Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Arundhati Roy

Indian Writer Arundhati Roy, who won the Booker Prize in 1997 for The God of Small Things, has released a collection of essays about the tribal and political struggles in India. Here is a link to an article and interview from FT Magazine chronicling aspects of her life and detailing her leanings towards Maoist rebels (while serving mangoes brought out by the home help - irony perhaps?) and another from The Independent, less fulsome in its praise.

I've long waited for another fiction work from Roy, as I find her 1997 novel the pick of the Indian Renaissance novels of the last 30 years, above Salman Rushdie's Midnight's Children. It is a rare example of omniscient Point of View (POV) in modern literature, and in fact is a feast for students of manipulating POV and voice. I recall one review saying (paraphrasing) that 'a novel of real ambition should invent its own language,' which is interesting, though fraught with risk. If you haven't read it, I'd recommend it. If you can get through the omniscient narrator with its continual wordplay, the story within and beneath the text is compelling and moving. 

Perhaps the most powerful aspect of the The God of Small Things is Roy's ability to use the mundane (an old Mickey Mouse watch, the smell of rusting metal, pink nail polish, a hull of a dinghy) and fill them with metaphoric and symbolic power. That is an ability any writer should work to develop and hone. It allows the reader to make the connections in their own head, enlisting them as part of the storytelling process, even if brought out via an omniscient POV, which in theory, gives the narrator all the power. We have a natural tendency to link, to empower symbols to speak of emotions and concepts, have the concrete represent aspects of ourselves buried deep, even unacknowledged.

Be good to see Roy writing fiction again.

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