Arundhati Roy on Returning to Fiction, Redefining Happiness & Writing about Worlds Ripped Apart | Democracy Now!
Activist and author Arundhati Roy has made a much anticipated return to fiction with her new book The Ministry of Utmost Happiness. When asked what that was like, Roy described fiction writing as a beautiful thing, “The closest thing to prayer.”
“Today we spend the hour with the acclaimed Indian writer Arundhati Roy. It has been 20 years since her debut novel, The God of Small Things, made her a literary sensation. While the book won the Booker Prize and became an international best-seller, selling over 6 million copies, Roy soon turned away from fiction. Now, two decades later, Roy has returned to fiction and has just published her second novel, The Ministry of Utmost Happiness. ~ Democracy Now!
“After twenty years of activism, the author of “The God of Small Things” delivers a scarring novel of India’s modern history… To American readers, no subject could seem more timely. Transgender people and the issues surrounding them are in the news nearly every day. (And this is not the first important novel about a hermaphrodite in recent memory. Jeffrey Eugenides’s “Middlesex,” published in 2002, won the Pulitzer Prize and has sold four million copies in the United States.) In India, hijras—people who, though biologically male, feel they are female, and dress and act as women—constitute a long-recognized subculture. They have certainly been subject to persecution, but they are now edging their way toward acceptance, as a “third sex.” They have the right to vote in India (as of 1994) and Pakistan (2009). In 1998, India’s first hijra M.P., Shabnam (Mausi) Bano, forty years old, took her seat in the state assembly of Madhya Pradesh…” ~ Joan Acocella
“Being an activist and an artist is trickier than it sounds… It is almost impossible to see Roy clearly through the haze of adulation, condescension, outrage, and celebrity that has enveloped her since the publication of The God of Small Things, a gothic about an illicit intercaste romance in South India. She was feted as a symbol of an ascending India, paraded along with bomb makers and beauty queens. Much was made of the author’s looks—she was named one of People magazine’s most beautiful people — and lack of literary background; there was titillated interest in her days living in a slum and working as an aerobics instructor. Praise for her novel was extravagant — she was compared to Faulkner and García Márquez — but it was also frequently patronizing. ‘There is something childish about Roy. She has a heightened capacity for wonder’ — this from one of the judges who awarded her the Booker Prize…” ~ Parul Sehgal
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