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The Cost of Living [Paperback]

Arundhati Roy
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Oct. 26 1999
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.

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From Publishers Weekly

The author of the Booker Prize-winning novel The God of Small Things dons a pundit's hat in her second book, and it's an awkward fit. This slim volume offers two previously published magazine articles. "The Greater Common Good," which appeared in Outlook, an Indian magazine, argues against the building of a controversial dam on the Narmada River in India. Roy notes that 60% of the 200,000 people likely to be uprooted by the project are tribal people, many illiterate, who will be deprived of their original livelihoods and land. Drawing on studies and government and court documents, Roy criticizes the World Bank, the Indian government and a political system that favors interest groups at the expense of the poor. In the second essay, "The End of Imagination," a criticism of India's decision to test a nuclear bomb that was published in the Nation in September 1998, Roy asks why India built the bomb when more than 400 million Indians are illiterate and live in absolute poverty. It's a good question, but fully a fifth of the article is devoted to a friend telling Roy that she has become so famous that the rest of her life would be "vaguely unsatisfying"Awhich is a fair description of this book. Roy surely has meaningful things to say about India. But she is not yet nearly as accomplished a political critic as she is a novelist. This effort, marred by general attacks on "the system" and personal digressions that distract a reader from the substantive issues at hand, is cursory and na?ve. That Roy anticipates this criticism doesn't render it any less valid. (Oct.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

