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Arundhati Roy says she wanted The Ministry of Utmost Happiness to be ‘unfilmable’

At an event in Delhi, Arundhati Roy said her political essays, non-fictional writing and involvement in protests set the grounds for her second novel, The Ministry of Utmost Happiness.

books Updated: Oct 27, 2017 19:37 IST
Press Trust of India
Arundhati Roy,Penguin Fever 2017,The Ministry of Utmost Happiness
Arundhati Roy in conversation with Shohini Ghosh at Penguin Fever 2017 in Delhi.(Photo courtesy: Penguin India Facebook)

After shooting to global fame following the success of The God of Small Things, her second novel grew gradually inside like “a sedimentary rock” over 20 years, says author Arundhati Roy.

Events over two decades, starting with the nuclear tests, accumulated like layers before reaching a critical point, Roy said at Penguin Fever, organised by Penguin Random House India at the India Habitat Centre, which started on Thursday.

“Right after The God of Small Things, the nuclear tests happened. I felt I didn’t have the choice of keeping quiet and I wrote The End of Imagination, which further led me on a journey that really expanded my understanding of what was happening around me,” she said.

While her first novel, The God of Small Things, won Roy the Man Booker 1997, the second was long-listed for the prize but did not make the final cut. (Photo courtesy: Penguin India Facebook)

The End of Imagination is a collection of essays that followed her blockbuster debut book.

Her political essays, non-fictional writing and involvement in protests, including the Sardar Sarovar Project, after her first fiction book gave Roy the status of an activist and, according to her, set the grounds for her second fictional work.

“It was like everything was getting layered in me like a sedimentary rock. It was much of what I was learning that was getting accumulated in me... It was separate from the non- fiction argument. And at some point it reached a critical point and I started writing The Ministry of Utmost Happiness,” the author said.

While her first novel won Roy the Man Booker 1997 award, the second was long-listed for the prize but did not make the final cut. Discussing the possibility of her books being made into films, the author said she had written the second one to be “unfilmable”.

“When The God of Small Things was published, somewhere in my mind I set out to write an unfilmable book. I, of course, wanted it to be stubbornly visual.”

During one of her visits to Los Angeles after The God of Small Things, her agent had informed her about many Hollywood filmmakers showing interest in the book. “When he asked me why don’t I just meet them once. I told him I just want them to grovel and then say no,” she said.

Roy’s session was part of Penguin Random House’s ongoing Penguin Fever event to mark 30 years of the publishing house. The six-day event, which began on October 26, will also have interactive sessions by eminent authors, environmentalists and economists, including Shobhaa De, Ruskin Bond, Perumal Murugan and Shashi Tharoor.

First Published: Oct 27, 2017 19:36 IST