Monday, May 25, 2009


The White Tiger, Aravind Adiga, Simon & Schuster Inc, 2008, 276 pp

The winner of the 2008 Man Booker prize is a satire on modern India. Balram Halwai originated in a small village deep in what is called The Darkness, where poor and primitive Indians live without proper food or sanitation, virtually no education and no hope except for various superstitions and illegal schemes. He manages to learn to drive cars and escapes to the city as a driver for a rich man.

Eventually he murders his employer and makes off with a large sum of money, meant to be a bribery payment to some politician, then starts his own company: a fleet of cars with drivers. Balram tells his story in a series of late night letters to the Premier of China, a country that India wishes to emulate, if you believe Balram. The satire is mostly well done, though it annoyed me at times, possibly because I did not get all the jokes. With this device, Adiga keeps the story from being too heartrending. I would call this the present day Indian version of existentialism.

Pretty much a page turner but somehow not as good as that 800 page tome I read a year or so ago, also set in modern day India: Sacred Games, by Vikram Chandra.

This book is currently in stock at Once Upon A Time bookstore.

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