“ Author: Aravind Adiga / Format: Paperback / Date of publication: 01 March 2012 / Genre: Modern & Contemporary Fiction / Publisher: Atlantic Books / Title: The White Tiger / ISBN 13: 9781848878082 / ISBN 10: 1848878082 / Alternative EAN: 9781843547204 „
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White Tiger by Aravind Adiga
I did actually buy this book new and did not as I often do pick it up through bookcrossing. I do love books about India they seem to have a certain atmosphere that only come from books based in that country. My version is published by Atlantic books for £7.99 but I see once again it is available though Amazon used for 1p plus P&P.
The ISBN is 987 1 84354 722 8
This book won the Man Booker prize in 2008 and usually prize winning books do not attract me as often they are a bit too literarily worthy for my taste but I thought that as it was set in India and had a nice cover ( how shallow am I? ) I would give it a try.
Reviews from more literary and clever people than I am:
Adam Lively from 'The Times':
"A Masterpiece. An extraordinarily brilliant first novel...As the narrative draws the reader further in, and darkens, it become clear that Adiga is playing a bigger game..... "
Neel Mkherjee from the Sunday Telegraph:
" Blazingly savage and brilliant .... What Adiga lifts the lid on is also inexorably true: not a single detail in this novel rings false or feels confected. The White Tiger is an excoriating piece of work (that) also manages to be suffused with mordant wit, modulating to clear eyed pathos."
David Martin from The Independent on Sunday:
" Dazzling... Adiga sets out to show us a part of (India) that we hear about infrequently: Its underbelly....Welcome.. to an India where Microsoft call centre workers tread the same pavement as beggars who burn street trash for warmth.. It's a thrilling ride..."
The tagline for the novel is
"Meet Balram Halwai, the White Tiger: Servant, Philosopher, Entrepreneur, murderer...."
The White Tiger is the story of Balram Halwai's rise by dubious means from low caste class poverty to successful business man in Bangalore. The story is told by the main character Balram Halwai via a series of just seven letters written to Wen Jiabao, the Chinese Premier who is about to visit Bangalore written on balram's computer at home.
Throughout the novel the poor parts of India are referred to as 'the Darkness ' and this is a world filled with hunger, suffering servitude and life-long poverty. Modern Delhi is referred to as the 'Light'. This is painted as a world where people grow fat, have air-conditioned cars, mobile phones and guarded apartments. But the 'Light' is not all perfect as the unpleasant aspects of life exist there in the shape of - bribery, corruption and murder.
I have read reviews talking about the dark humour in this novel but I am afraid I didn't find this amusing at all. I found the main character quite unlikeable as he doesn't seem to have an emotional attachment to anyone and I didn't warm to him in the least. I find if I don't warm to the main character then I find it difficult to relate to the book.
I found the whole book to be an uncomfortable read and not nearly as engaging a book as 'A Fine Balance' by Rohinton Mistry which also a book challenging the poverty and politic in India. I found that there were far more emotional, evocative and humorous times in that book than in 'White Tiger' and I feel I must be missing something as this book won literary prizes and applauds from critics worldwide but sorry I can't see what they are reading.
The book is easy to read as the text is written simply and the story follows logically through the book so it is not that which makes it uncomfortable but the fact that the main character is so coldly calculating and prepared to commit the most awful crimes just to get ahead financially. I found ithard to connect with this novel as Balram was someone who doesn't have any friends or loved ones.
I might be naive but I don't believe that nearly everyone in India, rich or poor, is so lacking in humanity and compassion and driven purely by greed and social status.
Once again I refer back to 'Family Matters' by Rohinton Mistry where we meet and 'live' with some of the poorest people in India and yet they do show compassion and care for each other despite having almost nothing themselves. The characters were far from perfect but they seemed to be human and have the normal human qualities. In 'White Tiger' I felt that Balram would have happily slit his own mother's throat if it meant he would gain from this and I find that a difficult idea to grasp.
I know the author is writing a politically motivated book as he is obviously angry with the system that allows some people to be so rich while others are eking out a living amongst the rubbish and sewage.
"And our nation, though it has no drinking water, electricity, sewage system, public transportation, sense of hygiene, discipline, courtesy, or punctuality, does have entrepreneurs."
I can sympathise with that view and there have been a number of excellent books showing this such as Rohinton Mistry's one I have quoted, City of Joy which was made into a film with Patrick Swayze to name just two. I do believe that the reader has to empathise with the lead character otherwise some of the effect is lost.
