Thursday, July 24, 2008

Arundhati Roy's New Fiction

Arundhati Roy has not written any fiction since the publication of her Booker-winning novel The God of Small Things in 1997. She was busy, besides her activist’s work, penning brilliant and phenomenal essays about nuclear testings, dams, globalization, Indian judiciary and about things most writers would not dare to touch. So her returning to fiction after this long sabbatical– eleven years to be exact – is itself an exciting news for literary folks. But this is a short story for now, she would follow up with her second novel soon.

Arundhati’s “Briefing” is about a fort in the hills, a real invincible fort, built with stones from surrounding hills, a result of massive investment of labour and money. It is not so much a story as a narrative. No story-line (a real writer is never bothered about it), no human characters except the narrator, and no twists. And it has a lot of subversive material (in a recent interview, Arundhati describes fiction as “more subversive…more mysterious”).

As we have seen in her other writings, she lets her imagination in full play here in this story also. The fort’s location in the hills leads us to snow. Snow is not naturally found these days atop hills. So comes warming of planet, and hot natural snow. In the final part of it, you see the narrator wishing the fort razed so the ecology returns to the land and snow falls again.

Arundhati is the kind of writer who gets evolved as a writer everyday. Don’t expect her handle the same things the same way from her every time. In every new piece she reinvents herself, and reveals something new. The subject of this story is another proof that she is trying to take herself to a loftier level.

But the story has some flaws. First, despite a fresh subject, you hear Arundhati’s too familiar angry non-fiction voice here in this story also. Initially, it’s hard to believe that you’re reading a work of fiction. She incorporates details of snow-manufacturing business in a non-fiction way. And then her swipe at capitalism is also blunt. The end too is simplistic. Where is the subtlety and mystery of fiction?

It seems that Arundhati has not yet been able to unplug herself fully from her non-fiction mode. After all, she has been into it way too long.

Arundhati needs to put her fiction-writer’s cap tightly.

1 comment:

Nila-kantha-chandra said...

Good to read your regular posts!

Best

rama

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