The White Tiger

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 15 March, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 15 March, 2009, 12:00am

The White Tiger

by Aravind Adiga

Atlantic Books HK$104

As everyone probably knows by now, The White Tiger won Aravind Adiga the Man Booker Prize at his first attempt. Time will tell whether Adiga will be a Salman Rushdie or a D.B.C. Pierre, all sound and fury but signifying not a lot. But for now, the sharp, funny and eminently global The White Tiger is more than enough. A novel both for and of our times, it begins at the end when our anti-hero, Balram Halwai, sits down to dictate his memoirs. His chosen audience is none other than the Chinese premier, Wen Jiabo, due to visit Balram's current home city, Bangalore. As this implies, Balram has few problems with self-esteem: he modestly describes his autobiography as an 'amazing success story'. Amazing it might be, but a success? Born into extreme poverty, Balram claws his way from his tiny village in 'the darkness' via a chauffeur's job for a businessman called Ashok to his goal as self-defined entrepreneur. Readers could debate for months the climactic scene between Balram and Ashok when the barely restrained violence beneath Adiga's portrayal of India erupts. It is a measure of Adiga's talent that you will have fun even in the darkest places.