Monday, December 14, 2009

Holiday Gift Guide: Field Notes on Democracy: Listening to Grasshoppers by Arundhati Roy

On the one hand, it might seem counterintuitive to offer Field Notes on Democracy: Listening to Grasshoppers (Haymarket Books) as a gift idea. Yet these thoughts on the very nature of democracy are a powerful gift, indeed. And what better time to read Booker Award-winning author Arundhati Roy’s examination of India’s crumbling democracy?
While we’re still arguing about whether there’s life after death, can we add another question to the cart? Is there life after democracy? What sort of life will it be? By “democracy” I don’t mean democracy as an ideal or an aspiration, I mean the working model: Western liberal democracy, and its variants, such as they are.

So is there life after democracy?
In this series of themed essays, Roy explores the questions and political challenges probably most important to India today: the marginalization of religious and ethnic minorities and the neo-liberal economic reforms that Roy argues are turning India into a police state.

“The idea of extermination is in the air. And people believe that faced with extermination they have the right to fight back. Perhaps they’ve been listening to the grasshoppers.”

The author of The God of Small Things, Roy writes with a rare and confident beauty. Passion rings through every line, passion and the belief that the things she’s writing about here are important, they need to be said. I think that’s true. In many ways, it’s true not just for India but the world.

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