- Paperback: 304 pages
- Publisher: Free Press (October 14, 2008)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 9781416562603
- ISBN-13: 978-1416562603
- ASIN: 1416562605
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.9 x 8.4 inches
- Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 735 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #28,751 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The White Tiger: A Novel Paperback – October 14, 2008
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From Bookmarks Magazine
At the end of the novel, Balram predicts that "brown and yellow men [will be] at the top of the pyramid, and we'll rule the world." Certainly, The White Tiger is a parable of the "new India," a rapidly growing global powerhouse of middle-class call centers juxtaposed against crushing class conflict and corruption. In contrast with other Indian authors, Adiga does not sentimentalize such conflict; instead, like Richard Wright's Native Son, to which the novel was compared, he shows how savvy manipulators can rise above it. Most critics thought that Adiga brilliantly told this story with wit and pathos. A few, however, thought that he lectured in parts, caricatured extreme wealth and poverty, and missed an opportunity to say something meaningful about Balram's desperation instead of mocking upper-class life. Either way, Adiga is an author to watch.
Copyright 2008 Bookmarks Publishing LLC
"Compelling, angry, and darkly humorous, The White Tiger is an unexpected journey into a new India. Aravind Adiga is a talent to watch." -- Mohsin Hamid, author of The Reluctant Fundamentalist
"An exhilarating, side-splitting account of India today, as well as an eloquent howl at her many injustices. Adiga enters the literary scene resplendent in battle dress and ready to conquer. Let us bow to him." -- Gary Shteyngart, author of Absurdistan and The Russian Debutante's Handbook
"The perfect antidote to lyrical India." - Publishers Weekly
"This fast-moving novel, set in India, is being sold as a corrective to the glib, dreamy exoticism Western readers often get...If these are the hands that built India, their grandkids really are going to kick America's ass...BUY IT." - New York Magazine
"Darkly comic...Balram's appealingly sardonic voice and acute observations of the social order are both winning and unsettling." - The New Yorker
"Aravind Adiga's The White Tiger is one of the most powerful books I've read in decades. No hyperbole. This debut novel from an Indian journalist living in Mumbai hit me like a kick to the head -- the same effect Richard Wright's Native Son and Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man had. - USA Today
"Extraordinary and brilliant... At first, this novel seems like a straightforward pulled-up-by-your-bootstraps tale, albeit given a dazzling twist by the narrator's sharp and satirical eye for the realities of life for India's poor... But as the narrative draws the reader further in, and darkens, it becomes clear that Adiga is playing a bigger game... Adiga is a real writer - that is to say, someone who forges an original voice and vision. There is the voice of Halwai - witty, pithy, ultimately psychopathic... Remarkable... I will not spoil the effect of this remarkable novel by giving away ... what form his act of blood-stained entrepreneurship takes. Suffice to say that I was reminded of a book that is totally different in tone and style, Richard Wright's Native Son, a tale of the murderous career of a black kid from the Chicago ghetto that awakened 1940s America to the reality of the racial divide. Whether The White Tiger will do the equivalent for today's India - we shall see." - Adam Lively, The Sunday Times (London)
"Fierce and funny...A satire as sharp as it gets." - Michael Upchurch, The Seattle Times
"There is a new Muse stalking global narrative: brown, angry, hilarious, half-educated, rustic-urban, iconoclastic, paan-spitting, word-smithing--and in the case of Aravind Adiga she hails from a town called Laxmangarh. This is the authentic voice of the Third World, like you've never heard it before. Adiga is a global Gorky, a modern Kipling who grew up, and grew up mad. The future of the novel lies here." - John Burdett, author of Bangkok 8
"Adiga's training as a journalist lends the immediacy of breaking news to his writing, but it is his richly detailed storytelling that will captivate his audience...The White Tiger echoes masterpieces of resistance and oppression (both The Jungle and Native Son come to mind) [and] contains passages of startling beauty...A book that carefully balances fable and pure observation." - Lee Thomas, San Francisco Chronicle
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Aravind Adiga does an exceptional, and often funny, job of weaving many of India’s problems into his tale: large scale poverty, rampant corruption, class inequality, inadequate education. He creates a poor but smart, hard-working protagonist you want to like and root for, but who is also a smug, amoral murderer. Balram seems so pleasant that I kept reading to find out what drove this seemingly docile man to murder. The implications of Balram as a symbol of lower class Indians (polite and eager to please while seething underneath), are plenty uncomfortable. Adiga never gets preachy or long-winded. Much like Mohsin Hamid’s 2014 novel, “How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia,” “The White Tiger” entertains and disturbs all at once.
