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The White Tiger: A Novel Paperback – October 14, 2008
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. A brutal view of India's class struggles is cunningly presented in Adiga's debut about a racist, homicidal chauffer. Balram Halwai is from the Darkness, born where India's downtrodden and unlucky are destined to rot. Balram manages to escape his village and move to Delhi after being hired as a driver for a rich landlord. Telling his story in retrospect, the novel is a piecemeal correspondence from Balram to the premier of China, who is expected to visit India and whom Balram believes could learn a lesson or two about India's entrepreneurial underbelly. Adiga's existential and crude prose animates the battle between India's wealthy and poor as Balram suffers degrading treatment at the hands of his employers (or, more appropriately, masters). His personal fortunes and luck improve dramatically after he kills his boss and decamps for Bangalore. Balram is a clever and resourceful narrator with a witty and sarcastic edge that endears him to readers, even as he rails about corruption, allows himself to be defiled by his bosses, spews coarse invective and eventually profits from moral ambiguity and outright criminality. It's the perfect antidote to lyrical India. (Apr.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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 leaders upcoming visit to Balrams 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. Adigas message isnt subtle or novel, but Balrams appealingly sardonic voice and acute observations of the social order are both winning and unsettling.
Top customer reviews
This is India, the modern India, the very Human India, the very poor India, yet, the India with pride and beautiful people and long standing Culture and traditions.
The novel is narrated by Balram Halwai, "The White Tiger" who over seven nights shares his life story in the form of a letter to a Chinese official. In Balram the author has created an anti-hero who, with both charisma and charm, shares a very dark story about corruption, death and escape from the most extreme poverty into the wealth of successful entrepreneurship. The author uses the metaphors of light and dark to help us understand his traversal of a side of India seldom seen in most tales of that country. The theme of naming/identity also plays an important role as Balram takes on different names as he grows and changes from the simple munna to his eventual magisterial identity as "The White Tiger". The author has created a sort of modern journey, much as Ellison did where the hero overcomes his beginnings, and the corruption he finds everywhere, to create a new life for himself. It is, however, a new life that is strangely cut off from society so he remains an outsider to the end. The brilliant conception of the author impressed me as he presented believable characters, the realistic details about the best and worst of Indian society, and a clear depiction of the nature of the hero at the center of the story. There is black humor that is sometimes excruciatingly funny alongside true regret, and underlying it all hints of a fear (of the past) that cannot be completely eradicated. The author's voice is original and challenging as he takes you on a journey that, while seemingly straightforward, has many layers of meaning and leaves you with questions to ponder. Genuinely deserving of the Man Booker Prize of 2008, The White Tiger is both an engaging enjoyable read and a thought-provoking meditation on life.
Born in a low caste in a poor village (the darkness), Balram becomes an entrepreneur in a big city (the light). And what if has to resort to murder in order to achieve it?
Sometimes, it seems it's the only way, at least that is how Adiga tells us the story of an ordinary man who finally decides to break free of traditions, history and family in order to live the life he has always dreamed.
At times humorous and at many other dark, this is an amazing book. Highly recommended!