The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Arundhati keeps next big thing under wraps

New Delhi, Feb. 4: Writer Arundhati Roy who distributed the proceeds from a prize she was awarded last week among 50 organisations and individuals has steered clear of patronising established political outfits.

She has chosen, instead, small, little-known groups mostly engaged in sustained local development and awareness campaigns but also those that address contentious issues.

Arundhati, who has not written a work of fiction since the Booker-winning God of Small Things, is expected to come out with at least one major work this year. But she is not saying if it will be fiction or non-fiction. If she is really writing, she and her small circle of intimate friends are keeping it a closely-guarded secret.

It will be little surprise if she has found the inspiration for the work from among the several organisations and activists with whom she is sharing her $3,50,000 Lannan Foundation Prize for Cultural Freedom announced in January.

Arundhati returned only yesterday from Brazil where she participated in meetings and rallies of the World Social Forum, an organisation of third world protesters against corporate globalisation. A friend of hers said she was not talking to the press.

“Fiction and non-fiction are only different techniques of story telling,” she said at a talk at the Lannan Foundation earlier on, titled Come September. Readers of Arundhati will look for clues to her next work in that talk.

“For reasons that I don’t fully understand, fiction dances out of me, and nonfiction is wrenched out by the aching, broken world I wake up to every morning. The theme of much of what I write, fiction as well as non-fiction, is the relationship between power and powerlessness and the endless, circular conflict they’re engaged in. John Berger, that most wonderful writer, once wrote: ‘Never again will a single story be told as though it’s the only one.’

“There can never be a single story. There are only ways of seeing. So when I tell a story, I tell it not as an ideologue who wants to pit one absolutist ideology against another, but as a story-teller who wants to share her way of seeing. Though it might appear otherwise, my writing is not really about nations and histories; it’s about power. About the paranoia and ruthlessness of power. About the physics of power. I believe that the accumulation of vast unfettered power by a state or a country, a corporation or an institution — or even an individual, a spouse, a friend, a sibling — regardless of ideology, results in excesses....”

Arundhati announced in a statement while accepting the Lannan Foundation award that the prize money, the equivalent of Rs 1.67 crore (Rs 1.15 crore after deduction of tax), would be shared. She said she would have also liked to share part of the money with organisations based overseas but she could not do so because of Indian laws.

“I accept this prize knowing that there are many people around the world who deserve it more than I do. Unknown, invisible people who are raising their voices and fighting the fight at much greater cost to themselves than I could ever claim. In these times, when all over the world democratic spaces are being usurped and violated in the name of corporate globalisation and the ‘war against terror’, when fascism is staring us in the face (in India, it is beating down the doors), it is a sign of great hope that there are so many people’s movements and individuals who see through the charade and are committed to resisting this process,” she wrote.

Lannan Foundation says it is a private family foundation located in Santa Fe, New Mexico. The foundation established the Prize for Cultural Freedom in 1999. The first recipient was writer and journalist Eduardo Galeano of Uruguay. Arundhati is the fourth recipient.

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