Anti heroes can work in literature but they must have some redeeming features. The series 'Dexter' springs to mind here where the audience are rooting for him not to be caught and yet he is a serial killer but he is human and believes he is doing right, he only kills really bad people who have escaped justice. He is still wrong and a killer yet we are drawn to him because he has a caring side. Balram is just plain unlikeable and to me there is nothing redeeming about him at all.
Another reason I found the book less than satisfying was that right from the start of the book we know a lot of the plot. We are told right from the start that Balram murders someone, and that he goes on to become a successful business man. Usually if big plot facts like this are given at the start the rest of the story has something extra to add, you expect there to be some kind of twist that will change everything. There is no twist and the only thing that comes to light is that the poor bloke he murders is quite a decent sort of bloke for a rich guy. I actually felt sorry for the guy as he was not evil and certainly was not deliberately cruel, a bit thoughtless and uncaring maybe but certainly not awful.
There were no surprises at all so the story was already known and I didn't warm to the main character. In fact all the characters seem to be rather stereotypical and I actually found it hard to care what happened to any of them.
I found the book easy to read but didn't really like the way it was told through letters to the Chinese premier. It is highly unlikely that an Indian businessman would be writing such letters and certainly not likely that he would be confessing to a crime that should get him locked away.
I would have felt more sympathy for Balram if once he had become an entrepreneur he had actually done something to help the plight of people in poverty rather than merely using them to further improve his situation financially.
I felt very depressed after reading this book and even though I know that the author wanted to highlight the injustices of Indian society in order that it may increase awareness and help improve things.
Surely a story showing that committing crime pays is not the way forward. If there is no way out except by treading on those around you then that is a very bleak future for India. I know there is a lot of corruption in the country but surely this needs to be changed from the top and not by people at the bottom committing evil deeds and becoming just as callous and uncaring themselves. Balram became a very powerful man because he observed, and worked out how society operated for the rich. Thus he had no qualms about committing murder, as that gave him access to the money which lay the foundation of his wealth and power. Is this the message we are to take from this book? If you can't beat them then join them any way you can.
I realise that there is not a magic wand that can be waved to solve centuries of corruption but maybe the author could point the way forward to a possible solution. A small attempt was made when Ashok talks of trying to improve the situation and how corrupt the society is that they live in but it seems that huge is too small a person to do anything to improve things.
I don't always read 'happily ever after books' but this was too depressing for me. The story was very simple, the writing easy to read and it was an interesting way of telling the story through letters but this is not a book I would read again.
I am glad I read the book as it is novel of our time but I will not be reading it again and I didn't enjoy the book one bit. It was depressing and the only message that comes from the book for me is that you have to be cold, callous and calculating and care for no-one in order to succeed and I am enough of an optimist to hope that there are other solutions to the poverty and corruption other than joining in the corruption yourself.
Thanks for reading. This review may be posted on other sites under my same user name.
I am not a fan of reviews that simply narrate the story of the book to you - you may as well read the book rather than the review. What I will tell you is whether or not I enjoyed this read and I can tell you that this book is an excellent 'cant put it down' romper of a novel.
It is written from the point of view of an Indian businessman who is writing to the chinese prime minister on the entraupnerian nature of the Indian civillain. This conversational nature can become tedious towards the end of the book but luckily it only features at the beginning of each chapter.
This book gives you a real insight into the true workings of India including the levels of the corruption that seem deeply ingrained in all levels of industry. You will find yourself laughing outloud at things that you really shouldnt been laughing at, and truly shocked at the levels to which a person may stoop to make it to the top.
The White Tiger is the winner of the Man Booker Prize in 2008. Not bad for a debut novel from the writer Aravind Adiga. Aravind is India and the main topic of this book is modern life in India. He does it in quite an ironic, funny way, I was laughing at bits that probably did not mean to be that funny but that were so true in their description f how we think of India and what we know. This book also taught me a lot about India and the ancient traditions and the ways of life that I was not aware of. To put it a better way in an article I read, "The overall main theme of the novel is the contrast between India's rise as a modern global economy and the working class people who live in crushing rural poverty. Other themes touched on include corruption endemic to Indian society and politics, familial loyalty versus independence, religious tensions between Hindus and Muslims, the experience of returning to India after living in America, globalization, and the tensions between India and China as superpower countries in Asia."
