Wendy Robards, January 17, 2009 (view all comments by Wendy Robards)
Balram Halwai is the mocking, pathological narrator of Aravind Adiga’s Booker winning novel The White Tiger. Born in the Darkness - the underbelly of India - and destined from childhood to be a servant, he tells his story in a series of letters over a seven day period to Wen Jiabao, the Premier of China.
Balram views himself as a white tiger - a rare creature in a savage world - which drives him eventually to murder his master and take charge of his life.
Adiga has created a not wholly likable protagonist to narrate the story of an India which is sharply divided between the very rich (and corrupt) and the very poor. The cynical voice of Balram jeers at democracy and uncovers the dark, corrupt world of the wealthy upper class. He pokes fun at China who despite their triumphs ‘in sewage, drinking water, and Olympic gold medals, still don’t have democracy.‘
Rage is what fuels Balram to break free of his caste and become a successful businessman. He takes his destiny into his own hands and does what he feels he must to become a free man. And in the end, he concludes there is really no difference between a man and a demon - only that one has woken up and the other is still sleeping. The message seems to be that there is no good anywhere in India. It is no wonder that Indians have been critical of this novel.
The White Tiger is an interesting story - one that is compelling and blackly humorous despite its negative message. It is a scathing commentary on the divide between the poor and the rich, the benevolent and the corrupt - but, it is ultimately just a very good yarn.
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Karl L Stenger, April 11, 2008 (view all comments by Karl L Stenger)
An amazingly accomplished debut novel recommended to those who want more than idealized depictions of contemporary India. This raw and crude view of the economic and social struggles of India's classes features a fascinating narrator, a homicidal chauffeur, who wins the reader's sympathy despite the fact that he murders his employer. The concept of the novel is as unusual as it is ingenious: it consists of letters the chauffeur writes to the Premier of China who is about to embark on a state visit of India.
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