The Checkbook and The Cruise Missile
Author: Arundhati Roy
Publisher: South End Press
Publishing Date: March 2004
A skilful interviewer can reveal aspects of a writer’s voice in simple yet telling ways. As a novelist, Arundhati Roy is known for her lush language and intricate structure. As a political essayist, her prose is searching and fierce. All these qualities shine through in the interviews collected by David Barsamian for Globalizing Dissent: Conversations with Arundhati Roy. New and devoted readers will find that these exchanges, recorded between 2001 and 2003, add to their appreciation of Roy’s previous work.
The book presents discussions with Arundhati Roy about her childhood or the problems of translation in a multilingual society. Roy and David Barsamian, the producer and host of Alternative Radio, engage in a manner as to extract Roy’s every deep delved reason for such passion about politics. Speaking candidly and casually, Roy describes her participation in a demonstration against the Indian dam program as, "absolutely fantastic."
This volume differs from Roy's other works in that it is a series of interviews led by David Barsamian.
She jokes that her Supreme Court charge for "corrupting public morality" in the case of her novel The God of Small Things should have been changed to "further corrupting public morality." She calls on her training as an architect to explain what she means by the physics of power. She says:
"unfettered power . . . cannot go berserk like this and expect to hold it all together."
Roy comments on and informs about U.S. military actions, globalization, and the politics of her home country. In this collection, as in her other works, Roy provides a combination of information and interpretation. Roy's work is characterized by its combination of readability and insight. One can almost read her books and gather a ton of knowledge about world politics.
Among other political opinions, Roy’s concern for the plight of women (particularly Indian women and poor women) comes out most clearly. It’s quite a revelation that Roy’s fiction and its connection with her nonfiction is kind of symbiotic- her childhood in Kerala and experience of race and gender relations; and Roy’s understanding of the role of academic scholarship in the struggle for liberation, as well as the problematic status of the Ivory Tower.
In ‘The Checkbook and the Cruise Missile’, the interviews, at times may seem disjointed. At one-point Roy is talking about globalization and Hindu nationalism, and Barsamian asks, "Are you thinking about writing any more fiction? Other times Barsamian seems more interested in Roy's life than her insights.
But overall, the book presents Roy’s worldly view on different political events and is quite insightful to read.
About the Author:
Arundhati Roy was born in 1960 in Kerala, India. She studied architecture at the Delhi School of Architecture and worked as a production designer. She has written two screenplays including Electric Moon (1992) that was commissioned by Channel 4 television.
Her first novel ‘God of small things’ won the Booker Prize for Fiction in 1997. An immediate bestseller, the novel was published simultaneously in 16 languages and 19 countries but caused controversy in India for the description of a love affair between a Syrian Christian and a Hindu 'untouchable'. She is also the author of several non-fiction books including: The Cost of Living (1999)- a highly critical attack on the Indian government for its handling of the controversial Narmada Valley dam project and for its nuclear testing programme; Power Politics (2001)- a book of essays; and The Algebra of Infinite Justice- a collection of journalism. The Ordinary Person's Guide to Empire was published in 2004. She has since published a further collection of essays examining the dark side of democracy in contemporary India ‘Listening to Grasshoppers: Field Notes on Democracy’ (2009).
Her latest book is ‘The Ministry of Utmost Happiness’ (2017), her second novel. It was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize and, in the US, was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. For her work as an activist she received the Cultural Freedom Prize awarded by the Lannan Foundation in 2002.