The passion and beauty of her voice is unabated, but what comes through in this volume, too, is a new sense of maturity in both her execution and engagement as she comes to terms with her vocation and the choices she has made. “I have often caught myself wondering,” she writes in The Graveyard Talks Back, “if I were to be incarcerated or driven underground, would it liberate my writing? Would what I write become simpler, more lyrical perhaps, and less negotiated?”... What she has produced, in Azadi, is precisely such a text – the outcome of a life of writing from the frontline of solidarity and humanism, and from a writer who is perhaps only now reaching the height of her literary powers.
In truth, though one may respond with sympathy and agreement to Roy’s passionate indignation, this book, assembled from speeches and lectures delivered over a number of years, is more confusing than satisfying. Roy is a repetitive and often clumsy writer. She packs in material, with an excess of detail. It is hard to keep track of her arguments. She veers between reportage and discussion of her own life and her two novels. Indeed the publisher’s decision to recall the old Penguin Specials seems unwise, for the point about these books was usually their clear and cogent line. There is no line in Azadi, no coherent argument. I am sure that much that Roy tells us is horribly true. I just wish she had told it better.