Arundhati Roy: “The Pandemic is a Portal”
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If you weren’t able to join us live, watch the video of our online teach-in with Arundhati Roy, hosted by Imani Perry.
In her latest essay, “The Pandemic Is a Portal” — from her forthcoming Haymarket Books publication Azadi: Freedom. Fascism. Fiction. — Arundhati Roy writes:
What is this thing that has happened to us? It’s a virus, yes. In and of itself it holds no moral brief. But it is definitely more than a virus. Some believe it’s God’s way of bringing us to our senses. Others that it’s a Chinese conspiracy to take over the world.
Whatever it is, coronavirus has made the mighty kneel and brought the world to a halt like nothing else could. Our minds are still racing back and forth, longing for a return to “normality,” trying to stitch our future to our past and refusing to acknowledge the rupture. But the rupture exists. And in the midst of this terrible despair, it offers us a chance to rethink the doomsday machine we have built for ourselves. Nothing could be worse than a return to normality. Historically, pandemics have forced humans to break with the past and imagine their world anew. This one is no different. It is a portal, a gateway between one world and the next.
We can choose to walk through it, dragging the carcasses of our prejudice and hatred, our avarice, our data banks and dead ideas, our dead rivers and smoky skies behind us. Or we can walk through lightly, with little luggage, ready to imagine another world. And ready to fight for it.
Join the acclaimed author to discuss this essay and her recent writings on the existential threat posed to Indian democracy by an emboldened Hindu nationalism, India’s new citizenship laws that discriminate against Muslims and marginalized communities and could create a crisis of statelessness on a scale previously unknown, and the meaning of freedom in a world of growing authoritarianism.
Arundhati Roy studied architecture in New Delhi, where she now lives. She is the author of the novels The God of Small Things, for which she received the 1997 Booker Prize, and The Ministry of Utmost Happiness. A collection of her essays from the past twenty years, My Seditious Heart, was recently published by Haymarket Books. Her next book from Haymarket books, Azadi: Freedom. Fascism. Fiction. will be published September 1.
Imani Perry is the Hughes-Rogers Professor of African American Studies at Princeton University, where she also teaches in the Programs in Law and Public Affairs, and in Gender and Sexuality Studies. She is a native of Birmingham, Alabama, and spent much of her youth in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and Chicago. She is the author of several books, including Looking for Lorraine: The Radiant and Radical Life of Lorraine Hansberry and Breathe: A Letter to My Sons. She lives outside Philadelphia with her two sons, Freeman Diallo Perry Rabb and Issa Garner Rabb.