on the judgment, Murugan said, "The learned judges have also said that 'Perumal Murugan should be able to write and advance the canvas of his writings'. The last word of the verdict -'Write' - sounds to me both as a command and as a benediction."

Murugan also expressed his gratitude to writers from Tamil Nadu and other parts of the country and the world who extended their support to him.

"Across the country voices were raised in support of freedom of expression and against intolerance. It is those voices which have brought me here today. I accepted this invitation to speak here only to express my gratitude to those voices," he said in a statement that he read out in Tamil followed by a translated version that was also read out. 

The author, who considers poetry to be a private act says he used to write poetry for himself and has so far published four volumes of poems containing some 150 poems.

Murugan, 50, also said he is mulling the reissue of his earlier works.

"I will soon begin the weary task of reviewing my books. If required I shall revise the text. I'm not sure if this is right. However, when so many things that are not quite right are happening all over, why not this? What am I to do?," he said.

Murugan, who has previously written six novels and four collections of short stories said he had at one point in time listed out the books he planned to write and the number, the author said, came to 50 with over 10 novels.

"I'm not now sure that I will write every one of those 50-odd books. Even if I do I doubt if they will take the same shape as conceived earlier. It's however certain that my writing will not be the same," he said.

Stating that he needed time to gather his creative energies he said, "I'm not a motor pump to draw water from the depths the moment it is switched on. I'm more a pupa in a cocoon. It will require time to develop colourful wings. Please allow me the time to do so."

Murugan also said he doubted whether he could continue to write in future in the realist mode. "I might have to resort to other techniques. Only time will tell on that," he said.

In a discussion following the book launch Murugan, whose first novel Eru Veyyil was published when he was 25 years old, and whose writings have touched on the caste equations in Tamil Nadu said, "No writer can write a single word in defence of caste."

In my perception caste is ubiquitous but is subtly present everywhere. Why does caste exist and why caste is so divisive this is a question that has plagued me all my life," he said to applause.

Incidentally, the author who is a professor of Tamil literature said he had edited a volume where 32 of his students had considered the caste issue.

The author was introduced by poet Ashok Vajpeyi, who said it was "encouraging for poets like us that he is alive and that he chose to write poetry instead of prose".

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