Arundhati Roy’s hectic book tour
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Book lovers, publishers and literary patrons have long known that the relationship between Arundhati Roy and some corporate-sponsored literary festivals is immutable. But with the author returning to fiction 20 years after her Man Booker Prize-winning debut novel, The God Of Small Things, literary festivals in India and outside are excited, and hopeful, once again.
Starting June, Roy will be on a book tour in the UK and the US, even attending off-site events of select litfests. She will return to India in July before heading off for the next leg of her European tour in September.
Her tour starts in London on 5 June, the first in the series of ticketed events, with a Guardian Live programme—“An Evening With Arundhati Roy”—at the Union Chapel, a busy church that regularly hosts arts and entertainment events. Tickets for the event are priced at £18 (around Rs1,512), plus booking fee, or £30; the latter includes a signed copy of The Ministry Of Utmost Happiness.
The next day, she will be at the Birmingham Town Hall for an event being organized in collaboration with the Foyles bookshop. And on 7 June, an event will be held at the Bristol Cathedral in collaboration with the Bristol Festival of Ideas.
The Manchester Literature Festival, scheduled from 6-22 October, has a special out-of-festival event with the author at the Royal Northern College of Music on 9 June. “Whilst her non-fiction books have been equally well received in Britain, many readers have been waiting eagerly for her second novel.... We have a series of one-off events throughout the year with visiting international authors. We’re delighted that Arundhati Roy has agreed to do an in-conversation in June, where she will discuss The Ministry Of Utmost Happiness with Observer critic Rachel Cooke,” says Sarah-Jane Roberts, festival co-director, in an email. The new novel, she adds, is without doubt “one of the highlights of the literary calendar”.
The International Literature Festival Dublin, which is on till 29 May, too has a special post-event with Roy at the RDS Concert Hall in the Irish capital on 11 June.
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Later in June, Roy is scheduled to speak at the Chicago Humanities Festival (on 23 June) and the Nourse Theatre (on 28 June) in San Francisco. Alison Cuddy, associate artistic director of the Chicago Humanities Festival, says Roy has been a vital voice on the global political scene through her non-fiction writing and political activism, but both readers and critics love her fiction. “This is Roy’s first-ever appearance with the festival, (and) we are expecting a sold-out event. One of her more famous fans—the actor John Cusack—will be on hand to introduce her and provide a real Chicago-style welcome,” she says by email.
But before that, she will be in Brooklyn and Boston. On 19 June, she will read at the Peter Jay Sharp Building, Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) Opera House. The Harvard Book Store in Boston is hosting Roy at Old South Church, a venue that can accommodate up to 800 people, for a book reading and signing session on 20 June.
Roy will be hosted by The Elliott Bay Book Company, Seattle, at the Town Hall on 27 June, and the next day, will go to Nourse Theatre, where she will be in conversation with poet, novelist and activist Alice Walker, the author of the Pulitzer prize-winning novel The Color Purple.
Earlier this month, on 3 May, Roy was in San Francisco for a conversation on her work with author and film director Anthony Arnove at a Lannan Foundation event. The audio and video of the talk will be posted on the Lannan website after 6 June.
Roy has also been approached by the Galle Literary Festival to participate in its January 2018 edition in Sri Lanka. “We expect an answer from her in August,” says Jill Macdonald, who is part of the 2018 festival team.
Back in India, literary festival organizers are delighted that Roy is back with her second novel.
“It’s been in the pipeline for a long time. I am a good friend of hers and we share an agent, so I’ve been sort of privy to the whole birth of this book,” says William Dalrymple, author and co-director, Jaipur Literature Festival. “I haven’t sent out my invitations (for the festival) yet. But I would be surprised if she comes for it because she has a very well-stated objection to some of our sponsors, which is her right and I respect that. But I am surely going to invite her,” he adds. Events in India, says Meru Gokhale of Penguin Random House India, will be planned after Roy returns from her book tour in July.
The organizers of the Mumbai International Literary Festival and Kolkata Literary Meet say there is a growing sense of excitement about Ministry. “For us the memories of that amazing summer when The God Of Small Things hit the stands are still fresh. We have invited her to the Kolkata Literary Meet but are aware that she does not take part in literary festivals with corporate sponsorships. At present, it’s a long shot but we are still hoping against hope,” says Malavika Banerjee, director, Kolkata Literary Meet.
Anil Dharker, founder-director of the Mumbai International Literature Festival, says that after The God Of Small Things, Roy became a polemical writer and went into non-fiction writing for causes she believed in—she seemed to have forgotten about the huge talent she possessed. “It is a sense of relief that she has managed to finish the second book. I’ve been speaking to publishers and people in publishing houses who have read it, and they’ve said it is quite a brilliant book.... Of course, we would like her to be at the lit fest in November. I haven’t (spoken to Roy yet), but I will. As soon as we got the news, we wrote to the publisher and told them. She was quite reluctant to go to any festivals when she was doing all her political writing. Now that she is back to being a novelist, I think normal service will resume.”
-With inputs from Shyla Minocha.