“To me there is nothing higher than fiction. Nothing. It is fundamentally who I am. I am a teller of stories. For me, that’s the only way I can make sense of the world, with all the dance that it involves.” ~Arundhati Roy
Arundhati Roy is an Indian author best known for her novel The God of Small Things, which won the Man Booker Prize for Fiction in 1997 and became the biggest-selling book by a non-expatriate Indian author, listed as one of the New York Times Notable Books of the Year for 1997. The book is semi-autobiographical and a major part captures her childhood experiences in Aymanam.
Roy did many things before the success of her first book: studied architecture, worked with the National Institute of Urban Affairs, wrote screenplays and acted for both film and TV, and even taught aerobics classes. Roy is also a political activist involved in human rights and environmental causes.
Since the success of her first novel, Roy has kept busy. A recent interview on The Guardian, ‘Fiction takes its time’: Arundhati Roy on why it took 20 years to write her second novel, describes how she’s spent the past two decades:
Roy has published dozens of essays and non-fiction books, made documentaries, protested against government corruption, Hindu nationalism, environmental degradation and inequality, campaigned for Kashmiri independence, Maoist rebels and indigenous land rights, and featured on Time magazine’s list of the world’s 100 most influential people. In the 20 years since then, Roy has published dozens of essays and non-fiction books, made documentaries, protested against government corruption, Hindu nationalism, environmental degradation and inequality, campaigned for Kashmiri independence, Maoist rebels and indigenous land rights, and featured on Time magazine’s list of the world’s 100 most influential people. To her political fans, she is the radical left voice of principled resistance; to her critics, the worst sort of adolescent idealist: unrealistic, self-indulgent. She has faced criminal charges of contempt and sedition, been imprisoned, and fled India briefly last year in fear for her life. She has not, until now, however, published another word of fiction.
Roy started work on her second novel in early 2007. In October 2016, Penguin India and Hamish Hamilton UK announced that they would publish the book, The Ministry of Utmost Happiness, in June 2017. The novel was chosen for the Man Booker Prize 2017 Long List and nominated as a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award for fiction in January 2018. Read more about her new novel in this article from The New Yorker, Arundhati Roy Returns to Fiction, in Fury: After twenty years of activism, the author of “The God of Small Things” delivers a scarring novel of India’s modern history.
Want to discuss The God of Small Things? You are in luck — tonight’s Rekindle the Classics is doing just that!
Amanda Memoli recommends The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy (from Summer Reading List 2016: Faculty Recommendations)
I re-read this about a year ago, which confirmed what I suspected (though couldn’t fully articulate) when I first encountered it as a teenager in my high school AP English class: there is something singularly special and magical about this book. Against the backdrop of encroaching modernity and a shifting caste system, the narrator Rahel travels back to her, now crumbling, childhood home in South India, upon discovering that her mute twin brother Estha has recently returned as well. The two of them, once inseparable, have not seen each other for 25 years. The rest of the story works to unravel the past and reveal the pivotal events that transpired long ago, which continue to mark their present lives. It’s a story about moments of unexpected joy, the transgression of boundaries, and the loss of innocence. What is most compelling about this book is the lyric nature of Roy’s prose which are both luxurious and insightful. I don’t think that I’ve ever come across a book that was so enjoyable to read from start to finish. I would definitely recommend it for a summer reading list!