peteg's blog

Aravind Adiga: The White Tiger.

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Kindle. On Kate's recommendation, and it seems, Andrew T's. For mine the Booker prize has been the kiss of death for any book, with the sole exception of Rushdie's Midnight's Children. This won it in 2008. Adiga pays homage to Rushdie by adopting his timeworn episodic first-person narration with more digression than central thread. (It is also the same structure used by Beatty.) We get a series of daily diary entries, expressed as letters to Wen Jiabao, erstwhile Premier of the PRC, written from tech hotspot Bangalore and not some pickle factory on the edge of Bombay. The light structure and plot are merely vehicles for exploring the myriad issues plaguing modern India, many of which can be seen from the drawing rooms of Delhi, where this book loiters for some time, and some not. Gavaskar was in the cricket team for some of the story, and Azharuddin, the captain at the time, is a Muslim.

Adiga is out to paint an unsentimental, occasionally hilarious, and provocative portrait of his mother country, aimed squarely at Westerners; there's no language masala here. Placing kill-the-rich-and-steal-their-stuff at the centre of it strikes me as a failure of imagination, which may have been his point. Drawing an equivalence between rooster coops and the mechanism for indenturing servants made little sense to me; the narrator's search for and achievement of lebensraum had more to do with his family being hostages to his misfortune than his relation to his fellow indentured servant. That his granny was a rapacious schemer made it so much easier to do what it took to get filthy rich in rising Asia, but I far prefer Mohsin Hamid's take on that. The election rigging was depressing.