It has been a while since I reviewed a translated work I think. And if you are doing the Year of Asian challenge, read this review of One Part Woman and then the book right away.
About the book:
Book Name: One Part Woman
Author: Perumal Murugan
Characters: Kali, Ponna, Muthu,
Set in the southern part of India, the story revolves around Kali and Ponna who have been married for twelve years. They are ridiculed and ostracized for not conceiving a child by their family, friends and the entire village. They have been called names and shamed about their fertility at every instance. Despite having doubts about having a baby, they try to save their face in front of the society.
They have met with many astrologers, made offerings to the Gods and done every ritual sacrifices to their deities but to no avail. As a last resort, their families ask Ponna to take part in a specific festival celebrating the half-man-half-woman deity, when any man and woman can consensual sexual relationship with one another.
Will the couple take up the offer? What effect would this offer have on their relationship. You should read One Part Woman to know more.
My Initial Thoughts:
Though initially written in my mother tongue Tamil, I read One Part Woman in English and I am glad I did that. While I have heard high praises about the original, I am not sure if I could have digested the rawness in the story.
One Part Woman portrays emphatically the society’s stand towards a couple who are childless, or God forbid choose not to have one, especially in the rural areas.
There are a lot of racial and sexual slurs (not more than other novels of the genre though), but nothing that called for the riots and calls for banning the book. I think the political and casteists should leave the literary world alone.
Things that worked for me:
- I loved the layered and flowery writing style of the author.
- All the characters are well thought and fully developed. I loved Ponna’s strong and fierce character.
- The book ends in a kinda cliffhanger and continues in the next part, the end worked for me.
- The rural life in the south India is perfectly etched.
Things that didn’t work for me:
- The rawness in writing goes in hand with a lot obscene sexual and racial slurs. That is one reason I am glad I didn’t read it in my mother tongue.
- I didn’t get many of the slurs and slang, despite it being my mother tongue.
- There are times the flowery writing might seem overdone and drags the pace.
If you want to read a translated work that portrays rural south India then One Part Woman should be your choice. I am definitely reading the part two soon.
Let us chat:
What was the last translated work you read? Are you joining the Year of the Asian reads Challenge? Let us talk.