India

Meru Gokhale, editor-in-chief, literary publishing

Publisher: Penguin Random House

Language: English

When did you first read the novel?

I can’t remember the exact date last year, but I was taking a nap and woke up to find five missed calls from Arundhati’s agent, David Godwin. It’s very unusual for him to do that; I wasn’t expecting a call from him. I could just tell from the tone of his voice that that’s what he was here for.

She had called him here to read the novel. And it was so sweet; he had come with the same old battered 20-year-old suitcase in which he had taken The God Of Small Things.

So, I had this bound manuscript and I came back home, and just locked myself in a room and told Patrick (French, her husband), don’t talk to me for two days. Everyone’s been waiting for this book forever, it was like this mythical object—does it exist, and when is it going to come out? And before you know it, there it was. I was completely blown away; it overwhelms you, I think.

When I was reading the manuscript, I only knew one other person who was reading it, which was (Hamish Hamilton publishing director) Simon Prosser. So I called up Simon and said, please keep your phone on because I am going to call you. I’m going to need to talk. It has that kind of thing where you feel you need to talk about it.

What was the editing process like?

It was almost perfect. What you have read is pretty much what it was. She’s so careful with her words that very rarely do you need to tell her...she rarely puts a word out of place.

The book draws inspiration from the life she’s lived these 20 years.

This happened with The God Of Small Things too.The greatest fiction, it draws inspiration from reality and then it takes off from there, and that’s what she’s done. To me, it is a pure novel, and it always felt that way. I don’t think that she was trying to put chessmen into place there.

Roy credits you with being a supplier of comfort food.

She’s my neighbour. I used to sometimes send her lunch and dinner, because I love to cook, and love to feed people. I made her chicken soup, ravioli...it was fun. Once Pumpkin (Gokhale’s cat) tried to eat the proofs. Arundhati and Arpita (the copy editor) were going over the final corrections, and he just jumped and started pulling all the Post-its out.

Photo: Priyanka Parashar/Mint.
Photo: Priyanka Parashar/Mint.

United Kingdom

Simon Prosser, publishing director

Publisher: Hamish Hamilton

Language: English

You were one of the first people to read the manuscript. How did you come to publish it?

I have worked with Arundhati for a decade or so, as publisher of the incredible non-fiction essays she has been writing in the years since The God Of Small Things, and always believed that she would return to fiction when the right time arrived.

In recent years, Arundhati had hinted that a novel was brewing, and then more recently I heard that she had read some pages from a novel-in-progress to her great friend John Berger while visiting him in France.

Then, late last year, I had a phone call from Arundhati’s long-time agent David Godwin, saying he had something very exciting to give to me, and would I meet him downstairs in Penguin’s reception area? I must say that my heart beat faster when I saw what he was handing to me: a ring-bound manuscript titled The Ministry Of Utmost Happiness—a complete draft of Arundhati’s long-awaited new novel. Naturally, I cancelled everything in my diary and headed straight off to read it. Then, once I had re-emerged from the extraordinary and brilliantly evoked world of the novel, I called David and told him, in essence, that it was a masterpiece. After that, I sat down and began a long letter to Arundhati…

What is your opinion of the novel?

It is an astonishing novel written with all the vibrancy, richness and linguistic brilliance of its predecessor, but suffused now with a wisdom and maturity that comes from Arundhati’s two decades of engagement with the world and its injustices (as well as its hopes and its joys).

What is the initial print run for the book? And how is it priced?

Our first printing for our markets totals 50,000.

Is there a large reader interest for Arundhati Roy non-fiction titles in the UK as well?

There is massive interest in Arundhati here. Indeed, the BBC recently recorded and broadcast her Desert Island Discs—an iconic radio series here. And Radio 4 will also be serializing Utmost over three weeks on publication as part of their Book At Bedtime.

Also Read: Arundhati Roy, novelist with a sting

Sweden

Dorotea Bromberg, editor-in-chief

Publisher: Brombergs Bokförlag

Language: Swedish

What is the date of publication?

13 September.

How did you acquire the rights to the book?

As soon as I got the mail from the author giving me the wonderful news about the novel being completed, I called the agent, David Godwin. It was on a Monday in September last year. I acquired the rights one week after I shared my happy feelings about the novel with the author.

Are there publicity events planned around the book?

A lot is planned as publicity events, all connected to our biggest book fair in Sweden, the Göteborg Book Fair at the end of September. There will be a big dinner for 250 people, with the author participating and giving a speech on stage. On 28 September, there will be a big seminar with the author for an audience of approximately 800-900 people. And there will be a book signing afterwards.

Germany, and German-speaking countries like Austria and Switzerland

Hans Jürgen Balmes, editorial director, international fiction

Publisher: S Fischer Verlag GMBH

Language: German

What is the date of publication?

10 August.

Who is the translator?

Anette Grube, who is Arundhati Roy’s longtime translator (into German) and has also translated The God Of Small Things and Listening To Grasshoppers: Field Notes On Democracy.

Did you publish ‘The God Of Small Things’ and Roy’s non-fiction titles as well?