So, as you can see there is a lot going on in this novel but I found it a very easy, page turning read and because it's in the form of a funny story you wanted to keep reading more to find out what happens to the main characters. The story is told to us by Balram Halwai. He is the White Tiger and it explains in the book how he got that title. Balram finds out that the Premier of the State Council of the People's Republic of China, Wen Jiabao, is about to visit India, so the book is a series of letters that he writes to Wn Jiabao to tell him about the real India. He does this by explaining his life and taking him through it step by step. Early on Balram tells him that he is a murderer but we do not find out why at the beginning of the book, we have to read the story to understand, why, how and when.
Balram has an interesting life, he has grown up in the slums of Laxmangarh, which is a fictional village, but very like many of the slum villages in India, something Balram calls, "The Darkness." Balram does well for himself though and eventually becomes a chauffeur in New Delhi, the "Light" He drives for a wealthy family and decided he wants to be part of the wealthy life too. This is when he finds himself in trouble.
The book is published by Atlantic Books and has an ISBN number of 1-416-56259-1.
Balram Halwai is born a boy with no name; just known as Munna (Boy) for the first years of his life, he lives in a tiny village in India in one house with the numerous members of his extended family. Everyday life consists of keeping the water buffalo alive in a desperate attempt to keep the milk flowing so that it can be sold to get money for food. As a caste of sweet-makers, the family is eligible for some higher-caste employment, and Balram's father is proud to be a rickshaw-puller, even though the work is hard and eventually kills him.
Given the nickname White Tiger by a school inspector, who uses the image of the 'rarest of creatures' to highlight the unusual intelligence and integrity that he finds in the boy, Balram is determined to use this intelligence to escape from the grinding poverty that has overwhelmed the rest of his family. As he fights to pull himself out of his heritage ('the Darkness' that is rural India), he is forced into his first job, breaking coals in the local teashop - but this is better than the backbreaking work endured by the rest of his family as the local overlords pay them a pittance for working the barren fields.
Soon Balram sees a way of escape, learns to drive and charms his way into a job as a chauffeur with the rich landlords of the village. Moving out of the hardship of the countryside, he finds himself working as a driver in Delhi (in 'the Light' of the Indian economic revolution) for Mr Ashok and his wife, Pinky Madam. As he joins the large circle of city servants, he is shocked by the deprivation and corruption that he witnesses, and as he starts to become more involved in the emotional, business and political life of his employer, he fights to maintain the integrity that earned him his nickname as a child. He is soon to discover if the rapport and ostensible affinity that he shares with Ashok is real, after a shocking death pushes their relationship to a new level. After a bitter betrayal, Balram comes to realise that success and wealth is within his grasp, but only after he has betrayed his own principles and sunk to depths that he would not have imagined.
At first sight 'White Tiger' is a typical rags to riches story of an honest boy, born into poverty and escaping through his natural intelligence and charm, yet this novel is far more than a simple Cinderella story, it is a critique of the inequalities of caste, wealth and religion found in India; it is a triumphant expose of the emergence of the economic powerhouse that is the new India; it is a story of entrepreneurship and corruption.
Although this story appears grim and full of despair, there is an engaging humour in the writing that lightens the whole narrative and helps it to rise above despondency. Balram himeslf is a witty and resilient hero, and his observations on the life that he leads, and the people he encounters give the story a buoyancy. The words that have been used to describe this book include 'savage', 'brutal' 'the underbelly of society', the reality of modern India - and the skill with which Adiga portrays shocking scenes of destitution, cruelty and deformation, living alongside, but never touching the opulent consumerism of the new Indian middle classes is incredibly clever. The exploitation of the lower cast people who are trapped in the cycle of poverty will shock the reader, but at the same time the resilience of Balram provides hope for the future.
When Aravind Adiga won the Booker Prize, there was an outcry from India about the brutal realism of the book; how could this middle class educated man speak with authority about the abject poverty of the Indian population? Alongside these worries was anxiety about what the message of corruption and violence would do to the image of India. Adiga has been interviewed many times about the motivation for writing his novel. He collated his information whilst travelling through India as a journalist, writing articles for Time Magazine and chatting to rickshaw pullers outside stations as he worked. To defend himself, he cites Dickens and Balzac; authors who are universally admired for their writings about the underclass, even though they themselves came from a far more privileged background.
