Blesok no. 119, May-June, 2018

Arundhati Roy: “The Ministry of Utmost Happiness“, Knopf, London 2017

Recommendation for translation: A NOVEL WITH THE COLOUR OF SAFFRON Recommendation for translation: A NOVEL WITH THE COLOUR OF SAFFRON

The gender flirt achieved with a transgression, with a deliberate giving up the feminative (woman writer), is in this context something that additionally specifies and marks my relation to Roy. I stopped telling that I had read the novel in Bosnian and that it did not touch me, waiting for the moment when I put it on the table again. At the table, because Arundhati Roy is not to be read in bed. With a pencil in hand, because Arundhati Roy is not to be read without the reader writing about her.

„Министерство за неизмерна среќа“ [“The Ministry of Utmost Happiness”] (or however the future Macedonian translator translates it) is not “The God of Small Things”. The hand is the same, the style, the emotions soft as a feather and the associations sharp as a razor are the same, but the novels are different. The stories are different, the structures resemble each other, but from a large distance. The 385 pages of the “Ministry…” should be read patiently, so that Roy “writes” / “gives” to us precisely what we remember and imagine twenty years after “The God…”. What we love and consider hers and only hers – the unspeakable descriptions, the lyricism harnessed in a broad epic belt, the corporeal silence between the lovers, the scenes of pain and passion, the dialogues and especially the touches which, although composed of words only, leave visible traces on us. Discrete redness, pale bruises, even blood-stained contusions…
It is disastrous from a reader’s point of view to look for the “…small things” in “…utmost happiness”. It would be best to exclude the textual memory of the first novel while the second one is being read, and to include it only after the latter is read until the end. Only after the last sentence: “Because Miss Jebeen, Miss Udaya Jebeen, was come” can we really enjoy the firework of Arundhati Roy on the universal literary sky.

“The Ministry…” has an exceptionally complex structure. It starts from somewhere, from some or someone’s “middle”, directly from Two (2) which textually lasts for a relatively short time, it sends us back quickly to the previous One (1), and then continues towards the following Three (3). To make things more complex, that “middle” with which it starts is not the middle of the basic story, as was the case in “The God of Small Things”, but it is the middle of only one of the stories. Therefore the structure 2-1-3 is not the structure of the whole novel, but it is, in fact, the middle of the marginal, after which a retrograde beginning follows, and only then does it continue towards something bigger which is only hinted. This exceptionally difficult entrance into the novel and leading the reader to think that the novel is about something completely different, and not about the thing that it is about[3] , is a serious risk that the reader will be unable to follow and receive the direct anticipation, and be unable to have a sustained interest, considering that he/she is let down, when after so much written text, a new story is beginning to be written (again, from some “middle”, from a somewhere, from someone’s Two)… In itself, this is an exceptionally brave radicalization, bringing to extreme the standard narrative approaches to disintegrative plot, assembling and complex structure. Almost daring (although very confident!) practicing of separate stories that will touch each other / will be connected too late or at least later than and different from the reader’s expectation. This narrative arrogance can quickly, easily and justifiably be convicted and punished by the reader… but if it is surpassed – the reader is up for a “reward”, catharsis of connecting everything with everything in an over-complex, over-assembled, over-structured… but irresistibly fascinating story.

3. The first over 150 pages fully convince us that “The Ministry…” is a novel about sex and gender, about the misfortune hidden in our predetermined, imposed, involuntarily chosen sex, about women trapped in the bodies of men, about the discrepancy with nature and with feelings… I presume that there are a lot of more impatient readers who have not recognized in this threading the anticipatory threat that something else may also be happening in the novel, and left the novel. They have not waited for the moment when they enter the story. The novel IS, but also IS NOT about sex and gender. It also sings of love, it is bloodily political and fiercely family novel. It is all that you cannot see inside until someone opens the entrance door to you. Or until you break it yourself…

AuthorOlivera Kjorveziroska
Translated byKalina Maleska
2018-09-20T12:42:59+00:00 May 12th, 2018|Categories: Reviews, Literature, Blesok no. 119|Tags: |0 Comments