Arundhati Roy: “Fiction is a Universe”

Arundhati Roy talks to a student during a 2016 march demaning the release of Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University students who were arrested on sedition charges. (AP Photo/Manish Swarup)

In The Guardian, Tim Lewis curates an unconventional interview with Arundhati Roy: all the questions come from fans, famous and not. I particularly love her articulation of the ways in which all her writing, fiction and non-fiction, is political, in response to a question from writer Lionel Shriver about whether Roy worries that her activism detracts from her fiction.

I have always quarrelled with this word “activist”. I think it’s a very new word and I don’t know when it was born, but it was recently. I don’t want to have a second profession added to writing. Writing covers it. In the old days, writers were political creatures also, not all, but many. It was seen as our business to be writing about the world around us in different ways. So I don’t feel threatened or worried about that. For me, my fiction and my nonfiction are both political. The fiction is a universe, the nonfiction is an argument.

What I do worry about is the fact that writers have become so frightened of being political. The idea that writers are being reduced to creators of a product that is acceptable, that slips down your throat, which readers love and therefore can be bestsellers, that’s so dangerous. Today, for example in India, where majoritarianism is taking root – and by majoritarianism, I don’t just mean the government, I mean that individuals are being turned into micro-fascists by so many means. It is the mobs and vigilantes going and lynching people. So more than ever, the point of the writer is to be unpopular. The point of the writer is to say: “I denounce you even if I’m not in the majority.”

Read the interview