Whatever the political rumblings behind the book, 'White Tiger' makes riveting reading. Although the characters come across as fairly cold and unsympathetic, they are very well developed and the reader quickly becomes completely immersed in the culture and life of India. Startling and shocking images such as the line of men in the slums, squatting in a row to defecate as small children play in a river of sewage behind them, bring home the differences in culture in brutal way. This novel goes one step further than 'Slumdog Millionaire' - the cruelty of a society that can accept the careless killing of a small child on the road, and that embodies the 'every man for himself' culture of selfishness, is rarely portrayed in fiction. There is nothing glorious or over-sentimentalised in these pages, just an unrelenting realism that Adigo claims is part of everyday Indian life.
White Tiger won the Man Booker Prize in 2008.
It was published by Atlantic Books in 2008, 321 pages, ISBN 978184547228
The book won the Booker Prize for 2008.
The book begins with the announcement of a visit by the Chinese leader Jiabao to India where he will be shown the virtues of the Indian economy and lifestyle. This is met with scorn by the narrator, Balram Halwai, the son of a rickshaw puller from Laxmangarh a village in the provinces. The province is referred to as the darkness and the city as the light.
To show the true nature of Indian society Balram tells his life story in the form of correspondence to the Chinese premier over several nights.
He starts with his early life living with family, earning the nickname The White Tiger, leaving school early to find employment and support the extended family, and his journey through various jobs, tea room sweeper upper to chauffeur and entrepreneur.
Initially I liked the book, the humour was biting and I was expecting a comic tale of his adventures. But the story quickly changed as the narrative tells of his life as a down-trodden lower class citizen and his gradual change in circumstances. The explosion in the Indian economy with out-sourced call centres and new mega rich citizens is offset against the poor and their circumstances. Balram struggles against being poor, a second class citizen from a low caste and the book shows the class divide prevalent the world over. He wishes to have a better life and the book tells the story of how, to some measure, he achieves his goal. In this sense the book is a success, because you do understand his frustrations and why he aspires to success.
I like books that transport you through the writing and story to different cultures and places. The book manages to achieve this but there are no real surprises as the squalor of the lower classes is pretty much as expected. The lead character does manage to rise to a position of some status but it is the journey to this position that is the centrepiece of the story, and for me I wasn't quite gripped enough. Sure I wanted to find out the ending (I hate not finishing a book), and although it is well written I felt unfulfilled by the end.
A disappointed 7/10.
I was recommended this book by a colleague who thought I would like this story and lent me her copy. The White Tiger written by Aravind Adiga is a novel set in India and was the 2008 winner of the prestigious Man Booker prize.
The main character goes under several names throughout the book but for the most is Balram Halwai. The book starts as an open letter to a visiting Chinese Prime Minister who is interested in the Indian and in particular Bangalore entrepreneurial skills. Balram who has fine tuned his entrepreneurial skills over the years feels he is a good position to shed light on this and writes over the period of several days his story and how he came to where he is in present day.
Balram starts out life in a lowly caste in a village in what they called the Darkness, he is the son of a rickshaw puller and is motherless. At school he is smarter than the average boy and is called a white tiger by the inspector, only to be pulled out of school by his family and put into employment as teashop worker. Balram has higher aspirations and begs his family to let him learn to drive so he can become a chauffeur for some well to do family. Eventually after wearing them and a potential driving instructor down he gets his dream and learns to drive, this leads him to find employment with the village landlord and his family and opens up a whole new world to him. He soon leaves his village behind with his new master and works in the heart of Delhi.
You are entertained by Balram and his stories including the more seedy dark underbelly of India and his masters, the book is a real page turner as Balram's story unfolds before you and you watch him grow from his humble beginnings. You even find out that he is a murderer quite early on but don't get the full story until much later in the book, it just keeps you hanging, teasing you with snippets of the story.
My colleague was right I did enjoy the book and read it very quickly, it was an easy book to pick up and read a few pages at a time and the story which was really engaging and not always a comfortable read at times but even so it caught my imagination. I suspect that the Booker prize tag will also aid the number of people picking this book up. It is well worth a read and would be a perfect holiday read for anyone.
The recommended retail price for this book is £7.99 but you can purchase it on Amazon for the bargain price of £3.99.
The White Tiger - Aravind Adiga
Description: Author: Aravind Adiga / Genre: Fiction.
The White Tiger is published by Atlantic Books, price £7.99 in paperback.
