Arundhati Roy

Ian Jack “Arundhati Roy: India's bold and brilliant daughter”

既に先月の記事だが、『ガーディアン』にArundhati Roy*1へのインタヴュー記事が載っていたので、少しメモしておく。

A common criticism is her refusal to balance the bad against the good. Yes, the greed is spectacular. Yes, the corruption inside government may be obscene. Yes, 800 million people exist on less than 20 rupees (about 35p) a day. But look on the bright side. That leaves another 400 million doing better than ever before, in an economy growing at dizzying rates, with India now receiving the obeisance of the west. So why write so narrowly and speak so angrily?

Roy has a standard reply. "Suppose there are 10 people in this room. Seven are starving, and one is winning medals, and two are doing OK. And I say, 'Look at these seven people who are starving,' and you say, 'Oh don't be so negative, no, things are not so bad – look at the other three.' Really?"


She herself ranks quite high among the three-tenths. We met at her flat near Lodhi gardens, in one of the most desirable parts of south Delhi, where 4x4s with CD plates stand parked in dusty lanes, and diplomats come to shop. It would be wrong to see this as an example of a woman not practising what she preached. Although Roy is by no means a Gandhian renouncer of worldly goods, a good percentage of her royalties have funded causes she describes as "edgy", but is reluctant to name. "It's not that I want to live in some slum and wear a handloom sari," she said. "I'm not in sacrificial mode and I don't want to be saintly." But she found her sudden wealth problematic. Fame she could handle, but "the money just blew me out of the water. OK, so I wrote a good book, but that doesn't mean you need to be showered with money. If you're a political person, what do you do, what's the right way to deploy it?"

She said, "I don't feel the need to define myself and give myself a flag." The self-description she will settle for is "writer", but when I wondered if that word in this context meant sympathetic observer or explainer or advocate, she said it was more than that. Recently she'd had a letter from a Maoist prisoner in central India reminding her that in an early essay, The Greater Common Good, which argued against dam-building in the Narmada valley, she had written: "I went to the valley because I thought the valley needed a writer." The letter added, "We need a writer too." Roy, then, sees in her writing an Orwellian duty to bridge social distance, to bring home the truth about the poor and disaffected to the prosperous and content, and to realise their surroundings and situation as a good novelist would. In fact, the distances she needs to bridge are far greater than Orwell's – Wigan miners weren't to old Etonians as hill tribes are to metropolitan Indians – and her writing is more prolix and melodramatic.

Her mother ran away from a violent father in Kerala and married the first eligible man she met in Kolkata, a young assistant manager on a tea estate who was already victim to tea estate manager's occupational disease, which is alcoholism. They separated after three years, when Arundhati had still to reach two, and she and her mother and brother moved back to Kerala, where her mother ran (and still runs) a private co-ed school. In her daughter's word, a "character": she would lie in a zinc tub in her courtyard while one secretary clipped her toenails and the other took down her dictation for a letter of complaint to the local municipality. She now thinks of her mother as "one of the most extraordinary people I know". But the affection is retrospective. At the time she couldn't wait to get away – "I'd had enough of this family business" – and left home for Delhi aged 17. She had no contact with either her mother or brother for several years, until one day her brother read about her appearance in a film and managed to get in touch. A surprise that contained a greater surprise: he was in seedy hotel near the railway station and she was to guess who he had with him – a man Arundhati had no memory of ever seeing, their father. Her brother had found him in Kolkata, either on the streets or in the nearest thing to them, a home for the dying and destitute run by Mother Teresa. And so a reunion was arranged. She went, and met a ruin of a man who was "totally vacuous and completely happy". After the shock of his battered physical appearance wore off she imagined "how much worse I would have felt if he was some golf-playing CEO. This was much better."
ところで、Arundhati Royは最初の小説The God of Small Thingsブッカー賞を受賞して以降、小説を書いていない。彼女は「他の小説を書く義務を感じなかった(felt no obligation to write another novel)」、「小説製造工場(factory producing novels)」になりたくなかった、「プロジェクトとしての人生を送りたくない(I don't want to live my life as a project)」と述べている。しかし、この記事によると、彼女は2作目の小説の執筆を既に開始しているという。
ところで、The God of Small Thingsは読んでおらず、小説家としてのArundhati Royは知らない。読んでいるのは『帝国を壊すために』、『誇りと抵抗』 といった政治的エッセイ。The God of Small Thingsは、英語または中国語訳ならばけっこう容易に手に入るのだが。
帝国を壊すために―戦争と正義をめぐるエッセイ― (岩波新書)

帝国を壊すために―戦争と正義をめぐるエッセイ― (岩波新書)

誇りと抵抗 ―権力政治を葬る道のり (集英社新書)

誇りと抵抗 ―権力政治を葬る道のり (集英社新書)