The White Tiger

white-tigerAravind Adiga’s novel won the Man Booker Prize last year. I can’t say whether or not it was a worthy winner, as I haven’t read the entire shortlist, but I shan’t be complaining. This is a magnificent novel, all the more so because it is Adiga’s debut novel. It tells the story, through his own words, of Balram Halwai, a rich Indian entrepreneur, who on the occasion of a visit to Bangalore by His Excellency Wen Jiaboa of the People’s Republic of China, decides to narrate his life story so that the distinguished visitor can learn about the country he is about to visit. Balram’s story begins in poverty and it appears that this might be a rags-to-riches story. Instead Balram declares himself a murderer and a fugitive and his story tells not  of a romanticised India, but of an India that is corrupt, violent, riven by the caste system and unable to shake off his colonial past. It is in equal measure narrowing and hilarious and is a biting satire not only on modern India, but on global capitalism. The great irony is that Balram, for all his deception and his murderous, violent and remorseless past, emerges as an insightful critic and commentator, and as the most human of all the characters in the book. This is a hugely impressive achievement and an epic of a novel in its reach. I look forward to his next book that is due to be published later this summer.

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3 Comments

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3 responses to “The White Tiger

  1. anthonyrosie

    Agree with you that ‘White Tiger’ is an impressive novel. It never gives up and the pace is terrific. I liked the deliberate playing off of India and China. Yet somehow it just left me thinking there should be more.
    Have not read any of the others on the Booker short list and don’t really think those lists pick out the ‘best’ etc. But for a good read that makes you think this book is good.

  2. kaefka

    I agree, there should definitely be more. Couldn’t he have investigated further the indirect killing his family? Or was it intentional to give them scant treatment to illustrate the moral price of achieving wealth in India?

    Very good book, but could be better.

    • profmike

      Thanks for the comment. I can see what you mean. I suppose I had assumed that the somewhat passing reference to the killing of his family is a deliberate device for reasons that you already say. It underlines the way in which he needs to ‘dehumanise’ himself in order to operate successfully, or even survive himself. The way that the family is dealt with in the book is itself a comment upon Indian society. You’re right, I think, in that it is an episode that makes the reader cry out for more detail, but I think that may be the point.

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