Adiga's debut novel gives us on narrator who is, by turns, charming, repugnant, profound, egotistical, insightful, and much more, but always, always fascinating. Balram, when he introduces himself, is a self-made entrepreneur and a murderer. His story is told through a letter he writes to the Chinese Premier who will be visiting his country. His voice is unique and can stand with some of the best know 'narrators' of classic literature. That his is such a different voice from a underrepresented culture from much of the canon literature is perhaps what makes it more real - in that his tale is authentic to who he is, and the world in which he exists, but that world is likely so unfamiliar to the audience that it confounds expectation and forces us to look at our own stance and belief on many moral, philosophical, and religious topics.
Anyone who knows me, knows I tend to be highly critical of 1st Person narration for a number of reasons. To create a unique, memorable voice that tells the story is complicated - perhaps more so than many authors understand, despite 1st POV being the instinctual way to tell a story. Besides the need for a unique voice, 1st POV can only tell one story always filtered through the narrator and too often authors try to short-cut or work around this and find ways to tell another story that we are to believe is not filtered through the consciousness telling that story. Here, however, that is never the case. We are left with no doubt that the world Balram inhabits is all his.
Balsam offers to give the Premier insight into his country through his own tale of being born in a lower caste in the 'darkness', through his sporadic and limited education to the moment he gets lucky and becomes a driver for a wealthy man. Through his bizarre, amusing, shocking, winding tale, we do see an India that is far different than the Bollywood films or many popular books and films. Balram's world is filled with corruption, yet there is a level of honor within that established system. There is a hardness and a harshness to many of the lives presented, yet there is an acceptance of them that is surprising. Balram's life is one of service, yet he finds a door to freedom, albeit one that while revealed early on, takes an entire book to build to. When we first hear him refer to himself as a murderer, we want to dislike him - yet it is difficult to do. Bit by bit we are drawn into his world and his worldview. In the end, he participates in the very system he needed to escape from, but he does so on his own terms and with his moral sense in tact, leaving him feeling he at least is living in that system in a better, more moral way. The ability to convince the audience of the same is perhaps the real power of Balram, and Adiga.
My one criticism of the novel is that were moments that felt repetitive, that we'd covered that ground well and needed to move on. Fortunately, they were few and far between, and overall I was absorbed into Balram's world.
For this book, I alternated between the kindle version and the audio - and I have to say that the narrator on the audio version was excellent, bringing life to a diverse cast of characters with slight shifts in tone, rhythm, pitch, and subtly that was masterful. Considering the story is 1st POV, that the audio narrator had to filter all the characters through the storyteller, it was extremely well done because it felt like Balram was imitating those around him, giving us yet another layer of story.
It's obvious why Adiga won The Mann Booker Prize. The writing is precise and crisp, and the structure is unique – writing to the Premier of China. I have read quite a number of books about India, and visited there a few years ago. It is every bit as he describes it. It is easy to get swept away into the old forts, palaces and ruins. But wider ruin that has been caused in India by corruption, out-of-control growth, and poverty, is endemic. William Dalrymple's book, The Age of Kali, written ten years prior to White Tiger, points to what has happened in cities such as Bangalore, which were known as park, tree and monument-filled cities. Those are all gone in the incessant, unplanned growth. And corruption supports it all.
Adiga posits that the caste system has collapsed into two castes: Big Bellies and near starvation. The picture of venality painted by Adiga supports Dalrymple's contentions.
It is an ugly, sad novel that I fear is largely true.