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The ministry of utmost happiness
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She was the fourth of five children, born on a cold January night, by lamplight (power cut), in Shahjahanabad, the walled city of Delhi. Ahlam Baji, the midwife who delivered her and put her in her mother's arms wrapped in two shawls, said, "It's a boy." Given the circumstances, her error was understandable. A month into her first pregnancy Jahanara Begum and her husband decided that if their baby was a boy they would name him Aftab. Their first three children were girls. They had been waiting for their Aftab for six years. The night he was born was the happiest of Jahanara Begum's life. The next morning, when the sun was up and the room nice and warm, she unswaddled little Aftab. She explored his tiny body--eyes nose head neck armpits fingers toes--with sated, unhurried delight. That was when she discovered, nestling underneath his boy-parts, a small, unformed, but undoubtedly girl-part. Is it possible for a mother to be terrified of her own baby? Jahanara Begum was. Her first reaction was to feel her heart constrict and her bones turn to ash. Her second reaction was to take another look to make sure she was not mistaken. Her third reaction was to recoil from what she had created while her bowels convulsed and a thin stream of shit ran down her legs. Her fourth reaction was to contemplate killing herself and her child. Her fifth reaction was to pick her baby up and hold him close while she fell through a crack between the world she knew and worlds she did not know existed. There, in the abyss, spinning through the darkness, everything she had been sure of until then, every single thing, from the smallest to the biggest, ceased to make sense to her. In Urdu, the only language she knew, all things, not just living things but all things--carpets, clothes, books, pens, musical instruments--had a gender. Everything was either masculine or feminine, man or woman. Everything except her baby. Yes of course she knew there was a word for those like him-- Hijra . Two words actually, Hijra and Kinnar . But two words do not make a language. Was it possible to live outside language? Naturally this question did not address itself to her in words, or as a single lucid sentence. It addressed itself to her as a soundless, embryonic howl. Excerpted from The Ministry of Utmost Happiness by Arundhati Roy All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.
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THE MINISTRY OF UTMOST HAPPINESS, by Arundhati Roy. (Knopf, $28.95.) Twenty years after "The God of Small Things," Roy's artistry is fully intact, as is her gorgeous and supple prose. In this new novel, social and political outcasts in present-day India come together in response to state-sponsored violence. BAD DREAMS AND OTHER STORIES, by Tessa Hadley. (Harper/ HarperCollins, $26.99.) A spellbinding writer, Hadley serves up the bitter along with the delicious. In these 10 stories, set in Britain in the 1950s and '60s as well as the present, the uncanny is almost precisely counterbalanced with the commonplace. FASTER, HIGHER, FARTHER:The Volkswagen Scandal,by Jack Ewing. (Norton, $27.95.)More than an account of a great corporate scandal, this is a rich history of a company whose cars have touched millions of lives, a character study of a brilliant but deeply flawed leader, and a case study in how a corporate culture can turn toxic. ANATOMY OF TERROR:From the Death of bin Laden to the Rise of the Islamic State,by Ali Soufan. (Norton, $27.95.)Soufan, a former F.B.I. agent who is one of America's original terror warriors, retells the Qaeda story from the beginning, enriched with new materials, and offers predictions about what may happen next. TRAJECTORY, by Richard Russo. (Knopf, $25.95.) The four stories, two approaching novella length, retain the insightfulness and sympathy of Russo's early work, but no longer focus on working-class characters or rely on dramatic twists. INHERITANCE FROM MOTHER, by Minae Mizumura. Translated by Juliet Winters Carpenter. (Other Press, $27.95.) The Japanese novelist expands the story of a woman in an antiseptic Tokyo who is waiting for her difficult mother to die, and has just learned her husband plans to leave her, into an ambitious portrait of middleclass anomie. AL FRANKEN, GIANT OF THE SENATE, by Al Franken. (Twelve, $28.)When Franken, the "Saturday Night Live" writer and performer, first ran for the Senate from Minnesota in 2008, he had to project an air of utmost seriousness. In this memoir he tells the jokes he's been sitting on for the past 10 years. CHURCHILL AND ORWELL: The Fight for Freedom, by Thomas E. Ricks. (Penguin Press, $28.) This enjoyable dual biography highlights two independent thinkers and opponents of totalitarianism whose influence remains pervasive. TOUCH, by Courtney Maum. (Putnam, $26.) The protagonist of this satirical novel, a trend forecaster, loses her faith in her job and in consumerism and foresees a return to intimacy. Maum's writing is easy, eager and colloquial. The full reviews of these and other recent books are on the web: nytimes.com/books

  Publishers Weekly Review

Twenty years after the publication of The God of Small Things, Roy proves once again that she is a master writer; unfortunately, she is not a master audiobook narrator. The book tells the stories of two protagonists: Anjum, born intersex but raised as a male and now living as a woman in a house with other hijra in Delhi, and Tilo, a politically minded young woman romantically entangled with three men. The two stories are set against a wide-ranging portrait of the social and political fabric of modern India. Yet much of both characters' complexity gets lost in Roy's reading. Roy works too hard at carefully pronouncing every word. This slows the pace of the narrative and so focuses the listener's attention on each word that the meaning of the sentence is lost. While she can be quite dramatic when quoting one of her characters, she drops her voice at the end of almost every sentence, creating a painfully monotonous rhythm. Roy's poetic language and her quirky metaphors and similes remain hallmarks of her remarkable writing style, and she is rightfully known for those rather than for her abilities as a narrator. A Knopf hardcover. (June) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
New York Times Best Seller<br> Longlisted for the Man Booker Prize<br> Named a Best Book of 2017 by NPR, Amazon, Kirkus, The Washington Post, Newsday , and the Hudson Group<br> <br> A dazzling, richly moving new novel by the internationally celebrated author of The God of Small Things <br> <br> The Ministry of Utmost Happiness takes us on an intimate journey of many years across the Indian subcontinent--from the cramped neighborhoods of Old Delhi and the roads of the new city to the mountains and valleys of Kashmir and beyond, where war is peace and peace is war.<br> <br> It is an aching love story and a decisive remonstration, a story told in a whisper, in a shout, through unsentimental tears and sometimes with a bitter laugh. Each of its characters is indelibly, tenderly rendered. Its heroes are people who have been broken by the world they live in and then rescued, patched together by acts of love--and by hope.<br> <br> The tale begins with Anjum--who used to be Aftab--unrolling a threadbare Persian carpet in a city graveyard she calls home. We encounter the odd, unforgettable Tilo and the men who loved her--including Musa, sweetheart and ex-sweetheart, lover and ex-lover; their fates are as entwined as their arms used to be and always will be. We meet Tilo's landlord, a former suitor, now an intelligence officer posted to Kabul. And then we meet the two Miss Jebeens: the first a child born in Srinagar and buried in its overcrowded Martyrs' Graveyard; the second found at midnight, abandoned on a concrete sidewalk in the heart of New Delhi.<br> <br> As this ravishing, deeply humane novel braids these lives together, it reinvents what a novel can do and can be. The Ministry of Utmost Happiness demonstrates on every page the miracle of Arundhati Roy's storytelling gifts.
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