by Arundhati Roy
South End Press, 152 pp, $12.00
reviewed by Kanishk Tharoor
After winning the Booker Prize for her first and only novel The God of Small Things, Indian writer Arundhati Roy turned from fiction to tackling contemporary politics. No stranger to political dogfights —Roy’s novel attracted the ire of South Indian Communists for whom the book’s caricatures of leading party members warranted a lawsuit— she has worn the hats of numerous agenda. Power Politics connected Roy’s involvement in the Narmada Dam dispute in India with a blistering attack on corporate globalization. Before and following the invasion of Iraq, Roy’s dissenting columns became fixtures in the international press, making the writer one of the anti-war camp’s most prominent voices.
In War Talk, Roy binds her disparate causes with a conviction in their fundamental interrelation. “In the twenty-first century,” she writes, “the connection between religious fundamentalism, nuclear nationalism, and the pauperization of whole populations to corporate globalization is becoming impossible to ignore.” Everything from India’s Hindu chauvinist ruling party to President Bush and the American military, foot-soldiers of a corporate global Empire, receives her unflinching contempt. War Talk stands out from the growing pile of pop political-science texts on the post-9/11 world thanks to its sharp and effective prose. Roy refuses to mince words, waging war against the status quo with clipped sentences and impassioned flair. However, she seems more eager to preach to the choir than convince the unconverted. Sporadically footnoted, War Talk delicately toes the line between political argument and polemical rant. Roy trots out all the well-known leftist critiques of the Iraq War, India’s domestic policy, and globalisation, but dresses unoriginal contentions in fresh language. Uninterested in disputing contemporary conservative or neo-liberal discourse, War Talk’s single-minded fervour belies its situation within a teeming climate of political debate. The book’s strength hinges on the fury of her language, as she attacks “the cabal of consummate wrong”, rather than the crafting of a considered case.