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New novel from Roy' Maybe

London, Feb. 14: The office of Arundhati Roy’s literary agent in London has confirmed that the Booker Prize-winning novelist is “doing bits of writing again”.

David Godwin, Arundhati’s literary agent, was off sick today but a spokesperson in his office would not confirm that the author of The God of Small Things was about to give birth to another novel — nor deny the possibility.

“It’s too early to tell,” she said.

Godwin’s fortunes have been transformed since Arundhati won the Booker in 1997. Another Indian woman, Kiran Desai, repeated the feat last year with The Inheritance of Loss.

Although Godwin is not Desai’s main agent, he does represent her in the UK.

On his last trip to India, Godwin even joked he was looking for “Indian woman number three to complete my hattrick of Booker winners”.

No one would be more delighted than Godwin if Arundhati were to come up with another novel. Although The God of Small Things will always remain a steady seller, it is no longer a bestseller and, therefore, revenue and royalties will have plummeted.

At the age of 45, she may even allow her debut novel to be turned into a film, an idea which had once seemed anathema to her.

But what sort of a book will the new novel be' As a genuine Indian literary celebrity, she stands to make more money in the West if she slags off India — over the past 10 years, many Indians at home and abroad have felt her rants at everything from India’s nuclear capability to the Narmada dam had become somewhat predictable and tiresome. She cut her hair short like the “sisters” in the West, became a “political activist” and a mouthpiece for those who wanted to do down the new India.

What the West wants to hear is that although GDP is 9 per cent and the Tatas and Mittals are making headlines, the older, gentler and more civilised India is being crushed in the name of progress — and it has to be admitted that there is some truth in this.

The literary world felt a bit let down because when The God of Small Things first came out, there was real excitement in London and elsewhere at the arrival of a writer with a new but quintessentially Indian way of using the English language. Certainly, she was hailed in London as the most exciting thing to emerge from India since Salman Rushdie — and a lot prettier.

It may be that she realises that she has wasted the last 10 years and that whatever she has to say will reach a worldwide audience and prove more convincing and effective if done in the form of a novel. It seems unlikely that she will have anything good to say about how globalisation has changed India and Indians.

In the last few days, she has met journalists in Delhi and unveiled a little of “the new me”. She has told them that is now time to turn another chapter in her life.

“In those ten years, I, along with many other people, have been part of really unmasking this process of corporate globalisation,” she said in an interview with Reuters.

“But now I feel the fundamental argument has been made, and I would stagnate as a writer if I carried on doing that.

“As a writer I have to go to a different place now. As a person... I want to step off whatever this stage is that I have been given. The argument has been made, the battle remains to be fought — and that requires a different set of skills.”

She would say little about her next book, except that she had been spending a lot of time in Kashmir (perhaps she will expose the brutality of Indian occupation').

“There was a noise inside my head, to communicate what this process was all about, and I think I have done that,” she said, referring to her political writings. “Now there is another noise inside my head.”

She went on: “I am very conscious that, from the time of The God of Small Things published 10 years ago, we are in a different world, a different place now, which needs to be written about differently, and I really very much want to do that.”

She said: “I also feel very imprisoned by facts, by having to get it right. I don’t want to play these games of statistics any more, I have done that. I don’t want to be imprisoned by that, or by the morality that is expected of activists. I have never been that pristine person, that role model.”

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