Even if Roy employs some magic realist elements drawn from her Booker-winning debut novel The God of Small Things (1997), in her second novel, The Ministry of Utmost Happiness (2017), the use of fantasy and realism is less concerned with an aesthetic function than with an anti-global one. In the novel, tropes of vulnerability affect individuals and environments alike, promoting not only a poetics of loss but also a radical critique of such social questions as anti-globalisation, environmentalism, anti-nuclear campaigns and land rights in Kashmir. This article explores the juxtaposition of Bharati fantasy and historical realism in The Ministry of Utmost Happiness, and investigates the ways in which a hybrid narrative format manages to convey a complex and rich plot of contemporary India, where gender questions, caste discriminations, wounded landscapes and religious conflicts animate a tale of decay and hope. By resorting to Hindu epics, on the one hand, and to the intellectual activism typical of her non-fiction works on the other, Roy issues both a warning and an invitation to take into account the contradictions of present-day postcolonial India.
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Arundhati Roy, anti-globalisation, postcolonialism, Bharati fantasy, historical realism