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Two decades after Arundhati Roy won the £50,000 (Rs 41 lakh) award for her debut novel, The God of Small Things, her long-awaited second novel, The Ministry of Utmost Happiness, has returned to the longlist for the Man Booker Prize 2017.
In 1997, Arundhati Roy’s debut novel, The God of Small Things, rocketed her to international fame, winning the prestigious Man Booker Prize for Fiction that sold over eight million copies in 42 languages. Roy became the first Indian woman to win the coveted prize and also the first Indian writer living in the country.
For the next two decades, Roy turned to activism and often hit headlines for her bold views. She has widely written and spoken against the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, campaigned for Kashmiri independence and protested against the rise of Hindu nationalism in the country. She has also been a strong critic of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, a right-wing nationalist. Roy’s views on contentious issues have made her country's harshest critic today and its most fearless activist.
BJP MP Paresh Rawal recently launched a scathing attack on Roy suggesting the writer should be tied in front of an Army jeep instead of a stone-pelter. Rawal was referring to an incident in which a 23-year-old Kashmiri man was tied to an army jeep, taken as a human shield, that sparked a huge outrage in Kashmir in May this year. However, Roy had not spoken anything that time, in fact Rawal deleted his tweet later.
The award-winning author had also faced criminal charges of contempt and sedition, been imprisoned, however that did not deter her to stop writing against the establishment. Despite being the target of the Indian government, Roy has a standard reply. "Suppose there are 10 people in this room. Seven are starving, and one is winning medals, and two are doing OK. And I say, 'Look at these seven people who are starving,' and you say, 'Oh don't be so negative, no, things are not so bad – look at the other three.' Really?” Roy told the Guardian.
In a recent interview with PBS, America’s largest media enterprise, Roy spoke about her latest novel, The Ministry of Utmost Happiness, “This book is not just about poor people or fringe people, but how these wheels are turning. Huge populations today are forced to live in terror. Every time you lynch someone you are telling a whole community something. Much of what is in the air in India now is pure terror, in Kashmir, in other places. Every day you are reading about lynching, killings, even in the presence of police.”
Thus, Arundhati Roy is such a novelist who can write about India by writing The Ministry of Utmost Happiness. The longlist of Man Booker Prize includes two Pakistani authors Mohsin Hamid and Kamila Shamsie, two British Smiths, Ali and Zadie, and also first-time authors Emily Fridlund and Fiona Mozley. The shortlist of six books will be released on 13 September, while the winner of the Man Booker Prize 2017 will be revealed on 17 October. Can Arundhati win the prize again? Only time will tell.
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