The God Of Small Things was published by Blessing (hardcover) and btb (paperback). It was a huge success for both publishers, selling approximately one million copies in Germany. We will republish The God Of Small Things in our paperback imprint, Fischer Taschenbuch, in July 2017. The first book of Roy published by Fischer was Listening To Grasshoppers: Field Notes On Democracy, in 2010.

Taiwan

Sysy Chou, deputy editor-in-chief

Publisher: Global views—Commonwealth Publishing Group

Language: Mandarin

When will the book be published?

In August. In Taiwan, the first print run will not be around 3,500 copies.

Who is the translator of the book?

The translator, Liao Ruei Juan, has translated numerous best-sellers for us, including Wolf Hall, Wolf Hall 2: Bring Up The Bodies, The Thousand Autumns Of Jacob De Zoet, Steve Jobs, Thank You For Being Late, etc. Liao has received many prestigious translation awards in Taiwan.

Arundhati’s novel is quite challenging to translate. Liao started preparing for the translation in February, studying the use of Urdu in the book, as well as analysing and understanding the politics, religion, history of the regions of India, Kashmir and Pakistan. Liao’s work is currently half completed.

How important is this book for you?

This book is one of our most important literary publications this year. When a Taiwanese reader living in Germany shared on Facebook in March that she had a new book coming out, there’s been a lot of discussion and anticipation on the social media platform.

What is your opinion of the new book?

The scale of this novel is big and complex, and it digs deeper into the discussions of gender, religion, social class, as well as the political problems in the regions of India, (particularly) Kashmir. The writing style and the narrative are extremely unique and unusual, which will enable the readers to see a variation of novel writing style.

Did you publish her other books as well? How did they do in your market?

We published The God Of Small Things. It has a revised edition. The two editions combined have sold 19,000 copies.

Iceland

Stella

Soffía

Jóhannesdóttir, acquiring editor

Publisher: Forlagið

Language: Icelandic

When will the book be published?

In March 2018.

Who is the translator?

Árni Óskarsson. We chose to work with a highly qualified literary translator who has a knowledge of Indian society, history and culture. The Icelandic book market is the smallest book market, there are only 330,000 people living in Iceland, and literary works in quality translations are very important for us.

Did you publish Roy’s other books as well? Did they do well in your market?

We published The God Of Small Things in Iceland to great acclaim and popularity among Icelandic readers. We reprinted it a few years after it was first published.

Portugal

Carmen Serrano, fiction editor

Publisher: ASA

Language: Portuguese

What’s the date of publication?

6 June. (There will be a first print run of) 10,000 copies.

Who is the translator for this edition?

The translator is Elsa Vieira.

Did you publish her other books as well?

Yes, we published The God Of Small Things (which was reprinted 18 times!) and also two essays, The End Of Imagination and The Greater Common Good. I believe that at the time we sold around 2,000 copies of each essay.

Are there any particular publicity plans around the book?

Yes. She will be visiting Portugal in early September. We will also be reprinting The God Of Small Things so that it will be available at the time of the book launch.

Croatia

Adriana

Piteša, editor

Publisher: Profil knjiga

Language: Croatian

When will it be published?

The beginning of November, prior to our biggest book fair, Interliber.

Who is the translator?

The translator will be Saša Stančin, an excellent and very experienced translator and a perfect choice for a complex novel that The Ministry Of Utmost Happiness is.

What’s the print run?

Two thousand copies. We are a small country, and that is a big print run for us, especially when literary fiction is in question. For comparison, it was the print run for My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante and Numero Zero by Umberto Eco, both hugely popular novels in Croatia. It will cost cca 129 kuna or cca 17 euro (around Rs1,260).

Did you publish her other books as well?

No, this is our first Arundhati Roy book, but we are planning to republish The God Of Small Things and we bought the rights for its Croatian edition.

The netherlands, and Flanders, The Dutch-speaking part of Belgium

Job Lisman, editorial director

Publisher: Prometheus

Language: Dutch

What is the date of publication?

We will publish on 9 June.

Who is the translator of the book?

The book was translated by two of the top literary translators in the Netherlands, Tjadine Stheeman and Lidwien Biekmann, who collaborated as a team and did a fabulous job. When reading their translation you don’t read a translation, you read Arundhati Roy.

What was your reaction on reading ‘Ministry’? How would you compare it with ‘The God Of Small Things’?

It is difficult to compare the two books, also because I am 20 years older now, but my first sensation on reading the manuscript was one of, on the one hand, a feeling of coming home finally again in that wonderful, unique world of language, style, psychology and life that only Arundhati can bring to life, and, on the other hand, of being surprised on every page, in every paragraph, with her new rhythms, her new voices, her new beloved characters.

What are the publicity events planned around the book?

The author is coming to Holland in June and will give two public interviews in big places.

Spain

Jane Pilgrem, head of rights

Publisher: EditoriaL Anagrama

Language: Spanish

What’s the print run and publication date?

(We publish in October). At the moment we plan to start with approximately 50,000 copies.

Who is the translator?

