Sunday 4 June 2017

The White Tiger, Aravind Adiga, 2008 ****

I have read quite a few novels set in India or by writers of Indian heritage and one of the topics that keeps on popping up is the blatant poverty and caste discrimination that perpetuate their society, The White Tiger is no exception. We get to read about the life style of an upper-middle class through the voice of their servant Balram. It is quite interesting as Balram tells us what he knows about his master  through pieces of information he gathers while being enslaved.
Balram narrates his ordeal with a witty sense of humour, you might  find yourself laughing in front of his adversity.
"The Great Socialist himself is said to have embezzled one billion rupees from the Darkness, and transferred that money into a bank account in a small, beautiful country in Europe full of white people and black money"
Balram narrates about life in his village Laxmangarh, his mother died when he was very young, his father a rickshaw puller died miserably of tuberculosis. A life of misery. One thing led to another and Balram becomes a driver and moves
to Delhi with his boss Mr. Ashok. That is when he decides to kill him and break
off the Rooster Coop. Below is an example of the effect of the rooster coop as described by Balram, he knows his fate, however, unwilling to break out or rebel, instead abiding in his role of servitude.
"The way I had rushed to press Mr Ashok's feet, the moment I saw them, even though he hadn't asked me to! Why did I feel that I had to go close to his feet, touch them and press them and make them feel good - why? Because the desire to be a servant had been bred into me: hammered into my skull, nail after nail, and poured into my blood, the way sewage and industrial poison are poured into Mother Ganga"
Why did Balram decides to murder his boss? He is not like the average servant, he is bright and hard working, if given the necessary opportunity there would not have been any need for enslavement. He finds himself stuck and realises the need for action, if not he knows he'll end up like his father. he starts to break off:
"Sometimes I wonder, Balram. I wonder what's the point of living. I really wonder..." "The point of living? My heart pounded. The point of your living is that if you die, who's going to pay me three and a half thousand rupees a month?"  
A debut fiction that won the Man Booker Prize in 2008, I recommend. If you'd like to read my reviews of other books set in India or by Indian writers please click here.

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  1. Thanks for the review Mary. I found this book at my local secondhand bookstore and the owner, who knows my tastes, recommended I read this novel. Man Booker stamp of approval did throw me off a bit because so far I have had confusing, if not down right awful experiences with reading Man Booker won books. I have yet to read it but I think, once I finish my latest read I will try this one.

    I am sure you have a very long line on your "to-read list" but please do add Nicole Dennis-Benn "Here Comes the Sun" on that list, if you have not already. I just finished it and it is brilliant. Would love to read your take on it and the state of modern day Caribbean literature.

    1. Hello there, some times book awards could be misleading. I am not even sure this novel deserves the Prize, that is, it is so different from previous books (the ones I have read)that won the Man Booker . To me it reads more like an independent fiction. Forget about the Prize, read it, you'd enjoy it.

      I have added Here Comes te Sun by Nicole Dennis-Benn to my list TBR.


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