Udayavni Special

Language is my friend, fiction my first love: Arundhati Roy


Team Udayavani, Feb 3, 2019, 6:58 AM IST

New Delhi: She writes poetic prose, employs redolent metaphors and evokes utmost admiration for her novelistic virtues. Arundhati Roy is anything but a boring author.

The 1997 Booker Prize-winner, who is equally at ease writing scathing essays, says she is a “disciplined writer” whose heart lies in fiction as it is a “connective tissue” between many things which are sometimes looked at or studied in isolation.

“Much of my non-fiction writing is an argument, but fiction is where you create a universe through which you invite a reader to walk. It is much more complex. For me, it is the most satisfying thing. When I write fiction, I feel like I am using all my skills, it delights me the most,” Roy told PTI in an interview.

“It is only fiction that transcends what is increasingly being divided into subjects. Fiction is the connective tissue between so many things which are sometimes looked at or studied in isolation. It allows you not to isolate things,” she said.

Best known for her debut novel ‘The God of Small Things’ which won the 1997 Man Booker Prize and catapulted her into fame, Roy came out with her second work of fiction ‘The Ministry of Utmost Happiness’ in 2017 after a hiatus of twenty years.

The second novel which was longlisted for the 2017 Man Booker Prize has been received well and is already translated into nearly 50 languages, including Hindi and Urdu.

The Hindi and Urdu translations of Roy’s second novel have been done by Rajkamal Prakashan Samuh. They will be launched on February 2. Manglesh Dabral has done the Hindi translation “Aapar Khushi ka Gharana” and Arjumand Ara’s Urdu translation is titled “Bepanah Shadmani Ki Mumlikat”. 

“The response was far beyond my expectation. For me, it has been years of experimenting with a form of novel, and which I knew was complex and cannot be consumed in one read,” Roy said.

Noting that her experiment with a new form was “intentional”, the 57-year-old author said she attempted to write something which would satisfy her “own complicated mind”.

“I have never been somebody who wants to deliver what is expected of me. For me, the more important thing was my own ambitions as a fiction writer. I am sure some people were disappointed, but writing is not about satisfying everybody. It is your own inquiry that you have to follow,” she said.

“This was an attempt to deal with something more complex. ‘The God of Small Things’ is about a family and people understand those coordinates, whereas ‘The Ministry of Utmost Happiness’ starts out with a shattered heart, it starts out with people who are strange to normal people… It is a more complex book and needs many many readings,” she said.

Roy, who is quite often extolled for her lyrical description, credits renowned writers like William Shakespeare and Rudyard Kipling for it, saying it is her early readings of their work which “makes one hear my language rather than just see it”.

“Language is my friend. Every time I am able to write to close the gap between language and thought, the blood flows easier in my veins. That is why I think I am always writing,” she said.

A major part of Roy’s second novel is set in Kashmir. She has written about its longstanding conflict in her essays but feels only fiction can do justice to its story.

“Right from the first time I started going to Kashmir, I realised that only fiction can deal with it. The fiction writer in me started going round and round. You can’t tell it (story) through human rights reports or journalistic accounts,” she said.

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