Arundhati Roy, The Art of Fiction

Hasan Altaf in The Paris Review:

After her first novel, The God of Small Things (1997), Arundhati Roy did not publish another for twenty years, when The Ministry of Utmost Happiness was released in 2017. The intervening decades were nonetheless filled with writing: essays on dams, displacement, and democracy, which appeared in newspapers and magazines such as OutlookFrontline, and the Guardian, and were collected in volumes that quickly came to outnumber the novels. Most of these essays were compiled in 2019 in My Seditious Heart, which, with footnotes, comes to nearly a thousand pages; less than a year later she published nine new essays in Azadi.

To see that two-decade period as a gap, or the nonfiction as separate from the fiction, would be to misunderstand Roy’s project; when finding herself described as “what is known in twenty-first-century vernacular as a ‘writer-activist,’ ” she confessed that term made her flinch (and feel “like a sofa-bed”). The essays exist between the novels not as a wall but as a bridge. Roy’s subject and obsession is, throughout, power: who has it (and why), how it is used (and abused), the ways in which those with little power turn on those with less—and, importantly, how to find beauty and joy amid these struggles. The God of Small Things is a novel focused on one family, while The Ministry of Utmost Happiness has a larger scale, but in the questions they ask and the themes they explore, both novels are as “political” as any of her essays. Her essays, in turn, are as powerfully and lovingly written as her fiction, with the same suspicion of purity, perfection, and simple stories.

More here.