“And when we look in through the windows, all we see are shadows. And when we try and listen, all we hear is a whispering. And we cannot understand the whispering, because our minds have been invaded by a war. A war that we have both won and lost. The very worst sort of war. A war that captures dreams and re-dreams them. A war that has made us adore our conquerors and despise ourselves.”
― Arundhati Roy, The God of Small Things
“Our strategy should be not only to confront empire, but to lay siege to it. To deprive it of oxygen. To shame it. To mock it. With our art, our music, our literature, our stubbornness, our joy, our brilliance, our sheer relentlessness – and our ability to tell our own stories. Stories that are different from the ones we’re being brainwashed to believe.
The corporate revolution will collapse if we refuse to buy what they are selling – their ideas, their version of history, their wars, their weapons, their notion of inevitability.
Remember this: We be many and they be few. They need us more than we need them.
Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing.”
― Arundhati Roy, War Talk
Writers imagine that they cull stories from the world. I’m beginning to believe that vanity makes them think so. That it’s actually the other way around. Stories cull writers from the world. Stories reveal themselves to us. The public narrative, the private narrative – they colonize us. They commission us. They insist on being told. Fiction and nonfiction are only different techniques of story telling. For reasons that I don’t fully understand, fiction dances out of me, and nonfiction is wrenched out by the aching, broken world I wake up to every morning.”
― Arundhati Roy
She wore flowers in her hair and carried magic secrets in her eyes. She spoke to no one. She spent hours on the riverbank. She smoked cigarettes and had midnight swims…
– Arundhati Roy, The God of Small Things
Arundhati Roy’s The God of Small Things, was the first book of hers that I read. It happens to also be the only piece of fiction she has written. I loved the book. Her writing style and the subject are so devastating, that I just had to read some of her non-fiction, journalistic work.
The Cost of Living, is a collection of two essays, one on India’s massive damn projects and the other on the advent of India’s nuclear bomb. It brought to my attention, subjects I had no clue about earlier. Roy is conscious, aggressive, and breathtakingly honest about the injustices and horror of both subjects.
This book will change your perspective if it is not already on par with Roy’s. It is a must read for anyone interested in human rights, international relations and development, or simply those concerned with the future of India and our world.
I was especially moved and motivated by the passage below. Please read this book.
It is such a supreme folly to believe that nuclear weapons are deadly only if they’re used. The fact that they exist at all, their presence in our lives, will wreak more havoc than we can begin to fathom. Nuclear weapons pervade our thinking. Control our behavior. Administer our societies. Inform our dreams. They bury themselves like meat hooks deep in the base of our brains. They are purveyors of madness. They are the ultimate colonizer. Whiter than any white man that ever lived. The very heart of whiteness.
It has been quite a while since I’ve cried while reading a book, but The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy reduced me to tears to by the time I turned the last page.
A review on the back of my copy stated that all the good novels create their own language and Roy certainly does. Her writing is poetic and incredibly moving. She takes widely covered subjects, and turns it into something brand new with her prose. The novel is told in third person, yet, for some pivotal moments it is told from the perspective of one of the two-egg twins (the main characters – Rahel and Estha), Rahel. This is where the different language comes in play as words and phrases are written about from the view of the innocent of a child.
While it’s fiction – the only novel Roy has written to date – it still takes a political stand but more than that a human stand. She explores themes of class relations, the caste system, politics, culture, forbidden love and social discrimination. Most importantly, what she calls, Love laws – who can be loved and who can’t.
It’s heartbreaking, maddening and yet the truly abysmal aspect is that this is a story (the bare bit of it) that happens all the time. Even in present day.
If you are looking for a light read, this isn’t for you. There isn’t a wonderful resolution to all the tragedy. It is raw; it is life. This is one of those novels that will stay with me long after I’ve finished it. Estha, Rahel, Ammu, Velutha and their tragically heartbreaking story. Superb.
To love. To be loved. To never forget your own significance. To never get used to the unspeakable violence and the vulgar disparity of life around you. To seek joy in the saddest places. To pursue beauty to its lair. To never simplify what is complicated or complicate what is simple. To respect strength, never power. Above all, to watch. To try and understand. To never look away. And never, never, to forget.
– Arundhati Roy, The Cost of Living