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The 2020 National Book Awards Longlist: Translated Literature

This week, The New Yorker will be announcing the longlists for the 2020 National Book Awards. This morning, we presented the ten contenders in the category of Young People’s Literature. Check back tomorrow morning for Poetry.

In 2015, the Tamil author Perumal Murugan announced the end of his literary career. A few years earlier, he had published a novel, “One Part Woman,” that sparked a series of protests over its depictions of a traditional village festival. Murugan was forced to apologize for the book and withdraw unsold copies. Later, he was driven from his village by right-wing fundamentalists. On Facebook, he wrote, “The writer Perumal Murugan is dead.” A year later, the Madras High Court pulled Murugan out of his silence, upholding his right to free expression in a landmark decision.

The first novel Murugan published after his exile, “The Story of a Goat,” is a contender for this year’s National Book Award for Translated Literature. The book follows a black goat named Poonachi as she witnesses the indignities suffered by animals and humans on a farm in southern India. “It is a slim book, but Murugan has given it an epic form,” Amitava Kumar, who spoke with the author in 2019, writes.

Of the ten authors on the longlist for this year’s award, Murugan is the only one who has been nominated previously. Other nominees include Linda Boström Knausgård, whose novel “The Helios Disaster” adapts the myth of Athena in a modern Swedish setting; Pilar Quintana, whose novel “The Bitch” details the relationship between a lonely woman and her dog; and Yu Miri, whose novel “Tokyo Ueno Station” is narrated by the ghost of a homeless man living outside the titular train stop. The ten books being considered for the award

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