Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga

The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga (2008, 318 pages)

Aravind Adiga (Madras, India, 1974) won the 2008 Man Booker Prize (awarded for a book written by a citizen of  the British Commonwealth, in English) for his debut novel, The White Tiger.    His family all emigrated to Australia.   He studied English Literature at Columbia University in New York City and at Oxford.   He began his career as an author as a journalist.   He was for three years employed by Time as a South Asia correspondent.   During this period he wrote The White Tiger.

The White Tiger is told from the point of view of a man from poverty stricken rural India who learns how to drive after he finds out how much wealthy families pay their drivers.    He goes door to door all over the wealthy neighborhoods of New Delhi knocking on door looking for work as a driver.   He lucks out and gets hired to be a driver for a family, a father, his son and his daughter in law, newly returned from America and from another caste than her husband, a taboo.

The novel is told through a series of letters to the prime minister of China about seven days in the life of the driver.    When he begins his job Balram is very grateful to have work and wants no more than to be a good servant to the family.  He very much looks up to them but "no man is a hero to his footman".    Soon he is driving the son and his wife to fancy malls and five star restaurants, places he is not even allowed to go inside.  He sees how corrupt Indian society seems to be and is more and more jealous of the wealth of a small minority of people in India.

I think this novel does a very good job of bringing to life for those without direct experience the great contrast between the worldly  Mansions, glittering malls, internet millionaires, American back office headquarters and the real world of the average Indian, as seen by the driver.   More and more he sees the poor as sheep and fools and the rich as venal and corrupt.    The novel also does a good job of bringing out the role of castes in Indian society today.   In the law caste discrimination maybe illegal but if the world depicted in The White Tiger is at all accurate, it is very much alive.

The White Tiger shows us how the rich and their servants live.

The lead character escapes his poverty. He is not a real sympathetic character but I admit I was in some perverse way happy for him.

I  am glad I read this book and will soon read his second novel and his collection of short stories.

If you have read the work of Adiga please share your thoughts with us.

Mel u


Astrid (Mrs.B) said...

My husband just read this and highly recommends it. He said it was fantastic and laugh out loud funny in parts. He also said it's an important book if you want to know about India today.

Rummanah Aasi said...

I read this last year for my Southeast Asian Reading Challenge. For the most part I enjoyed it and I think he did a great job in the dark, satiric voice. I kind of wished he did actually meet the ambassador instead of writing to him, but nonetheless I enjoyed the book.

@parridhlantern said...

Not read this although I recently got Last Man in the Tower by this writer on my Kindle. Hopefully will read it soon.

Lounima said...

I read this book three years ago and I enjoyed it : I think it is a very good book, very interesting.
I also read "Between the Assassinations" ("Les ombres de Kittur" in French) and I really enjoyed it too.

Mel u said...

Mrs B-I agree with your husband and a lot of the content could just as well be about the Philippines

Rummanah Aasi-thanks so much for your comment and visit

Parrish Lantern-I have the The Last Man on the Tower set to read soon, looking forward to it

Lounima-I also do have Between Assinations and hope to read that this year-thanks very much for your comment and visit