Last year Arundhati Roy announced The Ministry of Utmost Happiness, which will be her second book since the best selling work The God of Small Things. Though this may be her second fictional work, Roy has spent the last twenty years writing political essays that dissent the Indian government, which include “The End of Imagination,” “Capitalism: A Ghost Story,” and “Walking with the Comrades.”
Her first novel took four years to write, and chronicles various themes from facets of communism to the Indian caste system. It has been praised as insightful, dazzling, extraordinary, and outstanding. Amazon describes it: “lush, lyrical, and unnerving, The God of Small Things is an award-winning landmark that started for its author an esteemed career of fiction and political commentary that continues unabated.”
In the same style as Small Things, her new novel will feature the same beautiful prose and will incorporate local Indian languages. The Ministry of Utmost Happiness is primarily set in New Delhi, India, and follows the story of Anjum, who was born a hermaphrodite and raised as a boy, when she goes to live in a home for transgender women, and then finds a solitary life in a graveyard where she creates a guest house. A few of the other prominent characters, referred to as “mad souls,” range from a baby on a sidewalk to a father writing a letter to his late daughter.
“I have lived with the characters in this book for close to 10 years. Between them they have conspired to confound accepted categories and notions – including my own – of identity and gender, nationhood and patriotism, faith, family, motherhood, death – and love itself,” Roy shares about her new novel.
For the cover of Happiness, Roy knew exactly what she wanted. It was designed by David Eldridge (who also designed the Small Things cover), with photos taken by Mayank Austen Soofi. Roy selected from about a hundred photographs that Soofi took of headstones, with Soofi commenting, “I’ve done the cover photo for the woman who wrote The God of Small Things. I was very nervous since she is my favourite living author (Hindustan Times).”
The Happiness cover has elegant details and greatly expresses the primary themes of the novel, which Simon Prosser (of Penguin imprint Hamish Hamilton in the UK and Meru Gokhale, and Penguin Random India) stated: “The writing is extraordinary, and so too are the characters – brought to life with such generosity and empathy, in language of the utmost freshness, joyfully reminding us that words are alive too, that they can wake us up and lend us new ways of seeing, feeling, hearing, engaging (The Guardian).”
Her literary agent, David Godwin, shares, “Only Arundhati could have written this novel. Utterly original. It has been 20 years in the making. And well worth the wait (The Guardian).” This highly anticipated novel will no doubt cause the same ripple effect as her first.
Ministry of Utmost Happiness will be released June 6th.
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Featured image via Kaii Theater