Arundhati Roy: Proud to be a one-hit wonder

On March 30, 2010 By pramitsingh Topic: Books and Literature,

Prof. Tyler Cowen, a good economics blogger, calls Arundhati Roy a "one hit wonder" and then proceeds to say that Arundhati's views on social development haven't much economic standing. If it were some other blogger, one wouldn't have hesitated to label it as a rant from a self-important, self-obsessed American.

But, Prof. Cowen is a balanced man. He runs an informative blog. He is hugely informed. So, here is a very short introduction to what Arundhati Roy has been up to after her triumphant "God of small things".

In calling Arundhati Roy a "one hit wonder", you are correct if you refer to her fiction.

However, Arundhati  has chosen to focus on non-fiction, covering issues that many Indian writers in English do not - issues that really matter for Indians, namely, inequality, naxalites, land rights, struggle b/w development and environment, big business-government nexus, it is a long list. I suggest you read her writings in Outlook Magazine, most of them are online. I am sure you will find a rich trove of contrarian opinion.

I do not like to label people, but Arundhati Roy is a writer-cum-activist.  Another Indian writer/activist of note is Mahashweta Devi, who writes in Bengali. You see, the people of India cannot subsist on fiction alone. Today's India, you see isn't much difference from the 19th Century America, when land from native American Indians was taken forcibly, all in the name of Nation building. What is an author supposed to do? Just sit back, write a kitchen-sink drama and say all this land-grab makes economic sense?

Regarding the economic unsoundness of her views, it is worth noting that even the Nation with most Economics Noble prizes cannot avert economic crashes and government over-spending. Thankfully, the world is not run by economists and HAL 9000 computers. I guarantee you that in such eventuality, the world would crash more than it does now.

Links to Arundhati Roy's articles in Outlook magazine in the past decade or maybe more:

Interviews with Arundhati Roy
Archive of Outlook articles
Her latest article is a long piece titled "Walking with the comrades" about her journey in the Naxalite heartland of India, Dantewada - Consider it as India's answer to Hiroshima in the New Yorker. 

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