This story is told by Balram Halwai, who classes himself as an euntrepenuer. He tells us his story which begins when he is a small boy, born and bred in Laxmangarh, which is also known as the Darkness. The story is told in chapters and styled as if written in letter form to the Chinese Premier (His Excellency Wen Jiabao) who is soon to visit India. Balram believes that His Excellency should see the real India as opposed to that which is promoted by the Indian politicians who are often corrupt. with no interest in improving life for the people of India.
Balram was a bright child, despite being born into a poor family and quickly earned himself the nickname of the White Tiger. He lives in a society whereby a persons future is determined by his caste and children are expected to work to support their families before marriage. Education is not deemed as being as important as the ability to take care of your family financially and on this premise, Balram is forced to leave school and begin working in a tea shop.
The story tells us how Balram transformed from a humble tea shop boy to an euntrepenuer and employer of many. The tale isn't your average success story, but instead tells of corruption, greed and violence, culminating in Balram becoming wanted for murder.
This book won the Man Booker Prize, and as such, I had high hopes for this book and found it to be quite a harsh story of despair and wide spread corruption. One one hand though, I was a little disappointed as it didn't seem to touch on the positive aspects of India, instead focusing only on the corruption, and cruelty. I understand that this was the point of the story but personally would have liked a little balance. The story was bleak and engrossing but I didn't enjoy it as much as I had hoped to, and if you feel the same, I would suggest that you read Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts, which makes the scents, sounds and colours of India become so alive that they almost leap from the pages.
The White Tiger is written from the standpoint of its central character, Balram, a young village boy smart enough to claw his way out of his humble, poverty stricken beginnings. Hence Balram is the White Tiger, a rarity because of his unique intelligence and ability to survive in adverse surroundings.
Over the course of 7 days he tells his life story in a series of letters to the Chinese Premier. He begins with the revelation that he is a thief and murderer with the following letters leading up to how he got to this point. He tells his story in a matter-of-fact way, despite the brutality and harshness of its contents, a stark indication I felt, that the corruption and poverty is so ingrained into the society in which he lives that he is unable to conjure any real feeling towards it.
The Way Adiga writes draws you into Balram's life so that you get a real intense feel for life in India from the very beginning with its inequalities and stark contrasts between village life and city life so much so that when Balram inevitably succumbs to the corrupt way of life, you accept it as being the only way to survive.
In short, you are drawn into this corrupt, world of disparity in order to get into the mindset of its main character. Very well written.
Balram Halwai was a driver in New Delhi. Born and bred in Laxmangarh, commonly known as the Darkness along with all other poor slums and villages, Balram was from a low caste in the Hindu society. Life was tough in the Darkness, people lived in extreme poverty, survived from the land, with the water buffalo being the fattest living thing in each family as it provided the essential milk. Families were also used to work, and education was unimportant, so each child left school early to help. Bahram, a bright boy, was set to work in a tea shop, and after seeing his poor father die of TB he knew he had to get out of the Darkness.
A boy with ambition, he managed to borrow money to learn to drive. He luckily got employed, by a local gangster family, and then moved on to Delhi with one of the sons, as a driver and general servant. Here he was introduced to the corrupt lives of the rich who were always bribing the corrupt government officials to avoid taxes. The book develops and we see young Balram confronted with problems relating to survival, corruption, loyalty, deception and murder.
The White Tiger has been interestingly written. It is based on seven days (chapters), which are a continuous letter to the Chinese Premier His Excellency Wen Jiabao. Balram has written the letter and explains his life story, as well as his thoughts and ideas. I really enjoyed the fact that the book was a narrative seen in the eyes of the servant, rather than the wealthy. As Balram was born into the rigid caste system, he had a natural respect for his employers (a higher caste), but also despised their corrupt minds and complete lack of loyalty to their servants. He was torn between the two ideals, and this was a continuous problem for him throughout the book.
Balram started life as an honest young man, out to improve his own future with hard work and perseverance. He was known as 'the white tiger', as he was a rare, intelligent breed within his community. He did well, becoming a driver, and worked hard. Slowly, through the book he realised that everyone who was anyone was corrupt. The rich were getting richer whilst the poor, poorer. The only way to survive was to become corrupt himself. With corruption he needed to become sly and deceiving, which was not in his nature initially. It was fascinating to watch the character change and develop, all for the purpose of bettering himself. Although corrupt, he was a likeable character.
