Perumal Murugan’s ‘Poonachi’ returns through Priya Kuriyan’s art
Illustrator Priya Kuriyan reinvents the heartwarming story of Perumal Murugan’s black goat for young readers
In 2016, Perumal Murugan returned to writing after a short hiatus precipitated by the public uproar over his novel One Part Woman. Poonachi, Or The Story Of A Black Goat, translated from the Tamil by N. Kalyan Raman, marked a new phase in his career. A witty and warm story, having affinities with fables, it conjured up a universe in which animals were at the centre, distinct from the hard realism of Murugan’s more overtly political fiction for adults. Illustrator Priya Kuriyan has recently reinvented the magic of Poonachi through an exquisite picture book for young readers where the simplicity of the narrative is offset by her visually arresting artwork.
Poonachi: Lost In The Forest draws on one episode from the original story where the eponymous little black goat finds itself deep in the forest, separated from his flock and beloved owner. Kuriyan, who designed the cover of the adult novel, stays loyal to the striking red and black theme, with a touch of white.
The picture book is truly a feast for the eyes, from its delicately imagined forest filled with flora and fauna to the artfully placed typography, emphasis on words to suggest action, and the use of black, white or red in the foreground and background to open up the space. While Murugan’s text is layered with descriptions, much of the verbal energy of the story gets absorbed in Kuriyan’s visual treatment. The arc of the tale retains an innocence that feels comforting yet exuberant. But the real star of this book remains the art, for readers young and old alike.