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Anuradha Roy: Daily Beast Article

The six men who raped and killed a woman in India probably thought they could get away with it, and why not, writes Anuradha Roy, who explains that crimes against women are routinely ignored if not encouraged by the ruling class.

Ravi Das Camp is about seven miles from the president’s palace in New Delhi. En route are the mansions where members of parliament live, guarded by armed soldiers in bunkers. The men who in December allegedly raped a young paramedic brutally enough to kill her lived in Ravi Das Camp, a slum reported to be as fetid and dehumanizing as the many others close to the homes and offices of Delhi’s political elite.

In a sense it is fitting that the alleged rapists and murderers lived within touching distance of our politicians. In the 2009 parliamentary elections, India’s political parties fielded 6 candidates charged with rape while 34 candidates were awaiting trial for crimes against women. In the state assemblies, 42 members had rape or associated charges against them at the time of their election. In all, according to a recent report published by the Association for Democratic Reforms, India has over 300 such politicians in power.

Is it any surprise that the men brutalizing a woman with a rusted rod thought they could get away with it? They may not have known there were 300 potential or actual rapists making the laws, nor the precise numbers that show the conviction rate for rape dropping from 46 percent to 26 percent over the last 40 years. But they would have known that it’s a pretty safe bet to rape a woman, scoot, and start the cycle afresh. Fifty percent of India’s population lives with this knowledge: its women.

The full article is available on The Daily Beast website . . .

 

Anuradha Roy: Getting Home

In the wake of the horror of the Delhi gang-rape and murder, novelist, artist and publisher Anuradha Roy has published the following article on The Main Point blog.

I came back to Delhi from travels elsewhere on Christmas eve. The roads were windswept and foggy and, unusually for any Indian city, almost deserted. Through a drive of about 20 kilometres, there was not a single pedestrian for long stretches. There were fewer than usual cars, hardly any auto rickshaws. Enormous state transport buses sailed past with no occupants other than the driver and conductor.

In response to the brutal gang rape in Delhi on 16th December of a young student, the state had taken several steps, the results of which I was witnessing from the window of my taxi from the airport: the Delhi metro, by which an average of about 1.8 million people travel every day, had been shut down; the state had cordoned off the entire central vista of Delhi where the protesters had been attacked the day before by the police, with water cannon (in freezing December weather), tear gas and batons. It had also set in force something called Section 144, which makes it punishable for more than five people to gather anywhere.

Gandhi described British colonial rule over India as ‘satanic’. It is hard to find any other word to describe the way India is ruled now.

The daily violence against women in India is nauseating enough but people are yet more livid because of the state’s routine indifference to it. The Home Minister has said that if he went to meet the protesters at India Gate today, as was being demanded, he might some day be asked to meet ‘Maoists.’ Both he and the police commissioner justified the violent action against the thousands of students agitating for justice, claiming that the protest had been taken over by hooligans.

The prime minister made a brief statement *eight days* after the rape. It was delivered in his usual robotic manner, successfully dispelling the notion that he had any capacity for human anguish. The PM is not given to making speeches, he is said to be a reserved economist. Not many days before, he had addressed industrialists – for about twenty minutes. It appears pretty clear what he feels passionate about, if anything.

Meanwhile, with reassuring predictability, another man from the ruling party wagged a paternal finger at the raped woman: she should never have been out at that hour. Just because India became free at midnight did not mean she should have been out at midnight. (Factually too, this was wrong. She and her friend had got on the bus at 9.15 pm, after waiting an hour for other public transport.) This is not unusual. After almost every rape that makes it to the headlines, someone in power usually chastises the victim for going out/ dressing too provocatively/ staying out too late. A survey in June 2011 named India (alongside Pakistan, Somalia, Afghanistan and the Congo) as one of most dangerous places in the world to be a woman. As a woman you know the truth of this every day on the streets of Indian cities, particularly Delhi.

I came to Delhi at 26 for a job, a migrant, just as this young woman is. My housemate, also a migrant, a student from the north-east of India, would tell me she was molested almost each time she stepped out in public transport and was often flashed. We’re used to being groped in buses, leered at on the streets. It’s normal for cars to slow down and for sleazy men to roll down windows and invite us in when we’re waiting for public transport. We are used to walking with our arms close to our bodies, making no eye contact with men. We don’t stroll, we walk quickly to our destinations. If it’s after dark we try and have someone we know accompany us home. Even so, when we get home safe we count ourselves lucky. Of course many girls and women aren’t safe in their homes either.

