"Because I love you," was the sublime response of Booker-winning writer Arundhati Roy to her readers when asked why she pens the kind of novels she does.
Speaking at her candid-best, Roy participated in a discussion to mark the 69th foundation day of Rajkamal Prakashan Samuh — and announced the Hindi and Urdu translations of "The Ministry of Utmost Happiness," her second novel, published after a hiatus of two decades since "The God of Small Things" and the global fame that followed thereafter.
Titled, "Waqt ki Aahat," the discussion saw Roy in conversation with Alok Rai (Professor of literature at the Department of English, Delhi University) on Wednesday evening. Several hundreds turned out at the event that reached its culmination with the announcement of Urdu and Hindi translations of "The Ministry of Utmost Happiness". Also seen in the gathering were literary stalwarts like Ashok Vajpeyi, Taslima Nasrin and Sukrita Paul Kumar, among others from the literary circles.
The translations of her second novel will be published by Rajkamal Prakashan Samuh, which has previously published five translations of her books in Hindi so far.
“I will argue the hell out of anybody on my essays but not on my novels. There are things that only fiction can do. To paint a picture that cannot be told in essays and nonfiction, one has to delve in fiction. If you don’t hit the right note, you haven’t got it yet. And if you do, readers recognise it just like a right musical note is understood,”Arundhati Roy said.
Roy spoke at length about the various aspects that she takes into consideration while shaping the structure of her novels.
"I do not write, I concentrate," she said and explained to her numerous readers gathered here that for her "writing novels after novels" never held significance. In fact, she had not thought of a second novel until "these people came and started living with me," she pointed out, in an apparent reference to the characters of her novel. Maintaining that a "story alone is not enough", Roy said that how a story is structured is as relevant as the story itself.
"When you write, you should write like a suicide bomber," Roy contended before explaining her firm belief in the power of fiction, as also her commitment to respecting the numerous interpretations of her novels that readers may have. She said that her books are not meant to be adapted into films because, in her own words, millions of movies in the minds of her readers is better than one on screen.
Fiction, Roy maintained, has the strange ability to tell the truth and still not sound so. "Fiction is truth in the way that a musical note is true. You can't argue with a musical note and still you feel that it is true," she said.
The much acclaimed author, however, said that this claim to truth cannot be made by a novelist, rather it has to be felt by the reader.
"I will argue the hell out of anybody on my essays but not on my novels. There are things that only fiction can do. To paint a picture that cannot be told in essays and nonfiction, one has to delve in fiction. If you don't hit the right note, you haven't got it yet. And if you do, readers recognise it just like a right musical note is understood," she quipped.
Roy's second novel has been translated into over 40 languages but it is for the first time she is actually sitting down with translators and playing an active role in the process. "Because this novel was imagined in many languages… and therefore they seem to be returning home in translations," she said.
The novelist further contended that "literature is very important" in a world that is just "so frightening" as people who write novels, sit down for hours and think. "They (novels) do not come from Twitter or news channels," she said.
Meanwhile, Satyanand Nirupam, Editorial Director of Rajkamal Prakashan Samuh, announced that the leading Hindi publishing firm will venture into Bhojpuri, Maithili and Urdu books from this year. He also announced a collaboration with Speaking Tiger on a sustained basis.
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