Torch Songs

Arundhati Roy's india is a place where humanity's worst is on display. In her new book of essays, Listening to Grasshoppers: Field Notes on Democracy (which for some reason has its title and subtitle reversed in the U.S.), the country isn't merely sundered into the worlds of the rich and the poor. It is a lawless dystopia, plagued by rapacity and violence: "In eastern India, bauxite and iron-ore mining is destroying whole ecosystems, turning fertile land into desert," she writes in the introduction. And in an essay, about the 2002 anti-Muslim violence in Gujarat: "Women were stripped, gang-raped; parents...

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