A Living Portrait of India
Arundhati Roy is the first Indian to win the Booker prize( in London,on 14 October1997) for her debut novel The God of Small Things, launched on 4 April 1997 in Delhi.This prize, awarded to writers of Commonwealth countries has been won so far by 19 men and 10 women. In all, 88 titles had been submitted for the Booker Prize of 1997, with an additional 18 titles called in by the judges.But the decision to award it to The God of Small Things was unanimous. The book brings to life village life in a quiet village in Kerala but has an appeal that is universal.
Arundhati Roy spent her crucial childhood years in Aymanam. There, her mother Mary Roy (later a well-known social activitist) ran an informal school named Corpus Christie where Arundhati developed her literary and intellectual abilities unconstrainted by the set rules of formal education. Later, she acquired the professional training of an architect. She acted in the film Massey Sahib in the role of a rural girl. She took an individual stand regarding the censorship of the controversial film on Phulan Devi. Arundhati Roy took four-and-a-half years to write the book, finishing The God of Small Things in May 1996, handed it over to an agent in June, and by September was getting bids of hundreds of thousands of dollars. In the end she got more than a mllion dollars in advances for her novel. By end-October, the novel had sold nearly 400,000 hardback copies globally, and within India, more than 30,000. Random House has earnt $1.2 million in the US for the sale of her book's paperback rights. It had been translated into 27 languages. That had been before the Booker Prize, which brought her 21,000 pounds. After the Booker Prize, her novel has sold more than Booker prize-winning books do after winning the award. It success apart, the novel is remarkable for its quality of innocence and originality of style. It is not a profound book drawing on history or philosophy, but a rather playful book written from memory and taking liberties with the so-called Queen's English.
The formal Booker tribute read out by jury chairperson Gillian Beer, professor of English at cambridge, said: " With extraordinary linguistic inventiveness Arundhati Roy funnels the history of South India through the eyes of seven-year-old twins. The story she tells is fundamental as well as local: it is about love and death, about lies and laws. Her narative crackles with riddles and yet tells its tale quite clearly. We are all engrossed by this moving novel." He also added that the novel "keeps all the promises it makes."
Coming as it does in the 50th year of India's Independence,
Arundhati Roy's achievement is certainly a notable one.