There are a number of other important characters in the book, whom affected Balram's life. They are mainly from his employers corrupt family, known as the 'Animals'. Balram actually worked for the kinder, more considerate son, known as Mr Ashok but still life was tough. Mr Ashok had actually escaped the clutches of his family and moved to America, married an American, then made the dreadful mistake of returning to the family. He was completely controlled by the father and his brother, and throughout the book we see his character crumble as loyalty to his family overrides his true feelings, making him a broken man. I actually began to feel sorry for Mr Ashok. He had everything, then lost it all. He did have a heart, and at times I had a glimmer of hope that the master/servant relationship would break down and a friendship would develop. However, family always seemed to intervene and realign his loyalty.
The book really emphasised the comparison between rich and poor within India. Seen through the eyes of Balram, parts of Delhi are all glitzy and glamourous. The rich make themselves unaware of the poverty in surrounding areas, and live a complete life of luxury. They turn a blind eye, to the beggars and desperate, whilst traveling to the up market shopping malls or nightlife. Yet around a corner there are slums, with people living in dire circumstances, right next to the city's sewerage. The book seems to represent an adequate account of life in Delhi, and actually made me much more aware of the two extremes.
India is a society with numerous religions. It was interestingly portrayed in the book. Young Balram was a Hindu, but did not seem to have time to pray, partly because he was on 24 hour call, and partly because his life was so bad faith was not an issue. He did use 'temple visits' as an excuse to escape work, but that was all it was. Faith was not going to get him out of his inherited caste status, but deception and crime would.
I did ask myself, why is the book based around a letter to the Chinese Premier? It is really a confession from one man to another. It also justifies communism,to Balram, as he realises that life in Indian is far worse than being ruled by a single communist government. A corrupt government and society is far more oppressing than communistic rule. Throughout the book he makes interesting comparisons.
The White Tiger is a debut novel by Aravind Adiga, for which he won the Booker Prize 2008. I felt that the book was a superb, enjoyable read. Generally, to me, books that win prizes can be quite extreme or heavy going. Surprisingly, The White Tiger, was neither of those. It is an uncomplicated read, which includes humour, satire and suspense. It is captivating and eye opening. I have read a number of 'Indian' novels, including Shantaram and Q & A, and found The White Tiger just as enjoyable and full of valid information. I do not know what distinguishes it from other books to win such a prize, however, it is fantastic that a new author is being recognised for his work.
As I have said, I really enjoyed this novel. There is a murder and some suspense, alongside the intrigues of Indian life. I could totally understand why Balram did what he did, which included committing various crimes to achieve a better life.
The White Tiger is published by Atlantic Books
This book was in the Times newspaper, voted as one of the best books of the decade. And that is how I came upon it. See, I vowed (or challenged myself) to read the 100 books before the end of the decade (ie. in a month's time...)
Having come across so many great books on this voyage of discovery, I have to say, this is one of my favourites so far. The story was so intoxicating, I literally couldn't go to sleep until I had come to a comfortable, stable and uninteresting point. So, starting reading at about eight, the night flew past as I dissolved into the life of Balram, an 'entrepeneur'. It was early in the next morning until I finally put down the book.
School wasnt fun the nect day.
The novel is fascinating in so many ways. The style, to begin with. Set entirely in the form of emails to the Chinese Premier? The main character sitting up each morning to write them? I was instantly hooked.
Not to mention the story itself. It starts off like a regular biography of a boy journying through hardship in a country journying into development and the modern age. But then, as the story progressess, Balram's story turns much darker, and this draws you in even more.
The language used is also wonderful. I am sure you have heard of cities being describes as if alive before, this is nothing new. But Adiga's Delhi is so dark and edgy, emphasising (is that the word?) with the main characters mood. "Show me signs of blood on the walls" says Balram, "I will" replies the city. I loved that bit! So dark and twisted, the minds of a city and a murderer as one.
In the Times, this book was rated somewhere in the 80s. But after reading it, I thought, surely not? This chilling, yet funny, a perfect mixture of dark and light. Why the 80s? surely this couldve been ranked so much higher?
Well, I havent read all the titles in the list yet (only 96 to go...), but I would definately put this one somewhere up at the top.
If the American Dream has been about money, power, success, making it (and big shoulder pads) then the Indian Dream, for me at least, has been something far more spiritual, ethereal and mystic. In this stunning, thrilling and shocking debut novel author Aravind Adiga exposes an altogether harsher, completely un-mystical world, something more primal and more raw and more brutal by far.
The white tiger of the title plays on this theme. We learn that a white tiger is that rare find, someone seen at a school with raw natural talent. If they are lucky they have or are offered an opportunity to use their talent, but for the majority - the great majority - of Indian society it is clear that you need influence/money (interchangeable) to get anywhere.
