Arundhati Roy

Portrait Arundhati Roy
© Hartwig Klappert

Arundhati Roy was born in Shillong in northern India in 1959 and she and her brother were raised by their mother in Kerala in southern India. At the age of sixteen she moved to Delhi where she studied architecture and worked in cinema first as an actress and then as a designer and screenplay writer.

She achieved international recognition her first novel, »The God of Small Things« (1997), which has been translated into forty, topped best-seller lists worldwide and won the prestigious Man Booker Prize for Fiction. In vivid, poetic language characterized by striking rhythm, the semi-autobiographical novel depicts the fate of an Indian family in Ayemenem, the author’s home town. The story centres around the twins Rahel and Estha, whose mother violates the rigid caste system by loving an »untouchable«. Through flashbacks and timeshifts, several temporal layers are established which form the basis of the work’s skilful construction.

Since India’s nuclear tests in 1998, Roy has focused on political work and her writing includes the books: »The Algebra of Infinite Justice« (2002) and »An Ordinary Person’s Guide to Empire« (2004). She recently published a collection of interviews titled »The Shape of the Beast« (2008). As an author and activist, Roy is involved with political issues in India such as the fights against nuclear armament, the privatization of energy, Hindu nationalism and the controversial Narmada Dam Project in the Indian state of Gujarat, a gigantic project with devastating human and environmental consequences. On an international level, Roy is a strong critic of corporate globalization, western military actions and economic policy and the manipulation of the corporate media. She sharply criticized both the War in Iraq and the Bush administration’s so-called »War on Terrorism«. At the end of September 2001, she wrote an article that appeared in the »Frankfurter Allgemeinen Zeitung« in which she called Bin Laden »the American President’s dark doppelgänger« and explains that US criminal foreign policies played an undeniable role in the Terrorist attacks. In the article »Brutality Smeared in Peanut Butter« (»The Guardian«, October 2001), she describes the US bombing of Afghanistan as »yet another act of terror against the people of the world«. Cloaked in terms like freedom and justice, a brutal war is being waged, one in which civilians will suffer most. Thus, the USA continues the unbroken cycle of violence and fuels hatred in the regions affected. The author announced that she was starting work on a new novel two years ago, but her political work has allowed her little time for fiction. Her most recent collection of essays, »Listening to Grasshoppers: Field Notes On Democracy« is to be published in September 2009. She lives in New Delhi.

© international literature festival berlin