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White Tiger

  • Date Submitted: 03/19/2011 02:12 AM
  • Flesch-Kincaid Score: 59 
  • Words: 2529
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In May this year, the murder of the 14-year-old school girl Aarushi Talwar as well as the man who was a servant in her household, Hemraj, took centre-stage in the media. All through the summer, I followed the story from a distance, from my home in up state New York. Then, in mid-June, I read an article in a British newspaper about the case, in which there was mention of a popular novel that had already been written about the fear that the Indian middle class had about domestic servants. The novel, the article said, “tells the story of a bitter and disenchanted chauffeur in Delhi who slits his employer’s throat.”
That is how I came to discover — from a news-report about a terrible crime — The White Tiger, Aravind Adiga’s debut novel that has just won the Booker Prize.
New maps
Soon after I learned of the book, I met Adiga in New York City. Adiga told me that his novel had been the fruit of his labours as a reporter in India. He had travelled to various parts of the country, including places whose backwardness had shocked his sensibility. The White Tiger was his rebuke of the cheerful, and false, notion of a new, transformed India.
What Adiga said was exciting to me: I have long subscribed to the idea that one of the novel’s primary tasks is to produce a map of the contemporary. By one definition, then, the province of the novel is what you read in your newspaper each morning or watch on your television at night. The novelist’s task is to explore how the news enters people’s lives and indeed becomes a part of daily life.
I also loved what I’d heard of Adiga’s cheeky use of the epistolary form: that the whole book was a letter from the Indian servant to the Chinese Premier, Wen Jiabao. Certainly, the narrator’s voice was bold and funny. One review had quoted Adiga’s protagonist: “Only three nations have never let themselves be ruled by foreigners: China, Afghanistan, and Abyssinia. These are only three nations I admire.” And then, his belief that “the future...

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