The main protagonist of the book, the strangely voluble Balram Halwai who dictates the book in the form of a never-to-be-sent-letter to the Premier of China (due shortly to visit India) is told he is one such white tiger: Of course, tiger also references the aggressive growth countries with the fired-up economies and references India too - for many British people, I suspect, referencing an earlier Raj image of India with memsahibs and Kipling. If this book tells you anything, it tells you that this image is totally out of date.
The 'letter' - which is really just a boast - explains the situation, how this modern Indian businessman got his start and how he overcame what at first looks like insurmountable odds. We learn that Balram comes out of 'the darkness' - the rural, backward hinterland - and he is heading for the light, but the lights are neon, not sunlit uplands.
Balram takes the little he has available to him then pleads, lies, cheats, bribes, cons and even murders his way to a better position - slippery pole indeed. Forget ashrams, serene temples and holy men plunging into rivers, this is raw cut-throat capitalism, winner-take-all and to the devil with the loser.
The novel rips along at a terrific pace and is witty although not funny (not intended to be) and is deliberately setting out to challenge perceptions. The characters are beautifully drawn and feel quite recognizable, even though many of them are grotesques.
In a lovely parody which illustrates the endemic corruption and patronage, the narrator comments that he has a perfect voting record, his vote having been cast in every election since he came of age, so the police could always arrest him at the polling station if they wanted him: However, he has never actually been to a polling station in his life, his vote being usurped by the local, influential politician and 'cast' in the way someone else chooses. So much for the values of democracy.
Before the end of the novel the narrator says "White men will be finished in my lifetime. In 20 years time it will just be us brown and yellow men at the top of the pyramid, and we'll rule the world." He is clearly talking about the tiger economies of Asia from the sub-continent to China via Korea, Vietnam and so on and there is food for thought
I doubt that the Indian establishment will revel in this description and the tourist industry would not want too much play on this image but I suspect that, exaggerated through it is, this might more clearly illustrate what call centre land is like than the image some westerners might have.
Read it: You'll enjoy it, although prepare to have an entirely different view of India thereafter.
Winner of the Man Booker Prize, The White Tiger is published by Atlantic Books, price £7.99 in paperback.
ISBN 978 1 84887 722 8
I originally picked this book up because it was on my reading list for uni as part of my Geography degree (strange as it may sound). I'm glad I did now, as this book is an outstanding work of fiction, with it's social and political background firmly based in fact.
The book tells the story of Balram Halwai, in the context of a lower caste young man growing up in 'the darkness' (rural) of India, who manages to leave his village to work in the city. I won't retell the whole story, but it is a fascinating tale.
I particularly, as a human and social geographer, found the linkages between the economic developement of India and China interesting, which were made through Balram's letters to the Chinese premier Wem Jiabao. However, there is much to this book which makes it simply an enjoyable work of fiction, with an interesting story to tell set in one of the world's most fascinating countries. It is easy to see why this book won the Booker prize, and in my opinion it is fully deserving.
This is a fab book focused around the life of Balram Halwai. He is a very poor Indian and the son of a rickshaw driver, who manages to come good and work his way up to being a very rich man in later life. The book is set out in letters which he has written to the Chinese Premier (Wen Jiabao) who is soon to visit Balrams home town (Bangalore). Different parts of India are referred to dark and light in the book, with the dark being the poorer parts and the light the richer. The book explores the underworld of the light side, as well as the good parts. the story explores Balrams quest to better himself, and looks into weather it is possible for him to better himself by legal means, or if he will have to look into less honest means of going up in the world.
I absolutely loved this book, but it wasn't easy or comfortable to read. Any notion that India is on the up and the lower caste will gain wealth, is well and truly abolished by reading this book. The book does have a slightly lighter, almost funny side; but the darker undertones are there throughout.
I can see why this won the Booker prize.
''Meet Balram Halwai, the 'White Tiger': servant, philosopher, entrepeneur, murderer. Over the course of seven nights, by the scattered light of a preposterous chandelier, Balram tells his story..."
This is the first paragraph in the dust jacket of the book "The White Tiger." Balram is a young man from the "Darkness" who is determined to step in to the light and as time goes on, we find he will do whatever it takes to do so. This tale is told by Balram himself in letter form to a powerful Chinese man visiting China. Balram starts out a boy who is mostly innocent and honest, good at his schoolwork - until that is he is pulled out of school to work. He then cottons on to the idea that drivers of the rich in earn lots of money and so pushes himself and learns to drive. Becoming the driver of a rich landlord, he soon seeing a different world starting with seeing Delhi and all it offers.
