What happens when a writer’s large, looming figure overshadows her work, when her personality and celebrity take precedence over her art? This is the kind of question a detractor would ask when talking about Arundhati Roy, Booker-prize winning author of The God of Small Things, The End of Imagination, and many other essays and articles. Reporter Siddhartha Deb writes about Roy in the upcoming edition of The New York Times Sunday Magazine, profiling her over the course of a few weeks. Roy is due to come out with a new novel soon, but in the time between 1997 (when The God of Small Things was published) and the present, she has continued to write extensively both in India and elsewhere about myriad causes, including: Indian nationalism; the occupation of Kashmir; the injustice of the caste system; and the rights of various indigenous groups as they struggle to maintain their sovereignty. Roy describes the decisions that went into becoming a political writer:
“There is nothing in The God of Small Things that is at odds with what I went on to write politically over 15 years,” Roy said. . . . . It is true that her novel also explored questions of social justice. But without the armature of character and plot, her essays seemed didactic — or just plain wrong — to her detractors, easy stabs at an India full of energy and purpose . . . But for Roy, remaining on the sidelines was never an option. “If I had not said anything about the nuclear tests, it would have been as if I was celebrating it,” Roy said. “I was on the covers of all these magazines all the time. Not saying anything became as political as saying something.”
Read the rest of Deb’s engaging profile of Roy here.