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Manufacturing a masterpiece

Valentine Cunningham tries to understand why a derivative debut novel has become a global bestseller

Arundhati Roy’s first novel, The God of Small Things, first published in mid-1997, has become a worldwide hit. It is one of the bestselling literary novels, possibly the bestselling literary novel of recent decades-worldwide. Three million copies had been sold by September 1998; 1m alone in Britain and the Commonwealth (mainly India). It was initially published simultaneously in 16 different languages. You can read it in Spanish, Turkish, Chinese Simplified Characters and Chinese Complex Characters, Catalan, Czech or German -you name it. Roy has been on the bestseller lists in 34 separate “territories.” There are currently piles of her books,…

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