Oct 17 2008
*On October 14th, Aravind Adiga was announced the winner of the Man Booker Prize for Fiction 2008 for his novel, The White Tiger. To further laud Mr. Adiga and his book, Jess tells us just why exactly this book deserves such praise.*
In honor of coworker Nicole’s departure to Bangalore (and because I can’t go there myself), I’m recommending a recent stand-out novel in the ever-widening body of literature that discusses the post-colonial experience in modernizing countries such as India: Aravind Adiga’s The White Tiger.
Written as a modern epistolary novel, the story of the protagonist, Balram Halwai, is dictated over the course of seven nights. The reader learns early on that Balram has not only risen out from the great “Rooster Coop” of India to become a successful entrepreneur, but has also committed the greatest crime of all: murder. First-time author Aravind Adiga consistently uses dark and light imagery to trace Balram’s rise to (relative) economic success and his transition to the modern center of India, Delhi. But as Balram emerges from the dark heart of India, he is also faced with a new type of darkness — a moral darkness that will either destroy or save him.
Balram’s voice is fresh, unapologetic, unromantic, and wickedly funny. I found this novel to be a wonderfully engrossing profile of a nation still trying to strike a balance between tradition and modernity, national identity and globalization. While the key events in Balram’s life are strongly connected to the United States’ economy and other global influences (Balram’s master is married to a blond American), Adiga keeps the United States as a peripheral topic and focuses mainly on the Indian working man’s interpretation of his own country. Even though Balram is Indian, he witnesses Delhi as any foreigner might and is therefore able to expose the greed, desperation, and moral looseness of his masters and fellow servants alike.
Adiga paints a picture in which economic success in modern India is a warped and tragic version of the American Dream: the price tag for success is no longer just hard work and perseverance. In India, it’s something much crueler, darker, even fatal.
*Editor’s Note: the printing of The White Tiger in paperback has been pushed up. The soft cover version will be available in November.*Read more: Aravind Adiga, Book Reviews, Delhi, Fiction, India, Man Booker Prize, News, The White Tiger
Jess is a GCB alum and now contributes to the travel blog as often as she can. Jess attended Middlebury College so she loves the Green Mountain State. She also studied abroad in Paris for a semester and has traveled through much of western Europe and the UK. Her most recent travels include trips to Portland, OR, Los Angeles, CA and Spain (Madrid and Andalusia). She lives in Brooklyn, NY.