ARUNDHATI ROY THE ALGEBRA OF INFINITE JUSTICE PDF

Her remarkable novel, The God of Small Things, was celebrated above all for its emotive power, and since that book she has brought that heartfelt energy to politics. Her engaged and engaging journalism over the past few years has set out her stall against globalisation, nuclear weapons, religious intolerance and the war on terror. Some have condemned this as overdone rhetoric; but given what she is writing about how can her rhetoric be overdone? And although she has often been patronised, here and in India, as a novelist who has strayed into areas that are too complex for her readable style, Roy is excellent at putting across the rational arguments and the webs of facts that are necessary to back up her opinions. In "The Greater Common Good", she explains the human cost of big dam projects and the pathetic benefits they offer to offset vast environmental destruction and mass displacements of ordinary people.

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Her remarkable novel, The God of Small Things, was celebrated above all for its emotive power, and since that book she has brought that heartfelt energy to politics. Her engaged and engaging journalism over the past few years has set out her stall against globalisation, nuclear weapons, religious intolerance and the war on terror. Some have condemned this as overdone rhetoric; but given what she is writing about how can her rhetoric be overdone? And although she has often been patronised, here and in India, as a novelist who has strayed into areas that are too complex for her readable style, Roy is excellent at putting across the rational arguments and the webs of facts that are necessary to back up her opinions.

In "The Greater Common Good", she explains the human cost of big dam projects and the pathetic benefits they offer to offset vast environmental destruction and mass displacements of ordinary people. She has a good command of both the big picture and the small. She tells the tale of a father, displaced from his old home by the building of a dam, holding his sick baby in his arms while he tells Roy how many kinds of fruit he used to pick in the forest.

Not unless he stole it. She does not just enlarge on these instances of human tragedy but can also compress the wider political picture into her essays. In her essay "Power Politics", first published two years ago, she tells of the deal Enron did in Maharashtra, where its contract for electricity production turned out to be a massive fraud.

The contract forced the state to cough up billions of dollars for overpriced electricity, in a strategy that Roy terms, tersely, "rape without redress". This is a writer who is very self-conscious about her standing as an artist, who tells us that far from being just a journalist she notices those things that lie "outside the realm of common human understanding".

Come on in. She tells us that she could never use words lazily or thoughtlessly, as most people do. No, indeed. Has she ever read anything about the experiences of people in concentration camps of the Third Reich, and if so, how can she possibly warrant such a claim? As this daft comment shows, Roy is an unpredictable writer.

But time and again she calls on us to notice the evils done in the name of development and national security. She has been criticised by one western critic for indulging in "Occidentalism", a reverse Orientalism, as if her anger at the US, at its drive to dominate global markets and at the war on terror were fuelled simply by prejudice. Clearly, it is still rather shocking for us to hear a voice from India that is so fiercely sceptical of western gifts and threats.

In article after article, Roy voices her anger with the Indian authorities - and one of her protests against the building of the Sardar Sarovar dam resulted in her recent prosecution by the supreme court of India. The most substantive charge is that Roy has no alternative to the present order. She wants people to stop building barriers across rivers, to stop killing one another, to stop making bombs, to stop dropping bombs. This unrelieved tone of shock and sadness, in the end, makes for rather limited political commentary.

But as it is, even if Roy has no interest in putting forward ideas for building a better world, at least she has the desire to make us notice what is happening to this one.

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Writing the world's wrongs

Share via Email In the aftermath of the unconscionable September 11 suicide attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Centre, an American newscaster said: "Good and evil rarely manifest themselves as clearly as they did last Tuesday. And they did so with contemptuous glee. Before it has properly identified or even begun to comprehend the nature of its enemy, the US government has, in a rush of publicity and embarrassing rhetoric, cobbled together an "international coalition against terror", mobilised its army, its air force, its navy and its media, and committed them to battle. As deterrence, its arsenal of nuclear bombs is no longer worth its weight in scrap. Box-cutters, penknives, and cold anger are the weapons with which the wars of the new century will be waged. Anger is the lock pick. It slips through customs unnoticed.

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