Roy, Arundhati. War Talk. South End Press, 2003, index, glossary, end notes, 142 p.

India is a country of many faces and many complexities, many of which are never made explicit to Westerners, and perhaps especially Americans. Roy's slim volume is a blast of angry rhetoric, taking on Indian politicians and religious leaders of all stripes. Her strident and dogmatic tone often takes away from the topics about which she writes. When attacking the Indian government for ignoring the atrocies committed by Hindu rioters in Gugarat in 2002, she lumps them together with the IMF, World Bank, globalization, and US imperialism. This first essay sets the tone for the rest of the book.

The six essays collected here were all previously published. The best of the lot is Come September. Here, Roy dissects US policy since September 11, 2001. She recounts the many times the US intervened in other countries to pursue its own interests and links this intervention to the Iraq crisis. But here too she weakens her argument. She says, "Across the world as the free market brazenly protects Western markets and forces developing countries to lift their trade barriers, the poor are getting poorer and the rich richer." By making such statements, Roy ignores the history of her own country which through 4 decades of socialism only saw the schism between rich and poor grow wider and did not lift most of the population out of poverty. Rather it was the introduction of free-market reforms in the early 90s that saw the increase in the middle class, a necessary requisite for a stable civil society.

For those who want to sample a bit of Roy's writing may want to check out her recent essay in In These Times.

A little moderation of the more extreme polemics would go a long way to making Roy a more effective voice for those not already in the choir singing her political tune. As it is, Roy's skills as a writer are enormous and she makes reading her work a joy.


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