Arundhati Roy The God of Small Things
Born in 1960, Roy is an Indian novelist.
In The God of Small Things (1997) Roy creates a microcosm that encompasses wife battering, infidelity, molestation, emotional insecurity, pride, and death within one family in the southern Indian state of Kerala. Through this microcosm, Roy explores the often chaotic social and political history of India. Written in a style verging on magical realism, the novel features nonlinear chronology and fragmented flashbacks so that the reader must unravel the story from its conclusion to its source. Roy herself grew up in Kerala, where she witnessed the disarray of Indian politics and the quiet violence of the Indian upper classes against the Untouchables—the lowest stratum in the strict Indian caste system. She studied to be an architect before writing screenplays for several successful Indian films and now resides in New Delhi. Her story of the Kochamma family addresses the sweeping problems and complexities of twentieth-century India as the country struggled for independence from British colonialism. Lingering Anglophilia among Indians and its resultant shame and self-loathing inform the better part of the novel, in which Indians are caught between upholding narrow English standards of beauty and conduct, and confronting their own history of class prejudice and misogyny. Consequently, it is the children of the story—the fraternal twins Estha and Rahel—who are left irreparably scarred by their tumultuous family and society. Critical response to The God of Small Things has been largely positive. Critics have praised Roy's lush and sensuous prose and her handling of such a wide range of personal and social issues, and have noted similarities in her writing to that of Salman Rushdie, William Faulkner, and James Joyce. Other critics have argued that such comparisons are premature and that, while the novel shows tremendous promise, it is too self-consciously literary to be considered a masterpiece. Nonetheless, Roy is lauded for undertaking to examine the turbulence of India on such a large scale. She won Britain's prestigious Booker Prize for The God of Small Things in 1997.