Famous Tamil author Perumal Murugan ended his self-imposed literary exile of 19 months on Monday with the publication of a new book -- "A Coward's Song", a collection of 200 poems. Hounded by caste-based groups following the publication of his Tamil novel "Madhorubagan" (One Part Woman), Professor Murugan had declared on Facebook that he was dead. "As an ordinary teacher, he will live as P Murugan. Leave himalone," the professor of Tamil had posted. On Monday, during the launch of his book at Delhi's Nehru Memorial Museum and Library, Professor Murugan said he did not want to "even write one word" in the first three months after his "death". He said he felt like a like "a walking corpse", and "a rat in a burrow".
"It was poetry that saved me," said the 50-year-old author, who had earlier recited two poems -- "Hometown" and "A Coward's Song".
These days, he said, he feels a censor seated within him, whom he is unable to "shake off". "My writing will do little to change the world, so let me be quiet and speak through my writings," the author said.
The launch comes a month after the Madras High Court dismissed a plea that called for the prosecution of the author and ban of his "offensive" book. "Let the author be resurrected to what he is best at: Write... the choice to read is always with the reader," the judges had said.
In Madhorubagan", Professor Murugan had told the story of a childless couple. After years of being unable to conceive, the wife takes part in a festival which permits sex between any man and woman on one night without that amounting to sin. The book explored social and caste pressures and prejudices against women, especially those who do not bear children.
But he was pilloried by residents of his hometown Tiruchengode and targeted by the dominant Kongu Vellala community. He was also reportedly coerced by the local administration and police to sign an agreement about the book being withdrawn.
Professor Murugan, who has previously written six novels, four collections of short stories and four anthologies of poetry, however, said he doubts whether he can continue to write in his usual realist mode. "I might have to resort to other techniques. Only time will tell that," he said.