(K. Brent Tomer),
The Ministry of Utmost Happiness. By Arundhati Roy. Knopf; 464 pages; $28.95. Hamish Hamilton; £18.99.
THE attacks on the World Trade Centre in 2001; the Gujarat riots of 2002 that left some 2,000 Muslims dead; the fall of the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya in 1992; the imposition of emergency rule by Indira Gandhi in 1975; the partition of India. All these political earthquakes merit mention in just the first 50 pages of Arundhati Roy’s new novel, “The Ministry of Utmost Happiness”. Sometimes they propel the action forward. More often, as with the attacks on the twin towers, they are simply there, for no particular reason.
Then there is social justice: gender and identity are at the centre of this book—or at least in the first half. It starts with the story of Anjum, born with both male and female genitals, who becomes a member of South Asia’s community of hijras, the translation of which is shifting from…Continue reading