Author: Arundhati Roy
Publisher: South End Press
Publishing Date: April 2003
As the United States pushes for war on Iraq, Arundhati Roy, the internationally acclaimed author of The God of Small Things, addresses issues of democracy and dissent, racism and empire, and war and peace in this collection of new essays. Fully annotated versions of all Roy's most recent -essays, including her acclaimed Lannan Foundation - a lecture from September 2002, are included in War Talk.
As she always does, this time too, Roy gives her political insight on the war declaration by US on Iraq. Roy challenged those who equate ‘disapproval’ with being ‘anti-American.’ As New York Times rightly pointed out- “Her previous essays on globalization and dissent have led many to see Roy as ‘India's most impassioned critic of globalization and American influence.”
These pieces were written between 2002-2003 and reflect those troubled times. The titular piece opens the collection and is certainly timely in light of the aggressive boasting between North Korea and the Oval Office.
War Talk highlights the global rise of religious and racial violence. From the horrific slaughtering against Muslims in Gujarat, India, to U.S. demands for a war on Iraq, Roy confronts the call to militarism. Pawl Hawken writes about her: "If [Roy] continues to upset the globalization applecart like a Tom Paine pamphleteer, she will either be greatly honoured or thrown in jail”.
The interesting fact is that- she was in fact jailed in March 2002, when -India's Supreme Court found Roy in contempt of the court after months of attempting to silence her criticism of the government.
She raises concern and speaks about the possible strategies to safeguard the nation:
“Our strategy should be not only to confront empire but to lay siege to it. To deprive it of oxygen. To shame it. To mock it. With our art, our music, our literature, our stubbornness, our joy, our brilliance, our sheer relentlessness – and our ability to tell our own stories. Stories that are different from the ones we’re being brainwashed to believe.”
Desperately working against the backdrop of the nuclear recklessness between her homeland and Pakistan, she calls into question the equation of nation and ethnicity. And throughout her essays, Roy jiggles between her roles as a ‘writer’ and ‘activist.’
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.