While those who enjoyed Arundhati Roy’s novel The God of Small Things will bemoan the continuing lack of a fictional follow-up, there is no faulting her rate of work in the field of polemical writing. She has produced a steady stream of books in which the case for global justice is eloquently argued.
The Ordinary Person’s Guide To Empire is her new collection of articles, essays and speeches gathered from the past year. The focus is, unsurprisingly, the illegal invasion of Iraq and, despite a certain amount of repetition which good copy editing should have rectified, this is a valuable addition to her work.
Writing with passion and real anger, Roy dissects the weasel words and outright lies used to justify Bush and Blair’s cowardly attack, making the clear connection between military might and economic hegemony. In Argentina and Iraq, North Korea and Syria, only the weapons differ: in one place cruise missiles, in another an IMF cheque book. It has ever been thus but the bungling Bush has for the first time ‘placed on full public view the working parts, the nuts and bolts of the apocalyptic apparatus of the American Empire’. Time, as Roy remarks mildly, to bring on the spanners.
This is the real war being fought at the moment, not the endless, futile ‘war on terror’ declared by Bush. It is the battle being waged by all of us on behalf of memory against the amnesia that the Empire would wish on us. In this war, Arundhati Roy is a courageous voice and an indomitable ally.