Thursday, October 27, 2005

Resistance is never futile

i'm not through reading this book, the algebra of infinite justice, by arundhati roy. so, technically, this is not a book review. and don't ask me what arundhati's title means. the only thing i know at this point is that infinite justice was supposed to be the original name of the united states' anti-terrorist military campaign in afghanistan. this was in retaliation to the attacks on the world trade center and the pentagon last 11 september 2001. the official position is that the phrase did not go well with followers of islam who believed that only allah can render infinite justice. so bush jr. had his operation enduring freedom. in his introduction to arundhati's book, john berger had a different hypothesis: bush and company couldn't explain what they meant by "infinite justice".

anyway, arundhati's book comes after her phenomenal success with the god of small things. i can still remember reading that book for the first time in 1999. i was dazed after the last page. it was one of those few moments in this life that left their mark on the soul. with a booker prize under her belt, arundhati went on to write three essays on nuclear testing, big dam construction, and privatization of public utilities. all controversial topics in india. these three essays, plus five other political articles are included in the algebra. in the ladies have feelings, so ... arundhati struggles to understand this tendency to differentiate arundhati the writer from arundhati the activist. i share her perplexity: nothing should prevent a writer from taking a position, even in this age of ambiguity.

which is why arundhati is still one of my favorite writers. i stand in awe at her fearless eloquence. very few writers today have such quixotic temerity to stand in the way of corporate globalization and resist its minions. and, i believe, not always in futility. in arundhati's own words, in the end of imagination: "there are plenty of warriors that i know and love, people far more valuable than myself, who go to war each day, knowing in advance that they will fail. true, they are less 'successful' in the most vulgar sense of the word, but by no means less fulfilled." for my part, i would like to say that words and stories have this uncanny ability to survive and inspire beyond the written page. especially if they were born out of real events and experiences. especially if they were crafted by arundhati roy.

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