February 13, 2007 / 1:36 PM / 10 years ago

Roy returns to fiction after activist decade

4 Min Read

<p>Prize-winning author and activist Arundhati Roy gestures during an interview with Reuters in New Delhi in this June 8, 2005 file photo. Ten years after winning the Booker Prize for her first novel, and a decade as one of India's leading social and environmental activists, Arundhati Roy is planning a return to fiction.B Mathur/Files</p>

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - Ten years after winning the Booker Prize for her first novel, and a decade as one of India's leading social and environmental activists, Arundhati Roy is planning a return to fiction.

Roy won the 1997 Booker Prize for her first novel "The God of Small Things" but has since confined herself to non-fiction, championing campaigns at home against large dams and international issues ranging from globalization to the Iraq war.

She has published several collections of essays, including "The Algebra of Infinite Justice" and "An Ordinary Person's Guide to Empire".

Now, she says it is time to turn another chapter in her life.

"In those ten years, I, along with many other people, have been part of really unmasking this process of corporate globalization," she said an interview with Reuters.

"But now I feel the fundamental argument has been made, and I would stagnate as a writer if I carried on doing that.

"As a writer I have to go to a different place now. As a person... I want to step off whatever this stage is that I have been given. The argument has been made, the battle remains to be fought -- and that requires a different set of skills."

Roy would say little about her next book, except that she had been spending a lot of time in India's troubled state of Kashmir. Nor is she sure whether her new project will work -- but she said she was relishing the writing process again.

"There was a noise inside my head, to communicate what this process was all about, and I think I have done that," she said, referring to her political writings.

"Now there is another noise inside my head."

"I am very conscious that, from the time of 'The God of Small Things' was published 10 years ago, we are in a different world, a different place now, which needs to be written about differently, and I really very much want to do that."

The 45-year-old author became the charismatic champion of grassroots activism in India with her opposition to India's 1998 nuclear tests and the controversial Narmada Dam.

"Not a Role Model"

But the role of an activist is one she has never felt comfortable with, either as a person or as a writer.

"I also feel very imprisoned by facts, by having to get it right," she said. "I don't want to play these games of statistics any more, I have done that.

"I don't want to be imprisoned by that, or by the morality that is expected of activists. I have never been that pristine person, that role model."

She stands by everything she wrote, but feels frustrated by the state's ability to brush aside non-violent resistance movements and has lost her faith in the country's courts, especially after recent judgments in favor of big dams.

"I am on the edge of hope and disillusionment," she said. "I think it is very important for us to take stock of what we have been right about and what we have been wrong about.

"The arguments we made are right ... but non-violence has not worked."

Roy left home in a village in the southern state of Kerala at the age of 16 and moved to Delhi where she studied architecture before becoming a writer.

She says she still inhabits an "uneasy space" between the rhetoric of the parliamentary left and anger felt by India's revolutionary Maoists with feudalism and corporate power.

"I am not able to stand up and say 'everybody must take up arms', because I am not willing to take up arms myself. And I am aware of the terrible toll such a decision takes... But nor am I willing to condemn those that are looking at other ways of being effective."

"Just as resistance movements need to reinvent themselves, to shed their tired, old slogans, we all need to find new ways of doing what we've been doing. And that includes me."

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