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Field Notes on Democracy: Listening to Grasshoppers

3.98  ·  Rating details ·  1,694 ratings  ·  145 reviews
"Gorgeously wrought . . . pitch-perfect prose. . . . In language of terrible beauty, she takes India's everyday tragedies and reminds us to be outraged all over again."written in response to new developments in India that have seen the government launch a full scale war, "Operation Green Hunt," against the tribal community of Naxals defending their land in central India), ...more
304 pages
Published by Hamish Hamilton Canada (first published October 2009)
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Tarquin Hall
Jun 28, 2010 rated it really liked it
Earlier this year, I interviewed a senior economic adviser to the Indian government. When I challenged his view that India would soon be a “superpower” and referred to the country’s 600m poor, he shot me a venomous look: “You’ve been listening to Arundhati Roy!”

That Roy should be perceived as having singlehandedly coloured a foreign journalist’s perception of India is laughable. Away from the gated communities of the middle classes, the country’s problems are palpable. But no other Indian activi
I was thinking of reading The God of Small things in the near future, and so I had the idea of getting a sense of Roy by first reading some of her essays (view spoiler). I found this book an excoriating collection of articles and speeches mostly about specific incidents in recent Indian history - the attack on the Parliament, the attack on Mumbai and the visit of the younger Bush President to Delhi and t ...more
Sumirti Singaravel
May 31, 2013 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: everyone
Had I had read this book a few years before, I would have denied and thrashed Ms.Roy as just another an intellectual who enjoys the fruits of Capitalism and democracy yet pricking at its root constantly, for in my youthful fancy I never questioned my belief in free market and the superiority of my own nation. But only with age comes wisdom.

In this wonderfully written essays, Roy fiercely and courageously speaks the truth and voices for the oppressed, be it the adivasis, kashmiris or the citizens
Vazir Singh
Oct 01, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: owned
Labelling Arundhati leftist,anti-national,anti-american,anti-hindu,anti-progess is obviously reducing her.Truth knows no boundaries. Her uncompromising stand & her defence of the underprivileged,the downtrodden,the minorities,the poor may not be palatable for many, but truth is seldom sweet. Her compassionate writing is like the voice of conscience.
Stephen Durrant
Dec 06, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Roy is an engaged intellectual, a rare breed these days--an Indian Noam Chomsky, one might say. And her anti-globalization, basically left-wing take on politics aligns her very much with Chomsky. There is however a fundamental difference: Roy is a great writer and a truly formidable polemicist. One can disagree with her positions, and on occasions I do, but no one can question her intelligence, passion, and capacity for mixing detailed data and first-rate prose. This book is largely, but by no m ...more
May 19, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: theory-change
Next up in my journey through Roy’s nonfiction… this volume picks some essays between 2002-2009 (i.e. War on Terror)…

--“Listening to Grasshoppers: Genocide, Denial, and Celebration”: the centerpiece essay indeed stood out; “grasshoppers” represents the “locusts” frequently used in xenophobic slogans for incoming “superfluous eaters”.
--Roy starts by considering different responses towards genocide, from denial of the Armenian Genocide by the Turkish state to celebration in India’s RS
First Roy I read, and I'm sure I'll be returning to her pen in the future. An incisive journalist and intense observer of social oppression, in Field Notes on Democracy (a series of essays, speeches and reports) she details the human cost of India's gridlocked democracy around the turn of the millennium. Though equipped with a constitution, a parliament and party-political pluralism, the country is ravaged without interruption by communitarian violence, caste against caste, religion against reli ...more
Muhammad Arif
Aug 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Certainly, Arundhati Roy is one of the genuine champions of human rights, Justice and truth. Listening to Grasshoppers restores my faith in the courageously- spirited voice of a writer whose sole purpose and mission is to be the voice of the voiceless. This book is strongly recommended for those readers who want to understand the essence of democracy, particularly the vibrant and the shining Indian democracy. Roy raises some scathing questions about the spirit of democratic project. For instance ...more
Dec 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a collection of essays, articles and lectures by the authors written over a period of time and after certain events in recent history. All of them are connected via a common underlying theme which Roy brings out in her usual brilliant writings.

The main takeaway from this book is that her's is a voice that needs to be heard when we talk about modern Indian history and where it is leading us. One might not agree with her views, even might be opposing to all that she says and what she stand

None of what was being said was new, it's just that what was once considered unacceptable was suddenly being celebrated.

