In 1997 Arundhati Roy released The God of Small Things. It won the Booker prize (now the Man-Booker, as The independent have been pointing out all week whilst writing about it and the recently launched Literature Prize). I haven’t read it although I probably should. I reckon I’d like it as the plot revolves somewhat around the fucked up class system in India (The Caste System) – which i find equal parts interesting and horrific. She hasn’t finished a novel since.
Now, to not follow up the winning of such a prestigious literary prize (or formally prestigious – whatever) would seem like career suicide. Frankly, I don’t think Miss Roy gives a fuck. She’s been far too busy doing more important things. Namely, challenging the capitalist and human being fueled industrialization of India, getting down and dirty in the trenches of India’s hidden war and generally horrifying the countries burgeoning middle-class by writing essays like Walking With The Comrades:
After dinner, without much talk, everybody falls in line. Clearly, we are moving. Everything moves with us, the rice, vegetables, pots and pans. We leave the school compound and walk single file into the forest. In less than half an hour, we arrive in a glade where we are going to sleep. There’s absolutely no noise. Within minutes everyone has spread their blue plastic sheets, the ubiquitous ‘jhilli’ (without which there will be no Revolution). Chandu and Mangtu share one and spread one out for me. They find me the best place, by the best grey rock. Chandu says he has sent a message to Didi. If she gets it, she will be here first thing in the morning. If she gets it.
It’s the most beautiful room I have slept in, in a long time. My private suite in a thousand-star hotel. I’m surrounded by these strange, beautiful children with their curious arsenal. They’re all Maoists for sure. Are they all going to die? Is the jungle warfare training school for them? And the helicopter gunships, the thermal imaging and the laser range-finders?
Why must they die? What for? To turn all of this into a mine? I remember my visit to the open cast iron-ore mines in Keonjhar, Orissa. There was forest there once. And children like these. Now the land is like a raw, red wound. Red dust fills your nostrils and lungs. The water is red, the air is red, the people are red, their lungs and hair are red. All day and all night trucks rumble through their villages, bumper to bumper, thousands and thousands of trucks, taking ore to Paradip port from where it will go to China. There it will turn into cars and smoke and sudden cities that spring up overnight. Into a ‘growth rate’ that leaves economists breathless. Into weapons to make war.
Everyone’s asleep except for the sentries who take one-and-a-half-hour shifts. Finally, I can look at the stars. When I was a child growing up on the banks of the Meenachal river, I used to think the sound of crickets—which always started up at twilight—was the sound of stars revving up, getting ready to shine. I’m surprised at how much I love being here. There is nowhere else in the world that I would rather be. Who should I be tonight? Kamraid Rahel, under the stars? Maybe Didi will come tomorrow.
The reason Roy hasn’t finished the novel she’s working on is because she is living a different one.
I’d heard of God of Small Things, but i hadn’t really heard of its author, not until a few months ago. I’ve become a bit of a newshound since I got my kindle due to the fact that I could download a free copy of The Guardian every day if I wanted to, thanks to their liberal licencing and API. I should be reading novels but I’ve gotten a bit obsessive about it. Right now, for a change, I’m on a two week free trial of The Independent instead. I’ve always considered The Guardian and The Independent the only two decent papers in the UK – but i’d never put this to a taste test. Now I have I think I might prefer The Independent.
And that is the reason I have written this post, so I could link to those two interviews. Do yourself a favour and go read them, because Arundhati Roy is quite obviously a remarkable woman, not to mention an amazing writer.