Book Review — The Goat Thief by Perumal Murugan [Translated by N. Kalyan Raman]

Image Courtesy – Goodreads

Famed Tamilian writer, Perumal Murugan’s 10 short stories have been compiled into this volume called The Goat Thief. Steeped in cultural nuances and throwing light on the simplicities of life, the stories draw our attention towards the very nature of humanity; be it seeking company or obsessing over ordinary objects. Some of these tales are testament to the hardships that people from lower tiers of society undergo. And by imbuing common occurrences with an almost surreal quality, this book digs its talons deep into the psyche of the reader. In Mirror of Innocence and Musical Chairs, you’ll read about household objects that grow to mean something different to certain inhabitants. Whereas, The Well and Sanctuary are two stories that hauntingly convey how the protagonist loses himself in the depths of a well.

I’m not all that familiar with translated literature, but if they are anywhere as good as this one, sign me up! What’s refreshing about this collection of short stories is that they concern the most random of things like salt shaker, toilet bowls, tumblers, wells, chairs etc. and yet there’s something so captivating about the narration. You can’t help but be in awe of how realistically basic human sentiments are unearthed by such ordinary events. As far as the form goes, there’s very little dialogue in all of these short stories. But that didn’t deter me, because the narrative was so reminiscent of several quirks and attributes unique to Indians. Two of my favourite stories are An Unexpected Visitor and The Well. Another factor that I simply LOVED about this book is that the stories have ambiguous or abrupt endings. And you can’t even see it coming. All in all, this collection is a quick read; appealing to those who enjoy stories that challenge the norms of possibility and bring out the endearing quality of companionship. I thoroughly enjoyed it and so, I urge you to pick it up!

Ratings – 4 out of 5 stars

What do you get out of it? A microscopic glimpse at the lives of individuals from different backgrounds, the little things that keep them going.

Thank you Juggernaut for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for a review. 

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Telltale Reality

Walls groan and
Staircases sigh.
The ceiling rat-a-tats
With fictional marbles.
Doors whine,
Reminiscent of the old.
Curtains quarrel
So as to invite stories.
A dilapidated house.
It clings to its inhabitants.
It lives long after they are gone.
It sleeps blanketed by their memories.
And wakes again, ready for more.

 

– Meera

Book Review — Shikhandi And Other Tales They Don’t Tell You by Devdutt Pattanaik

“In the Veda there is a line ‘vikruti evam prakruti’ which can be translated as ‘all things queer are also part of nature’.” – Devdutt Pattanaik.

In Shikhandi And Other Tales They Don’t Tell You, Devdutt Pattanaik brings to the forefront those tales from Indian mythology that point out our previously comfortable stance towards Queerness. He highlights even the most heard of tale in a way so us to grant us better understanding of how accepting we were at a point of time. Stories range from how Lord Krishna transforms into Mohini to how Mandhata was born of no mother. This book surpasses expectations and then some. It is so rich with characters known and worshiped by people from all over India. What’s more is that after every tale, the author presents a literary analysis from the perspective of Queer Theory. This book couldn’t be more appropriate in keeping with the problems of the present time.

I devoured this book in a day. It was so wholesome and fulfilling, particularly because I have learned literary theory in college. We had an entire section titled “Queer Theory” in the curriculum but for some ludicrous reason it was made “self study” and not discussed in class. Some of the stories in this book are ones that we’ve heard from our families like that of Bhasmasura, Shikhandi, Bhagirath, Ahalya etc whereas many others were new to me. The amount of information in this book is overwhelming in its entirety because there are so many names involved and versions to each story.

After a story, the author discusses the origin of the text, how it differs from place to place and even questions it from the queer perspective. But I couldn’t put it down and had to finish it, so a lot of the names may have flown over my head, nevertheless I can always go back and read random stories again. I’m certain I will. The book opens with two sections that are solely about understanding the Queer with examples from all over the world. It historicizes concepts like lesbianism, cross-dressing, hijras to throw light on their prevalence even in the time of Ram Rajya. This book prods us into questioning popular beliefs and not conforming to the society’s condemnation of anything that is beyond normal. It shows us that if Gods and Goddesses are accepting of gender fluidity or queerness than we shouldn’t be criminalizing and looking down upon those who do not identify with the two categories of male and female. I absolutely loved this book from the very beginning and am glad it remained wonderful till the end. Maybe this book should be incorporated into school and university curriculum. If you are the least bit interested in mythology or LGBTQ stories then please please read this book. It is splendid!

Ratings – 5 stars on 5.

Meera