“I only write when I can’t not.” – Arundhati Roy
WHO SHE IS: Indian writer and political activist, best known for her 1997 Booker Prize-winning book, The God of Small Things.
WHAT SHE HAS ACCOMPLISHED: An outspoken critic of globalization, she promotes social justice, sustainability, feminist principles and the preservation of traditional ways of life. In the past decade, she has been increasingly critical of the Indian state’s policy towards Kashmir, nuclear weapons program, and the environmental destruction and corruption caused by domestic mega-corporations, government organizations and officials.
She works tirelessly to bring to light the issues facing poor and marginalized communities across India and wrought by globalization, such as the dams and mineral quarries that displace peasants and destroy the environment under the guise of progress and development.
She has lived with revolutionary armies fighting in the Indian jungle and written about her time there, calling attention to the circumstances they face. When asked why she supports their armed resistance and does not argue for a non-violent solution, she succinctly illustrates the lack of alternatives:
“If you’re an adivasi [tribal Indian] living in a forest village and 800 CRP [Central Reserve Police] come and surround your village and start burning it, what are you supposed to do? Are you supposed to go on hunger strike? Can the hungry go on a hunger strike? Non-violence is a piece of theatre. You need an audience. What can you do when you have no audience? People have the right to resist annihilation.”
WHY WE LOVE HER: She is the embodiment of speaking truth to power. She articulately and passionately speaks out against the structural conditions and entities that maintain systemic injustice in her homeland and beyond. She critiques the realities of so-called “democracies” that have been co-opted in support of neoliberal market ideology and globalization. Despite threats to her own safety, she exhibits a matter-of-fact courage in the face of attacks by those who wish to maintain the status quo. Aware that “anybody who says anything is in danger,” she presses on with her radical agenda. She does not ask to be celebrated and she will not back down.
She refused a deal to turn The God of Small Things, her incredibly moving and original novel, into a film because she wanted each reader to be able to maintain their own vision of the story. Although she earned a substantial amount of money from its worldwide publication (it was translated into 40 languages) and sale, she has given most of her money away to political causes. She says she “is not in sacrificial mode” and does not claim to be a saint, but that as a political person, she would rather not keep it, but instead “deploy” it appropriately.
Her person, her work and her fearlessness “ignites our political imagination.” An incredible writer and public speaker, she tours not only large metropolitan areas but across India, reaching out to those in country towns and small cities, speaking on a wide range of issues related to the misdeeds of the Indian state and the policies of marketized globalization. Although she continues to write essays and political articles and has recently published an essay collection entitled “Broken Republic,” she says doesn’t care if she ever finishes a second novel, as she never intended to be a novel factory. In fact, she says in some ways she wishes she could “do as little as possible,” but that she only writes “when she can’t not.” Considering the multitude of grave injustices she challenges with her writing, we are genuinely grateful that she answers the call.
We do not own the photos above, nor do we intend any copyright infringement. Quotations taken from interviews with Ms. Roy by The Guardian. Links are below. We highly recommend these articles for further reading.
Arundhati Roy: ‘They are trying to keep me destabilised. Anybody who says anything is in danger’ [Stephen Moss, The Guardian]
Arundhati Roy: India’s bold and brilliant daughter [Ian Jack, The Guardian]
Arundhati Roy: ‘The people who created the crisis will not be the ones that come up with a solution’ [Arun Gupta, The Guardian]