This story shows the struggle that Balram has when Delhi finally corrupts him - he wants to be a good servant, work hard and be loyal to his master, but his need to better himself leads to him committing murder to getting to where he wants to be.
This is a satiracle account of the two sides of India. I particularly liked the story being told by Balram himself, in letter form to an important person visiting India from China.
The character of Balram is a truly unique and interesting one. Due to Balrams early admissions of corruptions to the recipient of his letters, the reader immediately knows that he is a conniving murdering thief. Yet as he begins his story, I couldn't help but be drawn to his plight. Balrams honesty is also refreshing and the way in which the story is told is so real. The other characters he meets along his way are also colourful and interesting and the relationship he had with his master Ashok.
Ashok is an interesting character, weak and selfish but someone who doesn't mean any great harm. It was interesting reading how Balram both loved his master and hated him, and ultimately Ashok's weakness was Balram's weapon. Ashok and the other members of his rich family often refer to Balram as stupid and this is what interested me the most. In Balrams world, he is not stupid, he showed promise, but moving to a big City teaches him things that he never knew about. The basic life that Balram has had up until this point means that he is naive rather than stupid. He is clever and conniving and soon learns that the only way to get on in life is to listen in and learn from other people - this is exactly what he does do.
Ashok on the other hand believes he is a smart man, but he does the opposite to Balram, doesn't listen and is not wise to the world in which he lives. These two characters were most interesting, coming from two different worlds, slowly becoming corrupted with all that surrounds them in Delhi. There was a mutual likeness for each other, but whereas Balram firstly started out having a lot of respect for Ashok, this soon turns to contempt and this is where the story divides.
The descriptions of the slip in Indian culture is what really made this story interesting, and ultimately what made me "side" with such an amoral character such as Balram. The rich that live in Delhi being so corrupt, where blackmail, bribes and prostitution rule. The fact that Balram learns that to get ahead and be like the rich is to cheat and lie is no surprise, but it WAS a surprise when I almost willed him on when it came to his time to tell the story of the murder he committed.
Obviously, I don't promote murder of someones employer to get ahead, but I felt his despair and his need to better himself. And so Balram escapes the "Rooster Coop" and lives his life as a White Tiger. (This isn't plot spoilers, the fact that he admits he is wanted for murder of his employer and that he is now a successful entrepeneur is a fact given early in his narrative).
I found it difficult writing this review to be honest, and I am not quite sure why, I literally couldn't find the words to convey what I felt about reading this. I did enjoy this book, but I didn't get me as hooked as others have in the past. I started reading it about a week before Christmas and I only finished it a couple of days ago. I think it was because the author spends a lot of time setting up the scene in India without at first developing the character of Balram and although this is colourful and interesting, I felt that the story wasn't progressing as much as I had hoped.
However, once you get about half way through, I felt the story really kicked in and you could actually feel with Balram why his mind becomes corrupted by his surroundings. A Booker Prize Winner? I can see why, it portrays India in an honest light with an interesting character who fights his destiny to achieve better things for himself, even if it is at the cost of his Employer, and his family which he leaves behind. Balram is sarcastic, honest angry at his lot in life but determined to better himself and expose a side of India that is little thought of. A book that can make you side with a murderer and a liar like Balram and makes you feel like he feels - well thats got to be a winner surely.
Balram Halwai is the White Tiger - the smartest boy in his village. His family is too poor for him to afford for him to finish school and he has to work in a teashop, breaking coals and wiping tables. But Balram gets his break when a rich man hires him as a chauffeur, and takes him to live in Delhi. The city is a revelation. As he drives his master to shopping malls and call centres, Balram becomes increasingly aware of immense wealth and opportunity all around him, while knowing that he will never be able to gain access to that world. As Balram broods over his situation, he realizes that there is only one way he can become part of this glamorous new India - by murdering his master.The White Tiger presents a raw and unromanticised India, both thrilling and shocking - from the desperate, almost lawless villages along the Ganges, to the booming Wild South of Bangalore and its technology and outsourcing centres. The first-person confession of a murderer, The White Tiger is as compelling for its subject matter as for the voice of its narrator - amoral, cynical, unrepentant, yet deeply endearing.