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Poonachi — or The Story of A Black Goat 7/10

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Poonachi by Perumal Murugan

Poonachi by Perumal Murugan

Having been guilty of not reading much of Indian authors much, it was my resolution to start reading them. A Quora user pointed me towards a book I had never heard of. A book about a black goat in growing up in a small village – Poonachi.

Sounded like an easy-breezy read. I had not read up much about the author of the book and ordered it straight away.

A real slice-of-life story from the soil.

To understand the book better, it is imperative that one knows about the man who has put the ink on the paper, first.

About the Author

In 2013, the Tamil professor and novelist Perumal Murugan’s novel, Madhorubagan, was published in English translation as One Part Woman.

One Part Woman focused on an ancient practice followed in his village, where another man was allowed to impregnate a woman on rare cases where a child was mandatory and the husband was impotent.

In 2015, Murugan abandoned his lifelong home following threats and intimidation about the novel’s portrayal of life among villagers.

In 2016, Tamil Nadu recorded its lowest annual rainfall in 140 years.

Poonachi: or The Story of A Black Goat

Poonachi – A Goat’s Tale

Poonachi is Perumal Murugan’s first novel after the protests against One Part Woman, that launched him into mainstream recognition.

A poignant story that tackles existence under bondage. He artfully tells a human story through the eyes of a goat.

“I am fearful of writing about humans; even more fearful of writing about gods,” Murugan writes in his preface to the novel. “Cows and pigs, are forbidden. Goats are problem-free, harmless and above all, energetic.”

Hence, the story of a goat.

Poonachi is a one-day old goat that is gifted by a stranger to a farmer. The farmer and his wife are all too keen to adopt this gift and ignoring the feeble state of the goat, they take her into the house.

From then on it is a story of how the black goat grows up despite under-nourishment and threats to its life. The story turns on its head when the goat reaches adulthood.

The innocence of the goat soon meets the greed and expectations of the farmer and his wife. The story ebbs and flows and takes you through a look at the society through power, abuse, bondage and surveillance.

What the author does astoundingly smart is to make deep political and social commentary but through a fictional story of a goat.

Being from a family of farmers, the author clearly uses his insight into the rural lives and in telling a story of an animal, tells us a story about daughters of the country, too.

It is a different book that uses no big words but delivers a big message. It is also a personal story of a writer, who faces personal trauma for showcasing the truth and how he rewires the same and constructs a narrative that fits within accepted norms of our current society.

The book certainly has my interest in reading about Indian stories, which I have ignored until now. Another overlooked section personally are books by women writers. Hope to start reading some soon!

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