It’s impossible to feel remotely celebratory on Christmas day knowing that a young woman who came to Delhi merely to train as a physiotherapist is now on a ventilator in a hospital not far from my house. Most of her intestines have been removed because six men, not content with shoving their penises into her, used an iron rod. They carried on torturing her with the rod even after she fell unconscious from the agony. Then they threw her and her friend, whom they had also beaten unconscious, out of the road and drove away. The woman and her friend were naked and bleeding. That was how they remained at that roadside for the next hour until the police reached and covered them with bed sheets borrowed from a hotel nearby.

Transport restrictions make it hard to reach central Delhi where the main protests are. But in my neighbourhood today, there was a procession of men and women. Not a big one that would stop the traffic, just about thirty or so people holding lit candles and placards, shouting slogans seeking justice. If there is no metro and the roads are blocked by riot police there is no choice but to decentralize the protests. The tragedy is that the Indian state has perfected a system of delaying justice so infinitely that while most of the world thinks of India as the world’s largest democracy, it is actually among the world’s largest and most corrupt tyrannies.

Article commissioned by James Scott Linville and first published on The Main Point, 26/12/12

Congratulations To Anuradha Roy

Many, many congratulations to Anuradha Roy for winning India’s prestigious Economist Crossword Book Award (fiction category) for The Folded Earth. It is thrill and delight for us all, and no book nor author could be more deserving. The shortlist also included books by Amitav Ghosh, Jeet Thayil, Joydeep Roy Bhattacharya and Rahul Bhattacharya. Here is the judges’ citation from yesterday’s ceremony.

This is a challenging, but by the same token, very exciting time for the Indian novelist – certainly the Indian novelist who writes in English. In an obvious and easily accessible sense, this has to do with the opening up of the global market. However, there are certain other aspects of this development that have a more direct bearing on the creative situation.

The problems of belonging and identity that played such a preponderant role in the first decades – the terrain that was memorably identified by Meenakshi Mukherjee as “the anxiety of Indianness” – seem to have lost some of their fascination. It is remarkable, therefore, that two (and arguably, three) of the five novels on our shortlist are set outside India, set as far afield as Guyana and Morocco. This is, unquestionably, a welcome development – Indianness is no longer a yoke that the Indian writer is forced to wear. However, this raises the matter of the complex relationship between locality and globality or universality in a very interesting way. Thus, we would argue, the global defines the horizon of aspiration, but the path to that horizon lies, and must lie, through some intimately experienced locality, some particularity.

Then again, and for immediately identifiable reasons, the first generation of writers feltcompelled, in some sense, to imitate Stephen Dedalus’s famous move, at the end of Portrait: “to forge in the smithy of my soul the uncreated conscience of my race.” Hence the urge, both declared and attributed, to write “the great Indian novel”. Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children is, of course,  a crucial landmark in this cultural trajectory. But it is also evident, now, that for a new generation of Indian novelists, Rushdie has already become a forebear, a respected ancestor. Thus, we have novels that seek to tell small lives, to explore the shifting identities that texture ordinary living.

Finally, we cannot help but remark the fact that two of the five novels on our shortlist are concerned with opium, albeit at opposite ends of a deeply significant historical arc.

Being a judge for contemporary Indian fiction is like being a prospector for gold. Or for those who have read Rahul Bhattacharya’s splendid book set in Guyana, like a prospector panning the river for diamonds. That is to say it is both an arduous and an exhilarating task.

You sift through many layers looking for nuggets or shards of diamonds. As Rahul will tell you, when you first see a rough diamond, it looks quite ordinary.

For some, the thrill is in the seeking. For others, it is being able to possess that shining nugget. For a judge, it is being able to pick up and display this tiny fragment of stone.

In our case, we found many shining nuggets and by a process of elimination, discovered five such pieces. Each one was cut and polished in a different manner.

The final choice was a difficult one. Amongst the issues we discussed were those touched upon by Alok Rai – thus, the hunt for the great Indian novel, the burden of the past – colonial, feudal, or the affiliations of religion, caste and class, and the tensions these can create for the writer.

There is also the challenge of the present. How does a writer compete against the media’s invasion of public discourse in all its chattering, hectoring, commercially packaged format.

One way could be by creating a small, inviolable space in which to observe and record all the subterranean upheavals to create those moments of clarity that we value as literature.

The small diamond that we have unearthed and enjoyed is called The Folded Earth. All the three of us are happy the Economist Crossword Prize for Indian Fiction for 2011 goes to Anuradha Roy.

MacLehose Press Prize News

At MacLehose Press we love prizes. Not so much your common or garden prizes like the Booker or the Samuel Johnson. More your Premio Campiellos or Golden Owls – the most prestigious literary prize in Flanders . . . as if you didn’t know.