Our translator is Cecilia Ceriani. Together with Txaro Santoro, she translated Arundhati Roy’s previous novel, The God Of Small Things, and she is highly considered. She has translated books by renowned authors such as Siri Hustvedt, Rebecca Miller, Charles Bukowski, Walter Mosley, Kurt Vonnegut, Will Self, Michel Faber, Paul Auster and the musician Viv Albertine for Anagrama, and she has also translated, for other publishing houses, books by authors such as Michael Ignatieff and Erica Jong. She has just sent us the first version.

Did you publish her non-fiction works?

Yes, we did publish some remarkable non-fiction books, including The End Of Imagination, The Algebra of Infinite Justice and War Talk. Of course, the non-fiction titles didn’t sell so well, but (they) attained critical success.

Poland

Andrzej Zysk, head of rights

Publisher: Zysk

Language: Polish

When will you publish?

We are publishing in October.

Who is the translator for this edition?

Jerzy Łoziński is the translator. He has translated many prestigious authors such as Oliver Sacks, Emily Brontë, Charles Dickens, Oscar Wilde, Chinua Achebe and Roald Dahl.

What’s your opinion of the book?

I would like all the readers to experience this story by themselves; what I want to add is that our translator thinks it is one of the best books he has ever had an opportunity to translate.

Did you publish her other books?

Yes, we published The God Of Small Things and The Algebra Of Infinite Justice. We sold over 30,000 copies of The God Of Small Things.

Italy

Luigi Brioschi, president and publishing director

Publisher: Ugo Guanda Editore

Language: Italian

When will you publish?

6 June.

Who is the translator?

Federica Oddera. We have chosen for this work a brilliant translator, certainly one of the best. She had already translated two texts by Arundhati in the past, and she has been the translator of such authors as John Updike, Nicole Krauss, Jhumpa Lahiri and Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni. I know she has been in contact with the author.

Is this a big book for you?

Arundhati Roy and her work have special meaning for us, and we have published her books, novels and essays through all these years.The Ministry Of Utmost Happiness is a leading title for Guanda, really significant in terms of potential readership.

Are there any particular publicity plans around the book?

The Italian tour of Arundhati Roy will be at the centre of our activity, and it will be based on three big events in Rome, Bologna and Milan.

Greece and Cyprus

Publisher: Psichogios Publications

Language: Greek

Angela Sotiriou, publishing director

When will the novel be published?

January-February 2018.

Who is the translator?

Maria Angelidou, who translated The God Of Small Things, and did an excellent job. She is one of the most important and awarded translator-authors in Greece. She knows a lot about Indian history, society and politics.

Did you publish her other books as well?

Yes, we did. The God Of Small Things was a huge best-seller at the time of its publication and is still a long-seller.

South Korea

Publisher: Munhakdongne

Language: Korean

When will the book be published?

We haven’t started translation yet so we cannot tell (you) the publication date at the moment (the book was acquired just a month ago).

How important is this book for you?

We think Arundhati Roy is one of the representative foreign authors of Munhakdongne. So we have high hopes of this novel.

Did you publish her other books as well?

We did publish The God Of Small Things.

Estonia

Publisher: Tänapäev Publishers

Language: Estonian

Mihkel Mõisnik, editor

What is your date of publication?

Late autumn.

Who is the translator?

Krista Eek. We found her capable of translating the title, offered the job and she accepted. Simple.

Did you publish her other books as well?

The publishing house that originally published The God Of Small Things does not exist any more, but I worked there back when it was published and chose the title. However, we have published a reprint of the title, but none of Arundhati’s non-fiction titles.

Norway

Publisher: Pax Forlag

Language: Norwegian

Janicken von der Fehr, acquiring editor, international fiction

What’s your date of publication?

We plan to publish in early September. This will be our lead fiction title for the fall.

Who is the translator?

The translator is Kirsti Vogt. She will deliver her translation in June, and has been in contact with Roy once, briefly, through us and the agent.

Did you publish her other books as well?

We have also published two collections of essays by Roy, and The God Of Small Things was a very important book for us also in terms of sales.

Are there any particular publicity plans around the book?

Arundhati Roy will come to Norway for the launch of her book.

Czech Republic

Publisher: Omega, Dobrovský

Language: Czech

Petr Teichmann, publishing manager, Omega

When will it be published?

Spring 2018. The first print run will be 2,000 copies.

Who is the translator?

We have not selected a translator yet. We asked three translators to make a demonstration of the translation. And then we will select one.

Did you publish her other books?

We published The God Of Small Things in October last year and we sold 1,000 copies. But this book was published in the Czech Republic many years ago by another publisher.

Brazil

Publisher: Companhia Das Letras

Language: Portuguese

Rita Mattar, editor

What’s your date of publication?

We will publish it in late June.

Who is the translator?

We have invited the same translator of The God Of Small Things, José Rubens Siqueira, to translate the new novel. He was truly pleased with that, and mentioned joyfully that he met her during her visit to Brazil, many years ago, and that she was lovely and thankful for the work of translators.

What’s your print run?

10,000 copies

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