The Ministry of Utmost Happiness by Arundhati Roy - review by Nakul Krishna

Nakul Krishna

Other People’s Pain

The Ministry of Utmost Happiness

By

Hamish Hamilton 445pp £18.99 order from our bookshop
 

Arundhati Roy’s new novel follows a motley crew of disparate characters who find themselves thrown together in a kind of accidental family, squatting in an illegal construction on a Delhi graveyard. The novel is messy, a little prolix and occasionally puzzling, but its last pages offer a key to it. It appears in a poem by one of its characters, Tilottama, which, without its line breaks, reads, ‘How to tell a shattered story? By slowly becoming everybody. No. By slowly becoming everything.’

Tilottama, a partial self-portrait of the author, dominates the novel’s second half. The first half is taken up with the trials of Anjum and her community of transgender ‘hijras’, but this is not a novel where it makes sense to speak of protagonists. Stories and characters abound – the hunger-fasting

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