Translation: Aniruddhan Vasudevan


Under hot Indian skies, Pyre’s protagonists, Saroja and Kumaresan, finish their grueling journey to the boy’s home village in Tamil Nadu. They met in neighboring Kerala, in the town where Saroja grew up and Kumaresan worked in a small bottled beverage factory. The young lovers run away together to get married. However, it soon turns out that their hometowns are separated by more than three hundred kilometers. Different food, habits and incomprehensible words worry the girl, who from a talkative, resourceful person suddenly has to turn into a silent and passive person, for her own safety. It turns out that in some places in the country castes are more important -especially the caste of one’s future spouse …

As in his other novels – One Part Woman and The Story of a Goat – also in Pyre, Perumal Murugan presents social problems in India in a poignant way, this time focusing attention on the remnants of the caste system. The newlyweds’ innocent and optimistic dreams will soon be severely tested by the cruel judgment of the community. The young love has to mature, which the reader can observe in the thoughts and small gestures of the characters. The author describes emotions in an unusual way – he can express the most complicated feelings with simple, beautiful words.

Pyre is not a light and pleasant read. The author’s writing style delighted me, but the stifling atmosphere of the book leaves no space for rest. Relentless waves of emotions took me and the characters in different directions, only to leave me shattered… but still hopeful. And although reading Pyre was not easy, it enriched me with thoughts and delights, for which it was worth going this intense road.

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