From Library Journal

The phenomenal success of Roy's Booker Prize winning first novel The God of Small Things (LJ 4/15/97) has metamorphosed her into an activist supporting unpopular causes. This book consists of two parts: "The Greater Common Good" attacks the construction of the Sardar Sarovar Dam on the Narmada river in western India, while "The End of Imagination" denounces India's nuclear tests in May 1998. The Save the Narmada movement, a grass-roots, anti-dam movement that has been agitating for over a decade, believes that instead of being a solution to India's water and power shortages, the still-incomplete dam will cause immense distress owing to the displacement of 40 million people, the submergence of 245 villages, inequities in resettlement, and environmental disasters. Roy's polemical tract on their behalf, while not a dispassionate inquiry, raises some important questions about the real price of "development," whether in the form of big dams or bombs. For public and academic libraries.ARavi Shenoy, Hinsdale P.L., IL
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Roy's values and sensitivities shines May 7 2002
In her newest offering Arudhati Roy , the writter of the widely known and multi-awarded The God Of Small Things presents a deep , careful study on the impact " progress " has made on the life of thousands of people in her country . She describes an India with many cultural and racial entities where the goverment keeps building huge dams in the valley of Naramada with no certain strategy and essential reasons . What she seems to be asking is this : " even if these dams are useful , does it eventually worth sacrificing so many people's lifes and houses for them ? " . In the end the book wins the reader not so much because of Roy's writing style but thanks to the power of her own personallity . She's a young , beutiful and wealthy woman who never forgets though the poor part of her country's population . Instead , she keeps standing by them with her writtings and her actions .
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5.0 out of 5 stars Bombs Explode; A Reservoir Begins to Fill Nov. 5 2001
The title reprises the astonishingly closing chapter of THE GOD OF SMALL THINGS, perfectly appropriately. At its spooky best, writing risks offering readers something very close to the heart's cry of a bright fellow human. This writing is very very close. Sufficiently exasperated, too.
Ms. Roy is Indian, or some kind of vigorous hybrid, as if Mohandas K. Ghandi & Molly Ivins & James Joyce & Mary Wollstonecraft had somehow mixed up together, which is amusing to consider at the conceptual stage plus makes for plumb interesting salty reading. Arundhati Molly Saint Mary Magdelene Bloom Mahatma Roy? As Joyce himself may have claimed (if online resources are to be trusted), perhaps grimacing very much like Mona Lisa, "Molly Bloom was a down-to-earth lady. She would never have indulged in anything so refined as a stream of consciousness." Whether or not Joyce was strictly fair, Roy shares, with Mary Wollstonecraft's daughter Mary Godwin Wollstonecraft Shelley & a few others, a concern about the usual effects of mankind's most Promethean notions. What hath we wrought now, again? Terrifying!
A natural wide ranging curiosity lightly mitigated by rather sketchy professional architect training leads where it leads? Roy can perform research, calculate costs so accurately that narrow experts may scream.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Brave & Universal - not just for Indians! Aug. 16 2001
Arundhati Roy has a wonderful way of writing. This woman could write about absolutely anything at all and I think I will still enjoy it. She has a naturally earnest free flowing poetic yet precise language. She has the ability to choose her words so well as to get the exact picture or impression she wants us to see. Truly she paints with her words.
Roy used her amazing writing skills and sensitivity so very well in her fantastic work, The God of Small Things. Here she uses the same skills and more aiming primarily at her own people asking them to re-examine 2 strongly held views. As non-Indian I thoroughly enjoyed both essays of this book.
The first essay deals with the construction of river dams in India since the independence in 1947. Roy set about in a very systematic way to establish the true cost of the dams in terms of human suffering. She focused on one project in particular but her research was wide ranging and indeed she had to dig into several completed projects to establish true benefits and costs. Roy's central message is that the price paid by an oppressed native minority is way too high and the alleged benefits to India are low. Where this essay is truly universal, at least applicable to so many third world countries in the post colonial era, is in its research for a definition for her own country, identity and common good and modes of opposition to this common good! Roy was also highly unimpressed with the western approach to 3rd world development projects but her approach was a times too general and sweeping.
The Second article, probably far more universal, is the nuclear weapons article. Roy's analysis of the policies of the Congress party and the BJP nationalists leading to the 1998 explosions shows great insight and clarity of mind.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Masters of the Universe? Jan. 23 2001
Ms. Roy captures the essence of the technological problems of the planet today. We humans like to think of ourselves as "Masters of the Universe." When, in fact, we are flawed creatures who do things without the wisdom to see the long-term consequences of our actions - be they building a dam or nuclear weapon.
It is not lost on this reader, that the "father" of the atomic bomb quoted the lines of Shiva when he first saw his weapon exploded - "I am become death, the destroyer of worlds." We humans are good at destruction; sometimes it even looks like building.
While Ms. Roy's prose is a bit less poetic than that found in "The God of Small Things," her passion makes up for the linguistic power. She is calling out the leaders, not only of India, but also of the world, to reconsider the consequences of what they are doing to the earth and its peoples. All of these actions, of course, in the names of progress and national defense.
It is not likely that Ms. Roy's writings will change the governments. But perhaps they will open your eyes as they did mine, to the realities of what we are doing on and to this planet. At the beginning of the 21st century we are again looking at the exploitation of the earth that nurtures us to the point where it may no longer support us.
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Most recent customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Aware; insightful
Contrary to her critics, I do not believe this woman can be neatly dismissed as a 'Marxist'. In many places she describes how these kind of huge, overblown, poorly considered... Read more
Published on June 17 2003 by Coolwetplace
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book
Contrary to what one of the reviewers above would have us believe, this in fact is a great book. It takes some courage to go with an open mind and curiosity and come back with the... Read more
Published on Oct. 27 2000 by R
5.0 out of 5 stars Short, interesting... enlightening
Arundati Roy turns from fiction, momentarily, we hope, to non-fiction.
That is not to say that 'The Cost of Living' lacks power of imagination. Read more
Published on June 22 2000 by Nathan Joyce
4.0 out of 5 stars A Hidden Problem
I found Roy's essays fascinating, but the first, on India's massive dam projects, interested me the most. Read more
Published on March 14 2000 by A. Schwartz
5.0 out of 5 stars The God of Small Things
This is the one of the most beautiful stories I have read. A. Roy paints a picture of rural India which is tragic, yet beautiful. This book had made me thirsty for more. Read more
Published on Feb. 14 2000 by A C Paizis
5.0 out of 5 stars A Must Read for privileged Indian-Americans!
Not a book that would wow the reader with eloquence, but a passionate and serious account of two examples of the folly of massive state-sponsored projects "for the people's... Read more
Published on Jan. 28 2000 by SKC
1.0 out of 5 stars Very naive
Arundhati Roy's essays present a simplistic view of the issues involved in development and in defence. (You need to invest on security, India has some very dangerous neighbors. Read more
Published on Dec 3 1999 by Subhash Kak
5.0 out of 5 stars Informative as well as eloquently writtten
Roy uses her beautiful writing to explain the destruction done by nuclear bomb testing and dam building in India. Highly recommended!!
Published on Oct. 10 1999 by Brittney Turner (
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