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Showing posts from April, 2011


"Every once in a great while, a novel comes along to remind you why you rummage through shelves in the first place. Why you peck like a magpie past the bright glitter of publishers’ promises. Why you read. No “news hook” will have brought you to it. No famous name on the spine will suggest what’s in store. But as you slip into the book’s pages, you sense you are entering a singular creation, a richly populated world. Curiosity overcomes you. Before long, you are surrendering to the voice of a confident narrator, the arc of an unfamiliar story. And then, suddenly, you are swept away in a tale that is bristling with incident, steeped in the human condition, buffeted by winds of fate. This, you think, is the feeling you had as you read “ Great Expectations ” or “ Sophie’s Choice ” or “ The Kite Runner .” This is why you read fiction at all" MARIE ARANA, WASHINGTON POST Read the  complete review here

The Music in Atlas

I discovered a fabulous new website called Largeheartedboy, for books and music, when they asked me to write about the music in my first book. In their Book Notes  series, authors create and discuss a music playlist that relates in some way to their recently published book. I went to the site and looked up the music other writers had written about and was entranced -- how extraordinary to discover a book through music and new music through books! What could possibly be more obviously a good thing, yet so rarely done? A still from The Cloud-capped Star . A beautiful song from this film is in my playlist. When I thought about it, I realized that  An Atlas of Impossible Longing  is filled with different kinds of music. Some of it was in my own head as I was writing it, but a lot of music is referred to in the book as well. India has its own sophisticated, courtly, classical traditions, both instrumental and vocal; there is devotional music, both Hindu and Sufi; there are varieties of

GIVEAWAY FROM GOODREADS is giving away 5 copies of An Atlas of Impossible Longing . Introducing the book, it says, "In the tradition of Henning Mankell, Per Petterson, and Stieg Larsson, Roy is a major foreign success just waiting to storm the American literary scene. This is the novel that will usher her entrance, portraying several generations of family life in India with the sort of warmth, tension, and lavish detail that bestsellers are made of." Here's the link to the contest. The New Yorker reviewed the book in its brief notes this week, saying: “Houses serve as powerful metaphors of refuge and claustrophobia, and the novel chronicles both the strength of domestic bonds and the wounds that parents and children, husbands and wives, inflict on each other.” And here too by coincidence Henning Mankell's new book is reviewed just above mine, which pleases me no end because I am a huge fan of Mankell's crime fiction. For those who can get past the New Yorker payw

Rain, reviews, restfulness

Soft, grey, rainy morning in the hills. My dog has decided there is no place more sensible than a duvet. Her nose emerges every now and then like a radar to figure out if her staff (ie us) is at hard work in the catering department. Then she buries herself again. A review of Atlas, meanwhile, in a Cleveland paper:  "Roy's writing is nuanced and luminous, never hurried, leading the reader through the lush Bengali landscape and into the hidden terrain of desire and loss". Read the complete review here. The Folded Earth was reviewed too, in Outlook . " Roy joins Allan Sealy, whose elegiac The Everest Hotel also asks: is the way of life in colonial hill stations falling apart as they grapple with inept modernity?... As with An Atlas of Impossible Longing , Roy unravels the small-town terrain with certitude. At one level, her prose is a dirge for the Kumaon hills. At another, a Pickwickian humour infuses it with robust charm." What is on the work table right no

Arundhati Roy's second novel... and other Atlas stories

The first US reviews of An Atlas of Impossible Longing are just coming in from the blogs. In a review to return to for comfort on the bad days, Brenda Youngerman writes: "... without a doubt the best book I have read in the past six months! It is the kind of book that stays with you throughout the day. The kind of book that resonates within your mind as you think, feel, breathe, do your daily chores. The kind of book that makes you stop and take notice of things around you that you would not otherwise stop and take notice of." Read the complete review here . The Scarlet Letter , in a perceptive review,  says: " The novel is filled with plots and subplots and points of view, all intertwining and forming, like the lines of Mukunda's palm, an atlas of impossible longing.  Desire is the driving force in the novel: desire for love, for escape, for money and success and for all sorts of unfulfilled dreams. At the center of the atlas is the family house in Songarh, crumbl


A review here from First City on The Folded Earth.  This is an eccentric magazine in more ways than one: for one thing, it has pages and pages, usually very interesting pages too -- on books; second, it is agreed by most writers who are interviewed by the mag that their journalists are extremely good at what they do -- this is not as obvious a virtue as it might seem; it's still a magazine that is not available online; oddest of all, their journalists don't get bylines. Despite all of this, it's a great magazine, one that everyone in Delhi knows. First City also ran an interview-based feature on The Folded Earth, which is here .

BOOKS TO GROW WITH / Vogue, April 2011

My father was a field geologist and in my childhood, he was away half the year in remote places. The months he was home in Calcutta, rules and routine were jettisoned. There were cream rolls for dinner, concerts, and tram rides with no fixed destinations. And soon Abol Tabol , Sukumar Ray’s book of nonsense verse, was dug out and dusted off. We knew the poems backward, but our anticipation of Baba’s characteristic intonations made us giggle even before he started reading. That is my earliest, happiest memory of a book. Especially when we are young, books give coherence to whatever emotions are tangled up inside us; years later, it can seem inexplicable why a particular book appeared a revelation. There are books I don’t return to now for the same reason that I don’t go back to certain places: I don’t want my memories altered. Mostly what has stayed with me from things read long ago is poetry. At Presidency College, Calcutta, a friend opened my world to poets I had never encounter


The French edition of An Atlas of Impossible Longing, translated by Myriam Bellehigue, is published this week by Actes Sud . It has been picked by Livres Hebdo, the French equivalent of Publisher's Weekly, as one of its three best books for the month. The happiest translation story for me is how Myriam Bellehigue became my French translator. We have been close friends ever since we found ourselves living on the same staircase at university in Britain. She now teaches English literature at the Sorbonne, working mainly on American poetry -- Elizabeth Bishop was the subject of her PhD. When she read the first draft of  An Atlas of Impossible Longing  she made detailed suggestions for improving it and also said she wanted to translate it if that opportunity ever came up. At that time, with the novel being turned down by more or less every publisher, a translation of it seemed a remote possibility and we drowned our sorrows in her dark coffee. The French rights for the book were bo

Whatever the Question... Love is the Answer

Everyone knows that the line between fiction and fact can be a floaty, dissolving, elusive one, and to prove that you only have to walk around Ranikhet, where The Folded Earth is set. A set of photographs uploaded by MacLehose Press  today shows bits and pieces of Ranikhet that will be familiar to anyone who has read the book or ever been there -- or to any other tiny hill station such as Lansdowne, Kasauli, or Dalhousie, as the Indian Express review by Dilip Bobb comments today:  " Apart from capturing the sights, sounds and character of a hill station — Ranikhet in this case — she also uses the eccentricities of the locals to fashion a tale of great beauty and depth. What makes the setting more authentic is that she writes in familiar characters like Kipling and Corbett, Edwina Mountbatten and Nehru, into the plot to combine echoes of the Raj with heartbreak and nostalgia, love and loss. The tale delights as much for the allure of the writing as for its very hill-like tw