And the thing about having authors on the list from so many countries is that at any given moment a MacLehose author is – somewhere in the world – accepting a prize. An exaggeration? Well, perhaps, but at this given moment there are a number of MacLehose authors on various long- and shortlists around the world.

Anuradha Roy’s second novel, The Folded Earth, is on the shortlist for the India’s Economist Crossword Prize, which gave her a sense of deja vu because An Atlas of Impossible Longing, her first novel, was also shortlisted. Today we hear that it is also on longlist for the DCS Prize for South Asian Literature.

Meanwhile, French author Jérôme Ferrari is still in the running for The Prix Goncourt with his novel Le sermon sur la chute de Rome (Sermon on the Fall of Rome). He has made the second selection and will find out at the end of the month whether he is on the shortlist. His first book in English translation, Where I Left My Soul, is out this month in Geoffrey Strachan’s translation.

Meanwhile, Peter Terrin’s latest book, Post Mortem, is on a six-book shortlist for the Netherlands’ A.K.O. Literatuurprijs (even though Terrin is Belgian – but he writes in Dutch). His first book in English translation, The Guard, has also just been published by MacLehose Press.

And finally, Evelio Rosero, author of The Armies and Good Offices in English translation, was recently presented with the award naming him the winner of the ninth “Libros y Letras“ National Literature Prize awarded by this prestigious literary magazine. The winner is chosen by the readers of the publication and the news agency of the same name, directed by journalist Jorge Consuegra. ”This is the best prize I have received in my life, as it is chosen by people who read my books and buy them and by not a small jury. Thanks to all the readers,” he said upon receiving the award.

So congratulations to Senor Rosero and the very best of luck to Anuradha Roy, Jérôme Ferrari and Peter Terrin.

Anuradha Roy: A House In Ranikhet

Anuradha Roy, the internationally bestselling author of An Atlas of Impossible Longing and The Folded Earth, has written a wonderful article about her home in remote mountainous Ranikhet for the inaugural issue of the National Geographic Traveler magazine. Ranikhet is the setting for Roy’s second novel, The Folded Earth, and as you can see it has provided a rich seam of inspiration . . .

For three days it had rained as if the sky had turned into a giant shower. It was my third trip to Ranikhet and yet again I was leaving without a glimpse of the high peaks. It didn’t matter. The sound of rain on a tin roof, the dry spells when the hills were honey-coloured in the newly-washed air: who needs more?

Then someone said, “Look”.

“Look higher.”

I looked higher, to where the sun or moon should have been. And there — inexplicably — they were, replacing flat old sky. They were blue and white on a cotton-puff of clouds, as in postcards. But no postcard peaks look like that. These floated. Five times bigger than the hills at their feet, yet ethereal. A rooster crowed just then. It should have been the opening bars of Beethoven’s Fifth.

Leeches clung to us as we ran down a muddy slope through the trees blocking our view. We noticed the blood on our jeans only later. We needed a vantage point and there was such a hurry. The clouds might wipe everything away again.

At the tip of the slope stood a derelict cottage. We found a place to stand against its crumbling walls and stared at the shapes before us, the jagged, massive ice pyramids whose names we still didn’t know. They blazed in the light of the new sun.

We had to stand tip-toe because the place was a soggy mess of plastic bags, warped shoes, dented tins and bottles. The cottage had broken windows blinded with sheets of newspaper browned with age. Inside, the floor was a mound of dank mud. Rotted sacking hung from a ruined false ceiling. Beams of wood sagged from it.

And in one corner, stood a dog. Its eyes shone in its sooty face. Its peaked ears were the colour of copper. Its fringed tail waved slowly side to side, like a banner.

Only a few things in life can be pinned to particular moments. This was one: we knew immediately, my husband and I, that we would live there, in that cottage, on that hill.

You can read much more of the article on Anuradha’s own blog.

The Folded Earth and An Atlas of Impossible Longing are available in paperback.

The Folded Earth Makes The Man Asian Longlist

Anuradha’s second novel, The Folded Earth, has been included on the longlist for the 2011 Man Asian Literary Prize. Also on the longlist are Haruki Murakami’s novel-in-three-books 1Q84, novels by Jamil Ahmad and Amitav Ghosh and Rahul Bhattacharya’s debut, The Sly Company of People Who Care. Rahul Bhattacharya’s novel was yesterday announced as the winner of the Hindu Literary Prize, the shortlist for which included The Folded Earth.

