The Cost of Living

Arundhati Roy, Author, Arundhati Roy, Preface by
Arundhati Roy, Author, Arundhati Roy, Preface by Modern Library $12.95 (144p) ISBN 978-0-375-75614-6
Reviewed on: 10/04/1999
Release date: 10/01/1999
Open Ebook - 144 pages - 978-0-307-43209-4
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The author of the Booker Prize-winning novel The God of Small Things dons a pundit's hat in her second book, and it's an awkward fit. This slim volume offers two previously published magazine articles. ""The Greater Common Good,"" which appeared in Outlook, an Indian magazine, argues against the building of a controversial dam on the Narmada River in India. Roy notes that 60% of the 200,000 people likely to be uprooted by the project are tribal people, many illiterate, who will be deprived of their original livelihoods and land. Drawing on studies and government and court documents, Roy criticizes the World Bank, the Indian government and a political system that favors interest groups at the expense of the poor. In the second essay, ""The End of Imagination,"" a criticism of India's decision to test a nuclear bomb that was published in the Nation in September 1998, Roy asks why India built the bomb when more than 400 million Indians are illiterate and live in absolute poverty. It's a good question, but fully a fifth of the article is devoted to a friend telling Roy that she has become so famous that the rest of her life would be ""vaguely unsatisfying""--which is a fair description of this book. Roy surely has meaningful things to say about India. But she is not yet nearly as accomplished a political critic as she is a novelist. This effort, marred by general attacks on ""the system"" and personal digressions that distract a reader from the substantive issues at hand, is cursory and na ve. That Roy anticipates this criticism doesn't render it any less valid. (Oct.)
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