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The God of Small Things ()

Booker Prize Winners (1997)

I'm deeply ambivalent about this one.  First off, I think Ms Roy has very nearly struck the perfect balance between the traditional English that Indians, raised on Dickens and Trollope and company, had imposed on them and the sing song pidgin rhythms of India, which Rushdie has rendered so annoyingly.  At times the repetitions and sentence fragments and other affectations become more of a hindrance than a benefit, but it seems that some Indian writers feel compelled to write in this sort of native style, and if it is inevitable, then better Roy's fairly controlled method than Rushdie's incomprehensible over-the-top method.

And I did enjoy the book to a degree.  The story of two twins who are separated for some mysterious reason at an early age, with one of them falling completely silent, is handled almost like a mystery.  The story has a real narrative drive as the history of and reasons for these events unfolds.  But I've got to admit, whatever the controversial politics of the novel are, they went right over my head.  I'm sure it has to do with Imperialism, Marxism, Socialism, Christianity, Hinduism, etc., because they are all mentioned a lot.  But I truthfully couldn't discern the deeper political messages of the novelist.  Perhaps they are too parochial?

And when the book's mysteries are finally revealed, I just didn't think that the dark secrets at the heart of the novel were of sufficient import to justify the portentous build up that they were given.  Then again, I'm a chauvinist, xenophobic, insensitive jerk, so I'm willing to assume that part of the blame is mine.  I certainly look forward to Ms Roy's subsequent efforts.

Here are a couple of Indian novels I'd recommend more unreservedly:

Mistry, Rohinton
    -Such a Long Journey
    -A Fine Balance

Seth, Vikram
    -A Suitable Boy


Grade: (C)


Book-related and General Links:
    -ESSAY : 'Brutality smeared in peanut butter' : Why America must stop the war now. (Arundhati Roy, October 23, 2001, The Guardian)
    -ESSAY : War Is Peace Ý: The world doesn't have to choose between the Taliban and the US
government. All the beauty of the worldóliterature, music, artólies between these two fundamentalist poles. (ARUNDHATI ROY, Outlook India)
    -ESSAY : The Algebra Of Infinite Justice Ý: So here we have it. The equivocating distinction between civilisation and savagery, between the 'massacre of innocent people' or, if you like, 'a clash of civilisations' and 'collateral damage'. The sophistry and fastidious algebra of Infinite Justice... Free Speech (ARUNDHATI ROY, November 8, 2001, Outlook India)
    -PROFILE : An Indian Novelist Turns Her Wrath on the U.S. (CELIA W. DUGGER, November 3, 2001, NY Times)
    -REVIEW: Melodrama as Structure for Subtlety (Michiko Kakutani, NY Times)
    -REVIEW: A Silver Thimble in Her Fist  (Alice Truax, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW: Out of the Ruins  (Rosemary Dinnage, NY Review of Books)
    -SAWNET: Arundhati Roy (brief bio, links, etc.)
    -The Arundhati Roy Web
    -PROFILE : The dambuster : Arundhati Roy burst on to the Indian national stage in 1997 with her novel The God Of Small Things. Four years later, the darling of India's middle class has become a painful thorn in its side  (MADELEINE BUNTING,12 August 2001The Age)
    -PROFILE: The Creative REBEL A woman who never obeyed the rules, scoffed at convention and was chased by controversy,  now is at the edge of literary stardom. (Pugmarks)
    -ESSAY : "Glamorous conscience" : Arundhati Roy's campaign against India's corporations. (New Statesman)
     -REAL AUDIO INTERVIEW: For all you Arundhati Roy fans out there, the Fresh Air interview
    -FIRST CHAPTER: The God of Small Things
     -STUDY GUIDE: Arundhati Roy: The God of Small Things
     -REVIEW: (Emily Gutheinz, Wordsworth)
     -REVIEW: (Pugmarks)
     -REVIEW: Book Review : No Small Achievement (Ruth Vanita)
     -REVIEW: (Manorama Mathai, IndiaStar--A Literary-Art Magazine)
    -REVIEW: of  THE GOD OF SMALL THINGS, by Arundhati Roy  Love is in the details:   An ornately Rushdiean tale of personal and political rebellion from one of India's new writers (Akash Kapur, Boston Phoenix)
     -REVIEW: IndiaStar Bookreview: The New Yorker special fiction issue (India focus) (C.J.S. Wallia, India Star)
     -INTERVIEW: winds, rivers & rain (REENA JANA, Salon)
     -REAL AUDIO INTERVIEW: Talk of the Nation (NPR)
     -REAL AUDIO INTERVIEW:  (Eleanor Wachtel CBC Radio's "Writers & Company")
     -WRITER AND SOCIETY   'I give you my book in memory of Velutha'  This is the English original of Arundhati Roy's translated Malayalam address to the Dalit Sahitya Akademi at Kozhikode on January 15, 1999 (The Hindu)
    -ESSAY; Manufacturing a Masterpiece:  Valentine Cunningham tries to understand why a derivative debut novel has become a global bestseller (Prospect)
     -EMS attacks literary content of Arundhati  Roy's novel (Rediff on the Net)
    -An unsuitable girl: Arundhati Roy has been condemned in India for her candour, her non-conformism, even her dress sense. Now she has confounded her critics with a remarkable debut novel. (MAYA JAGGI, Mail & Guardian Review of Books)
    -Shortlisting opinion: Over the years the Booker's list itself had come under criticism and now Arundhati Roy joins a long list of embattled winners (Nilanjana Roy, Business Standard)