Jaipur, Jan 28 (PTI) Writers should have the right to speak and write about what they feel, but it is “regrettable” that the society now does not have an atmosphere where there can be a healthy debate on diverse views, according to noted Tamil author Perumal Murugan.

The college lecturer, who once announced his “death” as a writer in 2015, is now trying to write in a different way than before, even as he admits that there needs to be a mindset and a calm atmosphere for him to write.

“As a writer, I should have the right to speak and write about what I feel. When there is criticism or opposition, then there should be opportunities to express them in a cultured way. That is what I feel. But that is not the case now with our society.

“The other person should have the view that I like. There should be space to express views that I do not like also. There should also be an atmosphere where there can be healthy debate about such views. Such an atmosphere not being there is regrettable,” Murugan told PTI in an interview.

He was speaking on the sidelines of the Jaipur Literature Festival here.

Murugan, who teaches Tamil literature at a government college in Tamil Nadu, has authored many novels, collection of short stories, poems as well as non-fiction works.

His recent novel ‘Poonachi’, where the protagonist is a black goat, is turning into a best seller and is set to be translated into eight Indian languages.

As his publisher Kannan Sundaram mentioned, ‘Poonachi’ is travelling.

On whether tolerance level in the society has come down as seen in instances of writers and other personalities facing criticism for expressing their views, Murugan sought to see the evolving situation with a different lens.

“Rather than saying that tolerance level has come down, I would say the awareness has increased. Writers now have more awareness about freedom of expression and that what has happened to one person could happen to another person. People are writing about it, discussing about it, so there is an increased awareness,” he opined.

For writers, Murugan has the message: “We should not stop writing but how it should be expressed, we (writers) should select it,” he noted.

Following protests by right-wing and caste-based groups against his Tamil novel ‘Madhurobagan’, which was translated into English titled ‘One Part Woman’, Murugan through a Facebook post had announced his own “death” as a writer in 2015.

After a Madras High Court order related to freedom of expression, a ruling which Murugan says was a wonderful one, he resumed his writing.

After taking a hiatus for more than a year, Murugan is of the view that he is now trying to write in a different way than he used to do earlier.

There are a lot of techniques in literature and a lot can be done with language, Murugan said as he stressed that if one way of writing creates a problem then the writing can be done in a different way which is what he is trying.

On whether that means toning down or being less sharp in his writing, he said, “I don’t have much idea about that but I am trying in a different way”.

In his preface to the original Tamil edition of ‘Poonachi’ that was published in 2016, Murugan’s words echo, at least partly his harrowing experiences.

“How long can an untold story rest in deep slumber within the dormant seed? I am fearful of writing about humans; even more fearful of writing about gods.

“I can write about demons, perhaps. I am even used to a bit of the demonic life. I could make it an accompaniment here. Yes, let me write about animals,” he wrote.

On whether we can see him in politics at some point of time in the future, he ruled out any such possibility.

“There is no such possibility. I am a writer. I like writing and reading and don’t have interest in other things,” he emphasised.

This is published unedited from the PTI feed.