Penguin Random House has acquired a new novel from Arundhati Roy, The Ministry of Utmost Happiness, for June 2017: her first work of fiction since The God of Small Things (Harper Perennial) won the Booker prize almost 20 years ago.
Simon Prosser, publishing director of Hamish Hamilton and Penguin Books, acquired British and Commonwealth rights (excluding India), from literary agent David Godwin. Meru Gokhale, editor-in-chief for literary publishing at Penguin Random House India acquired Indian rights.
Details of the book's plot have not been disclosed, but Prosser said it was full of "extraordinary" characters and "one of the finest we have read in recent times".
Since her debut, The God of Small Things, published with Harper in 1997, Roy has been concerned mostly as a human rights activist and published politically oriented non-fiction, inlcuding Field Notes on Democracy: Listening to Grasshoppers (Penguin, 2009), Walking with Comrades (Pengui, 2011), Broken Republic: Three Essays (Hamish Hamilton, 2011), and Capitalism: A Ghost Story (Verso, 2014).
Roy said: "I am glad to report that the mad souls (even the wicked ones) in The Ministry of Utmost Happiness have found a way into the world, and that I have found my publishers."
Prosser and Gokhale commented in a joint statement: "To publish this book is both a pleasure and an honour. What an incredible book it is—on multiple levels; one of the finest we have read in recent times.
"The writing is extraordinary, and so too are the characters – brought to life with such generosity and empathy, in language of the utmost freshness, joyfully reminding us that words are alive too, that they can wake us up and lend us new ways of seeing, feeling, hearing, engaging. It makes the novel new – in the original meaning of novel."
Godwin added: "Only Arundhati could have written this novel. Utterly original. It has been 20 years in the making. And well worth the wait."
Chris White, Waterstones fiction buyer, told The Bookseller that The God of Small Things was a "formative" book for him.
"The freshness of Roy’s writing and the power of the story marked her out immediately as a major novelistic talent, and it always seemed a pity that she had chosen to move away from fiction," he said. "Consequently, I’m delighted that a new novel has been announced two decades after the first. Its publication will be major event for Waterstones and for the wider book industry. I can’t wait to read it.”