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The White Tiger: A Novel Paperback – October 14, 2008


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Best Books of 2008: Top 100 Editors' Pick. Read a Q&A, an excerpt, and discover more about Aravind Adiga's Man Booker Award-winning novel, The White Tiger, with the reader's guide. See more in our Best Books of 2008 Store.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Free Press (October 14, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1416562605
  • ISBN-13: 978-1416562603
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 5.5 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (534 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,205 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. First-time author Adiga has created a memorable tale of one taxi driver's hellish experience in modern India. Told with close attention to detail, whether it be the vivid portrait of India he paints or the transformation of Balram Halwai into a bloodthirsty murderer, Adiga writes like a seasoned professional. John Lee delivers an absolutely stunning performance, reading with a realistic and unforced East Indian dialect. He brings the story to life, reading with passion and respect for Adiga's prose. Lee currently sits at the top of the professional narrator's ladder; an actor so gifted both in his delivery and expansive palette of vocal abilities that he makes it sound easy. A Free Press hardcover (Reviews, Jan. 14). (May)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.

From The New Yorker

In this darkly comic début novel set in India, Balram, a chauffeur, murders his employer, justifying his crime as the act of a "social entrepreneur." In a series of letters to the Premier of China, in anticipation of the leader’s upcoming visit to Balram’s homeland, the chauffeur recounts his transformation from an honest, hardworking boy growing up in "the Darkness"—those areas of rural India where education and electricity are equally scarce, and where villagers banter about local elections "like eunuchs discussing the Kama Sutra"—to a determined killer. He places the blame for his rage squarely on the avarice of the Indian élite, among whom bribes are commonplace, and who perpetuate a system in which many are sacrificed to the whims of a few. Adiga’s message isn’t subtle or novel, but Balram’s appealingly sardonic voice and acute observations of the social order are both winning and unsettling.
Copyright ©2008Click here to subscribe to The New Yorker --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

More About the Author

Aravind Adiga was born in India in 1974 and attended Columbia and Oxford universities. A former correspondent for Time magazine, he has also been published in the Financial Times. He lives in Mumbai, India.

Customer Reviews

Balram's family, it is clear, will be poor forever.
M. Feldman
Read this book if you want to know about the real India that 75% of its people actually live in.
Dan in DC
The story twists and turns and keeps you in suspense until the end.
Debbie

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

421 of 445 people found the following review helpful By Kerry Walters VINE VOICE on May 27, 2008
Format: Hardcover
In his debut novel, Aravind Adiga takes on some hefty issues: the unhappy division of social classes into haves and have-nots, the cultural imperialism of the First World, the powder-kegged anger that seethes among the world's dispossessed, and entrapment. But his skills as an author protect the novel from becoming one of those horrible didactic stories in which characters and plot are little more than mouthpieces and vehicle for delivering Great Truths. The White Tiger entertains and gives pause for thought. This is a good combination.

The plot centers around Balram Halwai, a laborer born and raised in a small village utterly controlled by crooked and feudally powerful landlords. The village is located in 'the Darkness,' a particularly backward region of India. Balram is eventually taken to Delhi as a driver for one of the landlord's westernized sons, Ashok. It's in Delhi that Balram comes to the realization that there's a new caste system at work in both India and the world, and it has only two groups: those who are eaten, and those who eat, prey and predators. Balram decides he wants to be an eater, someone with a big belly, and the novel tracks the way in which this ambition plays out.

A key metaphor in the novel is the rooster coop. Balram recognizes that those who are eaten are trapped inside a small and closed cage--the rooster coop--that limits their opportunities. Even worse, they begin to internalize the limitations and indignities of the coop, so that after awhile they're unable to imagine they deserve any other world than the cramped one in which they exist. Balram's dream is to break free of his coop, to shed his feathers and become what for him is a symbol of individualism, power, and freedom: a white tiger.
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186 of 196 people found the following review helpful By M. Feldman VINE VOICE on October 12, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
What's astonishing about "The White Tiger" isn't Adiga's depiction of the social and economic inequalities of contemporary India. Other writers--Rohinton Mistry in " A Fine Balance," Kiran Desai in "The Inheritance of Loss," among others--have written very good novels about this. What is astonishing is the economy with which he does it. Novels about societal inequities are often lengthy; think of a novel by Dickens or Stowe or Dreiser or Steinbeck, in which the accumulating weight of the details of suffering creates a powerful impression. Adiga creates two disparate worlds, Balram's tiny native village in the Darkness and the sliver of Delhi he inhabits in his life as a driver for the urbanized son of the village landlord. The first is a place of absolute hopelessness presided over by allegorical figures of corrupt wealth: the four landlords known as The Stork, The Buffalo, The Wild Boar, and The Raven. From afar (and occasionally up close) The Great Socialist is re-elected again and again through promises of change (always unkept) and corrupt electioneering. Balram's family, it is clear, will be poor forever.

The city, for Balram, consists of the glittery American-style mall (which he can't enter); the air-conditioned Honda that he drives; and the red bag stuffed with cash for politicians with power over The Stork's businesses. These two settings (and the human animals that inhabit them) set out a chasm that is utterly unbridgeable. Thus, when Balram murders his master (a fact established at the very beginning of the novel), it seems less a tragedy than the outcome of impeccable logic. I kept thinking of Dreiser's Sister Carrie, another small town character who migrates to the city.
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328 of 374 people found the following review helpful By Vivek Sharma VINE VOICE on December 23, 2008
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
White Tiger by Aravind Adiga has already won the Man Booker Prize, and it is being hailed universally by the critics for its virtues in presenting a narrative quite different from the Bollywood capers and the modern Indian English fiction. In the wake of some well-deserved praise, my biased review might appear like an afterthought, examining a foregone conclusion. My bias rises from my familiarity with characters like Balram Halwai, and from my reverence for uncelebrated works of Indian fiction that present the alternative reality of present day India. Reading the novel left me quite dissatisfied, and this is an exposition of the reason why.

The basic storyline of the novel can be summarized as follows. Balram Halwai grows up in a poor and remote village and ends up working as the driver for America returned Ashok. Incidentally Ashok is from the family of landlords who run or ruin the life of Balram's fellow villagers. Even though Ashok treats the Balram quite well compared to how servants and drivers are treated by other people, Balram siezes an opportunity to murder his master and run-off with money to become a rich businessmen. The story of Balram's journey from a village to city, the murder and his transformation into a entrepreneur is retold in form of letters that Balram writes in a course of seven nights. The letters are addressed to Chinese Premier and are laced with a dark wit and provocative confessions.

The novel succeeds in chartering into a territory unfamiliar and hence exotic for Western audiences, for Adiga chooses a character from lower classes and makes him into a success story.
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