A voice for India’s powerless in 1920’s Bali

Dec 3, 2018 by

Acclaimed Indian novelist Anuradha Roy’s ‘All the Lives We Never Lived’ builds on history to tackle modern issues of gender, art and politics

By Muhammad Cohen –


When Anuradha Roy came to the Ubud Writers & Readers Festival for the first time seven years ago, she found a trail into Bali’s past that led to a key piece of her latest book “All the Lives We Never Lived.”

Despite its contemporary and historical links to the Indonesian holiday island, the core of Roy’s fourth novel examines contemporary India and the dangerous times she believes it faces amid rising Hindu nationalism and persistent inequality.

“In writing the book, I was very concerned about the role of an artist when there is a crisis in the country,” the award winning novelist says. “All my books are about powerlessness.”

Yet they also manage to strike hopeful chords. The plot of “All the Lives We Never Lived” incorporates an actual meeting in Bali between India’s Nobel Prize winning poet Rabindranath Tagore and German painter Walter Spies.

“I discovered Walter Spies on my first visit to Bali for the 2011 festival, in a book Bali, “Java in My Dreams” by Christina Jordis,” Roy told this year’s Ubud festival.

“At that time I was thinking of a story that would have an intensely imaginative, extremely lonely little boy whose mother was quite distant. He created a world for himself by living in pictures. But which pictures? Then I thought of Walter Spies.”

Source: A voice for India’s powerless in 1920’s Bali | Asia Times

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