The Cost of Living

The Cost of Living

by Arundhati Roy

Paperback

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Overview

From the bestselling author of The God of Small Things comes a scathing and passionate indictment of big government's disregard for the individual.

In her Booker Prize-winning novel, The God of Small Things, Arundhati Roy turned a compassionate but unrelenting eye on one family in India. Now she lavishes the same acrobatic language and fierce humanity on the future of her beloved country. In this spirited polemic, Roy dares to take on two of the great illusions of India's progress: the massive dam projects that were supposed to haul this sprawling subcontinent into the modern age—but which instead have displaced untold millions—and the detonation of India's first nuclear bomb, with all its attendant Faustian bargains.

Merging her inimitable voice with a great moral outrage and imaginative sweep, Roy peels away the mask of democracy and prosperity to show the true costs hidden beneath. For those who have been mesmerized by her vision of India, here is a sketch, traced in fire, of its topsy-turvy society, where the lives of the many are sacrificed for the comforts of the few.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780679310372
Publisher: Random House of Canada, Limited
Publication date: 10/26/1999
Pages: 144
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.40(h) x 0.40(d)

About the Author

Arundhati Roy was trained as an architect. Her first novel, The God of Small Things, won the Booker Prize, spent forty-nine weeks on the New York Times bestseller lists, and has been published in thirty-three languages. She lives in New Delhi.

Read an Excerpt

May 1998. It'll go down in history books, provided of course we have history books to go down in. Provided, of course, we have a future. There's nothing new or original left to be said about nuclear weapons. There can be nothing more humiliating for a writer of fiction to have to do than restate a case that has, over the years, already been made by other people in other parts of the world, and made passionately, eloquently, and knowledgeably.

I am prepared to grovel. To humiliate myself abjectly, because, in the circumstances, silence would be indefensible. So those of you who are willing: let's pick our parts, put on these discarded costumes, and speak our secondhand lines in this sad secondhand play. But let's not forget that the stakes we're playing for are huge. Our fatigue and our shame could mean the end of us. The end of our children and our children's children. Of everything we love. We have to reach within ourselves and find the strength to think. To fight.

Once again we are pitifully behind the times—not just scientifically and technologically (ignore the hollow claims), but more pertinently in our ability to grasp the true nature of nuclear weapons. Our Comprehension of the Horror Department is hopelessly obsolete. Here we are, all of us in India and in Pakistan, discussing the finer points of politics, and foreign policy, behaving for all the world as though our governments have just devised a newer, bigger bomb, a sort of immense hand grenade with which they will annihilate the enemy (each other) and protect us from all harm. How desperately we want to believe that. What wonderful, willing, well-behaved, gullible subjects we have turned out to be. The rest of humanity (yes, yes, I know, I know, but let's ignore them for the moment. They forfeited their votes a long time ago), the rest of the rest of humanity may not forgive us, but then the rest of the rest of humanity, depending on who fashions its views, may not know what a tired, dejected heartbroken people we are. Perhaps it doesn't realize how urgently we need a miracle. How deeply we yearn for magic.

If only, if only, nuclear war was just another kind of war. If only it was about the usual things—nations and territories, gods and histories. If only those of us who dread it are just worthless moral cowards who are not prepared to die in defense of our beliefs. If only nuclear war was the kind of war in which countries battle countries and men battle men. But it isn't. If there is a nuclear war, our foes will not be China or America or even each other. Our foe will be the earth herself. The very elements—the sky, the air, the land, the wind and water — will all turn against us. Their wrath will be terrible.

Our cities and forests, our fields and villages will burn for days. Rivers will turn to poison. The air will become fire. The wind will spread the flames. When everything there is to burn has burned and the fires die, smoke will rise and shut out the sun. The earth will be enveloped in darkness. There will be no day. Only interminable night. Temperatures will drop to far below freezing and nuclear winter will set in. Water will turn into toxic ice. Radioactive fallout will seep through the earth and contaminate groundwater. Most living things, animal and vegetable, fish and fowl, will die. Only rats and cockroaches will breed and multiply and compete with foraging, relict humans for what little food there is.

What shall we do then, those of us who are still alive? Burned and blind and bald and ill, carrying the cancerous carcasses of our children in our arms, where shall we go? What shall we eat? What shall we drink? What shall we breathe?

The head of the Health, Environment and Safety Group of the Bhabha Atomic Research Center in Bombay has a plan. He declared in an interview (The Pioneer, 24 April 1998) that India could survive nuclear war. His advice is that if there is a nuclear war, we take the same safety measures as the ones that scientists have recommended in the event of accidents at nuclear plants.

Take iodine pills, he suggests. And other steps such as remaining indoors, consuming only stored water and food and avoiding milk. Infants should be given powdered milk. "People in the danger zone should immediately go to the ground floor and if possible to the basement."

What do you do with these levels of lunacy? What do you do if you're trapped in an asylum and the doctors are all dangerously deranged?

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Cost of Living 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
neringros on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Loved this book. Really good writing and rings so close to home...
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A couragesly honest work. Roy pulls no punches in her critique of her homeland's goverment and governments abroad. Roy has put her pen to paper with a purpose, a purpose that is undeniably immediate and has somehow lacked the attention it demands.
Guest More than 1 year ago
As one could tell from her award winning debut, Roy has important, illuminating political and social dissent to spotlight. Turning to Non-Fiction to express the savage hypocrisy and sly oppression India's corrupt government serves its constituents ... Roy has created a thought provoking, critical discourse for all readers.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Roy speaks of things that are politically correct such as no big dams and no nuclear testing. But her reasoning is shallow; she is clearly out of her depth.