‘the white tiger’ by aravind adiga
What an insanely busy week it has been! After a wonderful long weekend at the cottage, I started my new publicity internship with Key Porter Books, which has been incredibly exciting! I love learning about book publicity, and I’ve only just begun. Highlight of the week: meeting Cory Doctorow, famous for being an intellectual-rights crusader, helping to launch and edit BoingBoing (quickly becoming my favourite site), and for his YA books Little Brother and For the Win. He was a really cool guy! Not that I expected otherwise. He dropped by KP to do some interviews and sign a million books. His YA titles are the first YA books I’ve been interested in reading since… well, ever.
But what have I been reading? Well, I took a couple days to pick up and finish reading The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga, which has been on my shelf since it won the Man Booker Prize in 2008. It was a very enjoyable read, but it’s much more complex than you might think when you pick it up, at a slight 276 pages and a featuring a light and comical narrative tone. Written in the form of letters to the Premier of China, the main character, Balram Halwai, recaps his story of success, to show the Premier what an excellent entrepreneur he is. It’s true that Balram grew up low in India’s caste system, and by his own incentive was able to change his life from being too poor to afford to finish school to running his own successful business… but the means through which he achieves that goal have a pretty dark and serious underpinning. Throughout the whole story, Adiga (through Balram’s voice) is making commentary on several issues in India, most prominently criticizing the traditional caste system and the rise of India to become a prominent player in the global economy. It was a quick read, and Adiga’s writing isn’t half bad. My favourite passage: “My eyes were burning from squinting at books. I should have been heading back toward Delhi Gate to catch a bus. There was a foul taste of book in my mouth–as if I had inhaled so much particulated old paper from the air. Strange thoughts brew in your heart when you spend too much time with old books” (218).
(On a fairly unrelated note that I feel compelled to share, when I was Google-image-searching for the cover image of my copy, I found this.)
Indian novels (meaning novels by Indian authors and/or set in India and dealing with Indian culture) are actually my favourite type of story, so I do have pretty high standards for such a book. As such, I’d rate this one as alright. It was no Toss of a Lemon by Padma Viswanathan, or anything by Salman Rushdie, but it was a good, enjoyable, quick read.
So what am I reading now? I’ve been dabbling with Guns, Germs and Steel by Jared Diamond and Difficult Loves by Italo Calvino… but recently reading this very touching excerpt from an upcoming Roald Dahl memoir makes me want to pick up some of his short stories soon, and to pick up the memoir due out in September as well.
Adiga, Aravind. The White Tiger. New York: Free Press, 2008.