Perumal Murugan the writer lives, fearless as ever. He has returned with another parable about village life, written with breathtaking and deceptive simplicity ... Murugan writes about animal life (and death, lust, resentment) without a whiff of sentimentality ... How badly will this little goat be made to suffer? If very badly, why bother with such a story? Why go to literature to encounter suffering? The Story of a Goat answers this question with more grace, wit and feeling than any book I’ve encountered in recent memory. We go to such stories for the relief of honesty; to see what is hidden brought to light; to acknowledge, if here alone, the pain routinely inflicted on lives normally considered too insignificant to be the subject of great literature ... Murugan writes a disconcertingly effective goat sex scene ... Originally published in 2016, the novel feels prophetic, anticipating the new law in India that grants citizenship to migrants on the basis of religion ... Murugan traces the entire life of his little goat — her despair, her small acts of heroism, her longing — with Chekhovian clarity. Each sentence in Raman’s supple translation is modest, sculpted and clean, but behind each you sense a fund of deep wisdom about the vagaries of the rains, politics, behavior — human and animal.
... jumps nimbly from fantasy to realism to parable. How much it resonates with you will depend on the breadth of your sympathies and your interest in adult tales that include the thoughts and feelings of animal characters. The effect is not so much escapist fantasy as existential reflection ... You may be tempted to think this novel doesn’t interest you, doesn’t relate to the sophisticated architecture of your experience, but the elegance of Murugan’s simple tone will lull you deeper into his story. If there’s something remote about the work of subsistence farming and the friction of a small village, there’s also something hypnotic about the rhythms of such a life ... Woven through this slim novel is an acidic satire about the burdens and humiliations of the over-regulated country in which the old man and woman live. His portrayal of arrogant officials who intimidate these poor people with a blizzard of regulations and forms will make you pine for the relative graciousness of the DMV. Murugan never pushes the point, but it’s clear that the human characters are not much freer than the goats they keep penned in their yard ... as The Story of a Goat demonstrates, just because we’ve put away childish things doesn’t mean we have to deny ourselves the strange pleasure of fiction in which animals articulate their own curious perspectives on their lives — and ours.
This is not the first book that N. Kalyan Raman has translated and the ease with which the story flows and the simple picturesque language makes it a wonderful read ... The book has a lot of social and political commentary. The author is from a family of farmers and the insight he possesses on that life is well captured from the perspective of a goat. Though she seems to possess some thoughts that seem too advanced to have emerged from a goat, Poonachi retains her animal charm and will wind her way into your heart.
... elegant ... With its unnamed farming couple and a sense that magic’s always glittering at the horizon, The Story of a Goat could easily be read as a fable. But Murugan’s marvelously observant narrative is equally interested in the visceral daily life of a farm creature ... gives the book a realism that makes Poonachi much more than a symbol ... The greatest achievement of this remarkable novel is the empathy its adult readers will feel for a non-human creature; through Poonachi’s tale we are reminded how much bonds us with the animal world.
Everything that Perumal Murugan — who faced violent protests from caste groups against his novel Madhorubhagan in 2015 — writes is now under scrutiny. And none more so than Poonachi Or The Story of a Black Goat, the first work of fiction by this Tamil writer after he ended his state of self-exile ... Not surprisingly, given the context, Poonachi is an ironic look at society, of power and abuse, bondage and greed, surveillance and the silent acquiescence of the weak in their own subjugation ... As in all his novels, Murugan’s story is rich in detail. The semi-arid rural landscape thirsting for rain, in which it is set, throbs with life ... Murugan sustains the narrative tension right from the start.
As the story progresses, its sophistication and maturity more closely evoke Animal Farm. Poonachi's owners live under an inept bureaucracy, adding satirical humor for readers but hardship for the characters ... Translated by N. Kalyan Raman, this earthy tale is as emotionally affecting as any human-centered drama. Readers will have to decide for themselves whether Poonachi's few moments of happiness outweigh the drudgery of her life. Ripe for discussion by book clubs who love eclectic titles, The Story of a Goat is a frank exploration of oppression, greed, love and what good can be made of even the most meager life.
Murugan—smoothly anglophone-enabled by award-winning Tamil translator Raman—moves fluidly between human and animal viewpoints, from detailing the humans’ relationship with their land and flock, to anthropomorphizing Poonachi’s maturation from fragile survivor into playful kid, longing lover, even miraculous mother. Yet as pastoral as this story seems, Murugan’s multilayered intentions prove far more admonitory. Poonachi is more daughter—with all the limitations of womanhood thrust upon her—than livestock. Beyond the fields, a regime looms, fear controls, and societal rigidity rules as Murugan adroitly transforms his caprine idyll into cautionary chronicle.
In anthropomorphizing Poonachi, Murugan finds a path to describe the essence of humans’ struggle to survive while grasping for fleeting moments of joy and grace. Murugan can be openly comic about this...But he’s mostly straight-faced, in the tradition of George Orwell’s Animal Farm, a similar allegorical tale ... In its closing pages, the novel returns to its more mystical roots, and while it gives nothing away to say that the story is ultimately tragic...Murugan subtly pays tribute to our capacity to stubbornly endure under the most difficult circumstances ... An affecting modern fable reflecting Murugan’s enchanting capacity to make a simple story resonate on many levels.
...[a] superbly fabulist tale ... Anthropomorphic Poonachi lets readers into many of her thoughts and experiences, including a vibrant view of life under a government regime that banned black goats (which supposedly can’t be seen in the dark) and oversaw long periods of famine and food rationing. Murugan explores the lively inner life of an observant goat in this imaginative exploration of rural life under the caste system.