Archive for November, 2021

The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga Reviewed: Winner of the Man Booker Prize for Literature

Thursday, November 11th, 2021

From an Indian born, Australian raised and British educated journalist comes a stunning first novel of poverty, corruption, desperation and murder.

The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga is published by Free PressOctober 2008, (ISBN 978-1416562603 , 304pp), and is the winner of the 2008 Man Booker Prize for Literature, albeit squeezing past Sebastian Berry’s The Secret Scripture by a whisker

Set in contemporary India, The White Tiger tells the story of Munny (‘Boy’), aka Balram Halwai, aka The White Tiger, one-time tea-boy, latterly driver to a rich family, and finally a murderer reborn as one of India’s new breed of entrepreneurs.

India’s Silicon Valley

The book takes the form seven e-mails, written over consecutive nights by the narrator to the premier of China; “The white people are on the way out,” Balram says (p305). “In twenty years’ time it will be just us yellow men and brown men at the top of the pyramid, and we’ll rule the whole world.” Balram should know. He’s set his business up in Bangalore, India’s Silicon Valley, where India acts as a global metaphor for the driver, its call centers and IT departments taking care of America and Europe’s needs — at a price.

The novel is set in a world of crushing poverty and corruption, where the rich can literally buy someone to take the blame for their murders. When his employer takes the wheel of the car and believes that he’s hit a pedestrian, Balram –as the driver–signs a confession to the effect that it is his fault. He will literally go to prison if necessary to keep his employer’s name clean. Such inmates are even proud of their status. By contrast, should he steal from his employer and flee, Balram’s family will be tortured, then murdered en masse.

Anyway, if you’re tired of reading just pay attention to free solitaire games to play offline.

The White Tiger

The Asian white tiger is the rarest of animals, and deeply symbolic to Indians as a creature born only once in a generation. Balram takes the white tiger as his pseudonym when writing to the Chinese premier, as that rarest of creatures, the poor Indian who has broken free of his circumstances, and Balram’s prosperity is a metaphor for the Asian Tiger economies of earlier in this decade.

At first the tone of the novel is ironic, mocking, but as it progresses, so the narrator’s rage at the duplicity and hypocrisy of Indian society grows until it When his faithful –if less than enthusiastic– service is repaid by treachery, Balram rebels, kills his patron and flees, even though he knows that he is signing his entire family’s death warrant.

Yet there is a sort of redemption at the end of the book; when one of Balram’s own drivers kills a boy, the new breed of businessmen takes care of his own responsibilities, just as he tries to take better care of his workforce – for Balram has learned from his own experience.

Aravind Adiga

Aravind Adiga was born in India in 1974, but raised in Australia, before studying at Oxford and Columbia Universities, so as an outsider is perfectly placed to write such a commentary on what will become one of the twenty-first century’s superpowers. The White Tiger is his first novel, and is a worthy winner of The Booker Prize.