WRITING STYLE: 5/5
ENTERTAINMENT QUOTIENT: 4.5/5
“Perumal Murugan the writer is dead. As he is no God, he is not going to resurrect himself. He also has no faith in rebirth. An ordinary teacher, he will live as P. Murugan. Leave him alone.” – a Facebook post by the author following the controversy around his book, “One Part Woman”
I am often intrigued by translated works especially from regional Indian languages. In fact, I am a part of this small WhatsApp book group called regional literature gems where the participants are encouraged to read regional literary works. Though I haven’t been much active in terms of reading these books, I sure have broadened my horizon and am better aware of India’s many literary gems. Perumal Murugan is one of those many gems and The Goat Thief is the first book that I have read by this notable author.
The Magic of Commonplace Objects
What strikes you the most about this book is the Perumal’s ability to weave extraordinary stories around the most ordinary of objects – be it a simple toilet seat or a common village goat, an innocuous-looking tumbler, or a kitchen utensil. Perumal creates literature that is nothing short of magic.
The Simplicities & Complexities of Life
All of the short stories in The Goat Thief revolve around the trials and tribulations of an ordinary rural life. Be it the jealousy of a village elder on seeing his younger neighbour building his house, or the joy experienced by a night watchman in getting acquainted with a female company for the first time – it is always the most basic of feelings explored through simple yet profound stories.
Most Mundane Characters
The essence of Murugan’s writing continues to show in his characters too. All his subjects and characters are the most ordinary of people – a disheartened night watchman, an old grandmother, a visiting relative, an ordinary thief and an old villager. These are no heroes, just commonplace people going about their daily business.
The Magic that Murugan Weaves
Even though I am an urban dweller, Murugan’s stories managed to make all the characters quite relatable. In the end, I found myself fondly recalling the shy bride and the nervous night watchman. I ended up falling in love with each and every story that is compiled in The Goat Thief.
The Beauty of Brusque Culminations
What baffled me the most about The Goat Thief was that many of its stories had abrupt endings. The end had nothing to do with the conclusion of the story but most of the times these ends leave the reader at an important juncture. The ends make you reflect and ponder and wonder – they are sometimes thought-provoking and sometimes just that – The End.
Two of my favourite stories from The Goat Thief were Musical Chairs and Shit.
Musical Chairs tells us the story of a couple who come to live in a new rented house. They are pleasantly surprised when they discover that a beautiful and comfortable chair has been left behind. They soon begin to fall in love with the chair. But what initially brings them so much happiness eventually becomes a reason for discord. It’s a beautifully written story about an ordinary couple and an ordinary chair.
Another story that I absolutely admired is Shit. The story revolves around a commonplace tumbler which was once an article of pride for its owners. How circumstances and events led to its abandonment is what comprises this story.
Read the book if
I suggest you read The Goat Thief if you enjoy short stories. If you are a fan of RK Narayan’s stories, then I am sure you will like Murugan’s stories as well because they both explore ordinary lives in rural settings.
Skip the book if
I think you should avoid reading The Goat Thief if short stories don’t excite you. Also, if you don’t like unfinished, abrupt endings in a story, it is better to stay away from the book.
Can’t wait to read it? Grab your copy at the link below.