Viewport width =
August 14, 2016 | by  | in Books |
Share on FacebookShare on Google+Pin on PinterestTweet about this on Twitter

The White Tiger

★★★

Author: Aravind Adiga

Publisher: Free Press

Man Booker Prize 2008

 

My poor stomach was made to twist again and again as I read this distasteful, vulgar, Man Booker Prize-winning novel. There’s nothing quite like this description of poverty: not in terms of humble, hard-working, and cheerful peasants, or having a single bar of chocolate for your birthday, but rather the hot, putrid stench of sweat, filth, and excrement stirred eagerly in a rusty pot with cheap alcohol and tobacco spit.

There’s poverty in sweet old children’s books and then there’s poverty in the slums of Northern India, and the central figure of this story—hardly the protagonist, but still in the role of narrator—is angry as hell. Balram Halwai, from the caste of sweet-makers, pulled out of school, and living in the wake of the death of both his parents, is buoyed only by his mad hope that one day he will become like his idol, Vijay—the lowly bus conductor turned politician, who climbed the ladder of success to such dizzying heights that he actually got to wear a uniform. Balram consequently becomes a personal chauffeur to a wealthy businessman, but, alas, his education in the ways of the rich serves to fuel his class fury.

His boss, his beloved Mr Ashok, must be sacrificed in the name of progress, of a better life, of “entrepreneurship.” This is not a ‘spoiler-alert’ moment—we know this from the beginning. But the catch is not in the act of murder itself. It’s in Balram’s scathing account of the realities of poor India—the “darkness.”

Money is both god and devil in his world. It is his only hope for salvation, and it is the burden bending his back in slavery. That’s why he’s never the hero of the story. He is never truly free to make right decisions, since he’s placed his faith in the power of wealth. Wealth says to him, do whatever it takes.

Read this book if you wonder what it might be like to grow up in a poor Indian village, or if you honour the choices of the Man Booker Prize judges, or if you want to renew your appreciation for the comparatively clean streets of Wellington.

Share on FacebookShare on Google+Pin on PinterestTweet about this on Twitter

About the Author ()

Add Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Recent posts

  1. Larger Than Life — Chris Rex Martin & Tainui Tukiwaho
  2. Manaia — Atamira Dance Company
  3. Philosoraptor
  4. The Basement Tapes
  5. Three Days in the Country
  6. Wonder Woman (2017)
  7. The 2017 Budget — what it means for students
  8. Interview with Gareth Morgan
  9. The Bubble
  10. The battle you never asked for: Chasing Liberty vs. First Daughter

Editor's Pick

Go Watch TV: Rick and Morty and Secular Humanism

: - SPONSORED - Writers and critics have praised Rick and Morty for its sharp character writing and absurdist take on sci-fi tropes, and I count myself in that number. But there is a mounting backlash against it that I can’t help but pick a bone with. On one of the many, many pop