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Arundhati Roy Announces New Novel After Twenty Years

Posted on 26th July 2017 by Sally Campbell
Twenty years have passed since Arundhati Roy’s masterful, Booker-winning debut  The God of Small Things found its way into the light: for many, it was perhaps the perfect novel; searching, wise, universal, a kaleidoscope of unforgettable incident that defined what literary fiction could do. For far too long, this wonderful book remained Roy’s only novel, her writing subsequently focusing on her real-world commitment as a courageous and committed political activist.

Now, almost unbelievably, that twenty-year wait is over and as Roy's novel again takes its place in the Man Booker Prize 2017 longlist. Simon Prosser, Hamish Hamilton's Publishing Director, describes the extraordinary moment he received the manuscript for Arundhati Roy’s new novel,  The Ministry of Utmost Happiness.

Photo: Arundhati Roy (c) Mayank Austen Soofi

It is hard to believe that it has been twenty years since the publication of Arundhati Roy’s first (and until now, only) novel, The God of Small things. Like, I feel sure, most readers, I can still remember exactly where I first read it and how I felt while reading it. It is one of those very rare novels which somehow enters the mind, the body, the imagination – indeed the soul --and takes up residence, seemingly becoming a part of the reader’s DNA. 

So it was with the utmost excitement that I turned the first page of the manuscript of Arundhati’s new novel The Ministry of Utmost Happiness. Having worked with Arundhati for a long time, as publisher of her non-fiction, I knew that the novel was coming – and that she had read some aloud to John Berger on a visit to his home – but I had no idea, last summer, how close she was to finishing it.

And then, almost miraculously, in late September, there was the novel: 311 pages of manuscript, neatly spiral-bound in black wire. I dropped everything and dived straight in.

Two days later, still half-inhabiting the world of the novel, I sat down at my desk and wrote:

 
   

Dear Arundhati,

What an incredible book this is! It is so unmistakeably yours, and given air and strength and beauty and heart by twenty years of engagement with the real world beyond the official accounts.
 
The writing is extraordinary, but so too are the characters – the otherwise unseen and unheard and their stories; the stories of the voiceless who aren’t really voiceless but simply not listened to. It make the novel new – in the original meaning of novel – and it also brings the news. It does what only novels can, which is to allow us to engage and to empathise with others by sharing an imaginative space with them and with the author who has brought them to life. When I wrote yesterday that I loved the book (which I do) I actually typed ‘I lived…’ and that feels true too; it is such an alive, immersive, involving and generous novel. In fact, I still feel that a part of me is in that world, reluctant to return….

   
   

I can’t wait for other readers to share this experience, and it isn’t too long now to wait. The novel is at first proof stage and we look forward to sharing the book soon. Publication is in June, but in the meantime, here is the beautiful cover of The Ministry of Utmost Happiness, which is being shared by all of the novel’s publishers worldwide:

 

 

  

  

Simon Prosser, Publishing Director Hamish Hamilton

     

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