An Atlas of Impossible Longing, Roy’s own first novel, was one of the very earliest books to be published by MacLehose Press after she met Christopher MacLehose at the London Book Fair. When the Man Asian Longlist was announced on Sunday, he was impressed by the strength of the list: “There are at least three outstanding novelists on it — Anuradha must be as proud as we are.”

The Longlist in Full

JAMIL AHMAD (Pakistan) - The Wandering Falcon

TAHMIMA ANAM (Bangladesh) - The Good Muslim

JAHNAVI BARUA (India) - Rebirth

RAHUL BHATTACHARYA (India) - The Sly Company of People Who Care

MAHMOUD DOWLATABADI (Iran) - The Colonel

AMITAV GHOSH (India) - River of Smoke

HARUKI MURAKAMI (Japan) - 1Q84

ANURADHA ROY (India) - The Folded Earth

KYUNG-SOOK SHIN (South Korea) - Please Look After Mom

TARUN J TEJPAL (India) - The Valley of Masks

YAN LIANKE (China) - Dream of Ding Village

BANANA YOSHIMOTO (Japan) - The Lake

 

Folded Earth Makes Hindu Shortlist

The Folded Earth by Anuradha Roy has been shortlisted for the Hindu Literary Award. The Hindu is an Indian newspaper, probably the Indian equivalent of the Guardian, and the award is given to the best work of fiction in English or translated into English from any India language.

Roy is joined on the shortlist by: Bharathipura, translated work of U.R. Ananthamurthy, translated by Sushila Punitha; The Sly Company of People Who Care by Rahul Bhattacharya; The Fakir, translated work of Sunil Gangopadhyay, translated by Monabi Mitra; River of Smoke by Amitav Ghosh; Litanies of Dutch Battery, translated work of N. S. Madhavan, translated by Rajesh Raja Mohan; and The Storyteller of Marrakesh by Joydeep Roy-Bhattacharya.

There was an interview with Roy last week in the Deccan Chronicle in which she spoke about the challenges of balancing her career as a writer with her work as a publisher. Roy co-founded the academic imprint Permanent Black in 2000, and it has since established itself as India’s leading specialist publishers.

Read the full article

Anuradha Roy: Unfaithful Reader

Folded Earth and Atlas of Impossible Longing author Anuardha Roy has published a wonderful article with The Hindu about finding surprising links between favourite authors

During a recent conversation I had with a Frenchwoman she posed the “what is your favourite book” question in relation to French writers. The only name I could come up with, racking my brains and trying to distract her by asking if she wanted tea, was Michel Houellebecq’s Atomised, of which I can’t remember a thing except that it had a lot of sex and the sex was minus love because the whole point of the book was that we are all unlinked atoms, incapable of connection, rattling about in the sterile tin that is the cosmos. The Frenchwoman gave me a helpful nudge. “Proust, perhaps?” she suggested, “Would you say you like Remembrance of Things Past?” After that, having no access to madeleines, we ordered pineapple pastries and changed the subject.

One afternoon, creaking up a Ranikhet hillside, I came to a stop when I realised I have no favourite authors or even a favourite book. Worse, there is no author, even among the ones I love, whose every work I have read; not unless forced to by an exam or tutorial. I might love an author but not with the adoration that makes me a devotee. I am an Unfaithful Reader. My tastes change often and I can be immersed to the point of drowning in a book whose name I will fail to summon up a year or two later.

Despite my cavalier lack of devotion to individual authors, it makes me disproportionately happy when one author I like (at the time) turns out to be devoted to another author I like (at the time). Such a thrill to discover, for example, the link between Haruki Murakami and Raymond Carver. Reading one Carver story made Murakami swear he would translate everything Carver had written. He kept his promise. What more selfless act of literary love could there be? Murakami’s own first novel came out the year after Carver’s death in 1988 so, while they did once meet, Carver never read the work of his devotee. And although I read them both years after the Carver stories and Murakami’s first novel came out, and may be years after the Japanese translations were published, I felt somewhat proprietorial, as if they were the bride and groom and I the go-between. Read on . . . at The Hindu

 

The Folded Earth Hachette India Trailer

A trailer made for The Folded Earth by Anuardha Roy’s Indian publisher, Hachette:

 

Watch the Web Chat with Anuradha Roy

Yesterday’s Live Web Chat with Anuradha Roy is now available to be watched at  one’s leisure. Well worth tuning into, as Roy discusses her first novel (recently published in America), the independent publishing house she founded with her husband in 2000, and meeting Christopher MacLehose by chance at the London Book Fair.

Unfortunately, for technical reasons it has proved impossible to embed the video here and the above image is only for illustrative purposes! Click on the image or here to watch the interview.

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