Each time you defend the right of an institution, any institution (including the Supreme Court), to exercise unfettered, unaccountable powers that must never be challenged, you move toward fascism.

There is no terrorism like state terrorism.
It's been nearly a decade since Roy collated these writings, and I have to wonder, while she was putting together her vicious satir
Throughout the book, she jumps seamlessly from being a fantastic analytical thinker to a utter nonsensical ideologue and back. She does raise some valid issues but most critique is rhetorical.
Oct 12, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
When reading a book it is always a good idea to check up on the author. Arundhati Roy is of a dying breed, the activist writer. I have to say that she intrigued me and I will, when given the opportunity, try to read some of her fiction even if I had several reservations concerning this book.

For starters, it does require a sturdy knowledge of Modern Indian history to fully comprehend her point of view, one has to know about the rise of hindou nationalism, the Kashmir situation, the naxalites, Gan
R  Jay K
Mar 14, 2019 rated it really liked it
I don't quite know how to compress my feelings about this book, or the feelings this book gives rise to, in a short review. India is the world's largest democracy. Its democratic exercises are of a gargantuan proportion- it has 3 tiers of governments, over a billion people, over 3 million square kilometers of geographical area. Except, what is the real face of a democracy this size? What values does it embody?

Listening to The Grasshoppers is a collection of Arundhati Roy's essays touching upon v
Apr 23, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Listening to Grasshoppers: Field Notes on Democracy is the 12th non-fiction book by Booker Prize winning author, Arundhati Roy. In this collection of eleven related essays, the author of The God Of Small Things turns her prodigious talent for striking imagery and eloquent prose to the exploration of the political situation in India. Roy states that the essays were written in anger, in reaction to certain events (massacres, pogroms, genocide, assassinations, death sentences) and have been reprint ...more
Kapil Batra
Sep 26, 2012 rated it did not like it
"Its understandable that a writer writes about a place where he was born, as he is the most apt person to assess about the situations and circumstances prevailing at that place. However, it becomes disheartening, when he manages to manipulate data and facts, bundled with exaggerated and biased point of view, especially when he covers his own views and depicts them as view of the masses. It creates a disaster". This is the most outrageously developed book by Arundhati Roy, desperately seeking an ...more
Pallavi Kamat
Jun 30, 2019 rated it did not like it
The book mentions only three things in different forms and means - Modi and the 2002 Gujarat 'riots', Indian 'occupation' in Kashmir and justification of radicalization. The author obviously doesn't believe in democracy or the peoples' decision. ...more
Jan 11, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction-2020
Vital, compelling and piercing as always.
Feb 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
It rarely happens that you agree with most of the things written in a non-fiction book. This has been one such book for me. All these pieces were written between 2001 and 2008. However, the issues, majority communalism, unaccountable institutions, Kashmir, which come under incisive analysis of Roy, remain as relevant as then, if not more. Roy may seem to some as overly pessimistic and highlighting only that is wrong with India. But, it is expected of an activist who has seen ground realities. Re ...more
Feb 16, 2010 rated it did not like it
I admit up front that I didn't read the entire book, though I read several of the essays and skimmed the rest. Why? I don't trust what Roy writes.

Below are a few quotes from this book regarding the United States. I use these examples not to defend the U.S. but because I am most familiar with them:

The United States "continues to celebrate Columbus Day...which marks the beginning of a holocaust that wiped out millions of Native Americans, about 90 percent of the original population." (Roy does not
Jul 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 5-stars, politics
I was skeptical of Arundhati Roy going into this book for a few reasons. I've heard a lot of negative propaganda about her from the Right-wing. Her fiction has a lot of fluffy metaphors and I usually like my nonfiction to cut directly to the point. So, I saw her as an anarchist with an agenda, who dabbles in sophistry.

