Title- The White Tiger
Author- Arvind Adiga
ISBN- 8172238479, 9788172238476, 978-8172238476.
So, I finally know what the hoopla was about as I finished reading “The White Tiger”- the 2008 Man Booker prize winner, Arvind Adiga’s claim to fame. I finally understand the criticism about it being too angry and too critical but the metaphors; guys! the metaphors- you have to hand it to Adiga for coming up with so many great original expressions. In terms of depth, the novel is fairly ordinary as it is just an exaggerated story of Indian poverty and corruption with lots of human excreta and debris thrown in but the words are crafted with deft clarity. You have the ravens dipping their beak in you, you have the wild boars licking their teeth and then you have the white tiger himself. Balram, the central character is Adiga’s angry protagonist who is going to get in your brain, build himself a hut and thatch the roof with Marxism and socialism and ask you to come in gently while shouting at the top of his lungs forbidding you from the same.
It is alienation personified, or rather biblified as I’d like to call it. But leaving that aside, the metaphors and only the metaphors are the saving grace of the book. Plus, there is this ability of the author to drop a bomb at the end of the sentences so that one is compelled to turn the page. His narration, risking exaggeration on my part, sounds somewhat like this- “I am a gentle kid, I love flowers, butterflies and oh yea, I am a murderer!”
I think the conviction in the novel is the only thing that steered it ahead in the Booker prize race but Booker or no Booker, the book deserves a reading for all the activism that it evokes. Even if you disagree with it, it will make your perspective shift a little. The author is also successful in leaving those subconscious trails in your brain which light up when you are reading the consequent pages and evoke that ‘aha’ moment which is pretty sweet. For example, the monkeys from the protagonist’s childhood village again reappear in the later pages metaphorically in the form of his peers in the drivers’ community. It is interesting to note and brilliant on the part of the author. He mentions eagles while describing the Delhi sky by which he might have meant hawks or kites but that is just a small issue that worries only me, I s’pose.
Yes, the novel deserves all the criticism it has gotten for all its exaggerations but it also deserves to be read. It is an easy read in terms of language and it is evident that the message is stronger than the plot.
I give it 4 stars out of 5.