Tamil writer Perumal Murugan has won the ILF Samanvay Bhasha Samman for his novel Madhorubhagan. The announcement was made at Samanvay, a literature festival, on Saturday.
Madhorubhagan, translated into English as One Part Woman, had created a furore and resulted in Murugan being persecuted and abused to the extent that he had announced on Facebook in January: “Perumal Murugan, the writer is dead. As he is no God, he is not going to resurrect himself. He has no faith in rebirth. As an ordinary teacher, he will live as P Murugan. Leave him alone.”
A critical element in the novel deals with an old custom in which a childless woman could go to a temple festival and, under social sanction, have a child with another man. The child would be considered a “child of god”. This caused a furore among groups which considered the book to be an insult to Hindu women. Copies were burnt, Murugan was attacked and there was a bandh in the town of Tiruchengode.
Murugan did not turn up to receive the award but he sent out a letter and signed it as P Murugan. In it, he stated that he was now acting as a shadow of the writer Perumal Murugan.
“If under normal circumstances, he had asked me to receive an award on his behalf, I would have been honoured. Today, while it is definitely an honour, but it is also a painful reminder,” said Murugan’s publisher Kannan Sundaram.