But this book made a fan out of me. Roy doesn't take any political sides, although she reserves her most cutting criticism for the BJP and it's Hindutva project. She's not only bru
Jonathan Pool
Jul 17, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: international
Arundhati Roy is best known for her debut novel The God of Small Things (1998).
The renown of that (Booker Prize) winning novel has given her a platform to shine a light on her native India.
The follow up novel The Ministry Of Utmost Happiness published twenty years later is half novel, half political agitation. Readers of Ministry (which I enjoyed despite its scattergun approach) will find that Listening to Grasshoppers covers much of the same ground. This time the names aren’t changed (in novel
Mar 22, 2019 rated it it was ok
I held similar reservations touted by the Indian media about roy before reading this book, however i was taken with gentle surprise, since this book shattered the myth of her being a "anti-Hindu". Though this book seems opinionated, it does raise some valid questions. It is a truism that the tribals in certain areas of India have suffered displacement due to nexus of government and corporate doings. Roy suggests that the Indian system have failed the tribals, and armed struggle is their only res ...more
Satyam Gupta
Dec 28, 2017 rated it it was ok
I think she has a contempt for whole world, a global, cosmopolitan intellectual who has severed her roots from her nation ,army and have a huge disregard for India's democracy and governance system.She has a contempt for Indian middle class and its capitalist class. Making conspiracy theories like union and progress.Applauding statements like Lalu"s remark on hindu nationalism.Calling every terrorist attack on india suspicious and wanting to give Pakistan a benefit of dout, as if indians are the ...more
Sharath Chandra Darsha
Jan 27, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
Firstly, we should appreciate people like Arundathi Roy for bringing out the voice of unheard. In this book Roy talks about the controversies surrounding the various attacks/genocides happened in India. We may never know who are the real culprits of these massacres. But one thing is sure; discrimination (racial/ethnic/religious/national) is the mother of all problems. As Rabindranath Tagore said, world peace which we dream of can be achieved only if people think they are part of a single family( ...more
Puri Kencana Putri
Mar 16, 2016 rated it really liked it
In order to know about India social and political context, one should read this one. And I would like to quote Roy's argumentation in which may relate to my country situational right now, when she has actually underlined a solid point if view on pivotal freedoms and its relation with security policy. Roy believed that, "Terrorism is a heartless ideology, and like most ideologist that have their eye on the big picture in their calculations except as collateral damage. It has always been a part of ...more
Feb 02, 2017 rated it did not like it
As a liberal political reader, I expected more of a rational read, but instead I got a book of accusing, abusing and name calling. At the same time whitewashing the diabolic communist theories, she tried to abuse every other political ideology. Nothing but a waste of time.

By the title, an average reader would think this book is democracy, no it is not, this book does a frivolous attempt of vilifying democracy to maximum possible extent giving an communist proletariat police state as an alternati
Nov 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A brave, brave book. And a grim, eye-opener. We've all read and believed theories of how 9/11 was an inside job, yet when it comes to Indian govt, we tend to trust them blindly. In this collection of essays, Roy fiercely attacks the authorities, armed with information in public domain and a sharp logic honed by her precious intellect.

It's a dangerous book to write, considering I feel scared to even write this review. But then, as Roy said, "Even if we lose, we don't want to be on their side. So
Mar 11, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Though this is a small collection of about 12 essays and a fictional account I have spent almost a month with the book. This is because every essay needs to be read and reflected upon. This is no light-reading. Every essay in the collection has troubled me as any other in it.
Roy is one author who does not deal in escapist stuff about everything being hunky-dory with the world. She says it as it is; a revelation for most of us who are very fortunate to have the lives we lead.
Jun 08, 2010 rated it it was ok
Shelves: indiapakistan
There were good parts of this book, but there was nothing new enough to justify spending 200 pages with it. Because it was a collection of essays there is a lot of annoying repetition -- Roy tells the same anecdotes and uses the same facts in multiple pieces, which is fine unless you're reading all those pieces one after the other. And the satire of George W. Bush was just childish. ...more
Jun 25, 2014 rated it really liked it
Her writing is hard hitting, we all know that! With this book she brings forward all the ironies of our "Indianised" democracy and the fallacies of the system we are living with. I strongly recommend this book to everyone who wishes to critically see the way our country functions. Arundhati Roy's voice is strong, her observation sharp and inferences heart breaking. ...more
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Arundhati Roy is an Indian writer who is also an activist who focuses on issues related to social justice and economic inequality. She won the Booker Prize in 1997 for her novel, The God of Small Things, and has also written two screenplays and several collections of essays.

For her work as an activist she received the Cultural Freedom Prize awarded by the Lannan Foundation in 2002.

Related Articles

Twenty years after The God of Small Things, Roy's second novel arrives this month. She talks about her political activism in India and how she...
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“They’re mostly rich folk who live in our poor country like captive animals, incarcerated by their own wealth, locked and barred in their gilded cages, protecting themselves from the threat of the vulgar and unruly multitudes whom they have systematically dispossessed over the centuries.” 1 likes
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