An Evening with Arundhati Roy

Twenty years ago, Arundhati Roy’s first novel, The God of Small Things , took the world by storm, winning the Man Booker Prize and receiving the acclaim of readers and critics alike. After two decades in which she focused on her powerful non-fiction work, Arundhati Roy has finally returned to fiction with her long-awaited second novel The Ministry of Utmost Happiness . Join us for an evening of unforgettable literary discussion with this extraordinary writer.

A monumental new novel from the Booker Prize-winning author of The God of Small Things, to be published on the 20th anniversary of that landmark book ‘How to tell a shattered story? By slowly becoming everybody. No. By slowly becoming everything.’ In a city graveyard a resident unrolls a threadbare Persian carpet between two graves. On a concrete sidewalk a baby appears quite suddenly, a little after midnight, in a crib of litter. In a snowy valley, a father writes to his five-year-old daughter about the number of people that attended her funeral. In a second-floor apartment, watched over by a small owl, a lone woman feeds a baby gecko dead. And in the Jannat Guest House, two people who’ve known each other all their lives sleep with their arms wrapped around one another as though they have only just met. Arundhati Roy’s new novel gives us a glorious cast of unforgettable characters, caught up in the tide of history, each in search of a place of safety. Told with a whisper, with a shout, with tears and with a laugh, it is a love story and a provocation. Its heroes, present and departed, human and animal, have been broken by the world we live in and then mended by love. And for this reason, they will never surrender.

On it’s global release date of Tueday, 6th June 2017, Foyles bookstore had arranged for Arundhati Roy to be in conversation at Town Hall Symphony Hall in Birmingham. Due to my knowing the staff at the Birmingham Grand Central Foyles store, I had a comp ticket and trade paperback (review to come later), in an exchange for a short-ish post about the evening. Photography was banned in the hall, so there will be few photographs of what went on, sorry. I was joined by Lindsey Bailey as another Foyles blogger member.

The moderator did start the evening by introducing herself, but I didnt catch her name, so can’t introduce her here. There was also a lady who stood on the side of the stage, providing sign language interpretation, but she wasn’t introduced throughout the evening.  I’ve been at the THSH before, and they’ve had Sign Languague provision, so I dont know if this was specific to THSH or to this event specifically, but I do like the idea.

The evening started with a short video, which included excerpts of Roy reading from her book (she also did the audiobook), written words and images that all added together to give an impression of India, and Kashmir in particular. Roy then came on stage and read from the book for about 20 minutes before entering into a conversation with the moderator for about 30 minutes. Roy proved to be funny, and occasionally managed to slip in the odd rude word, but that’s ok.

The floor was then opened up for questions from the audience, which proved to be very political (not surprising considering what Roy has been writing in the last 20 years), but a little disappointing as I considered the evening to be about the launch of the book. Only one person managed to keep his question remotely tied to the book – showing he had at least read the first chapter- however Roy managed to be dignified and pleasant throughout, answering questions (even if I wasnt entirely sure that a question had been asked by the audience member).

After approximately 15 mins of questions, all of them political, it finished with another 5 minute reading, and then a standing ovation (where I grabbed the attached photograph, haha).

Those who had the higher priced ticket got a signed copy of the book included, and books were also on sale by the Foyles staff after the talk.

Overall it was an enjoyable evening and I hope that Arundhati gets the chance to talk to her audience about the book more!

There’s an author interview over at Foyles website  http://www.foyles.co.uk/Public/Biblio/AuthorDetails.aspx?authorId=85845

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