The Shape of the Beast

The Shape of the Beast
Image source: Google

Rating: 4/5

Author: Arundhati Roy

Publisher: Viking Press

Publishing Date: 2008

Language: English

Genre: Non-Fiction

ISBN-10: 0143419307

ISBN-13: 978-0143419303

Format: Paperback

Pages: 344

Cost: Rs. 188 (Paperback), Rs. 161.50 (Kindle Edition)


The Shape of the Beast: Conversations with Arundhati Roy (2008) is a collection of fourteen interviews of Indian author Arundhati Roy, conducted between January 2001 and March 2008. In these interviews, Roy speaks, among other things, about people displaced by dams and industry, the genocide in Gujarat, Maoist rebels, the Kashmir issue and American imperialism. In the final interview, Roy speaks about herself as a person, a writer and a celebrity.


The Shape of the Beast runs on two different wheels: as a wide ranging collection of her opinions till date on issues close to her heart and as ‘political fodder’ for her readers.

Among the other things- about people displaced by dams and industry, the genocide in Gujarat, Maoist rebels, the war in Kashmir and the global war on terror, she raises fundamental questions about democracy, justice and non-violent protest unabashedly political, this is also a deeply personal collection through the conversations.

The most revealing interview of all is the final one, conducted in March 2008, in which Roy speaks about herself as a person, a writer and a celebrity and the private and public consequences of that. She discusses the pros and cons of such an unintentional but necessary dual personality.

Arundhati talks about the necessity of taking a stand as also the dilemma of guarding the private space necessary for writing in a world that demands acute, desperate, indisputable involvement and in the final interview, she discusses rather candidly about her vague and doubtful feelings about success and both the pressures and the freedom that come with it.

The Beast in question is obviously the ‘political beast’. Individually, in her books, she has addressed all of these issues - the dominance of power of state, religion, imperialism, corporate entities and social constructs. But collected together they shed light not so much on the nature of these beasts and how they affect- democracy, egalitarianism and sheer goodness.

Roy writes in the book's preface: "These interviews were a flexible way of thinking aloud, of exploring idea, personal As well as political, without having to nail them down with an artificially structured cohesion and fit them into an unassailable grand thesis. This book was born and raised in that amorphous, luminal space – somewhere between the spoken and the written word."

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.