Monday, November 16, 2009

Aravind Adiga's The White Tiger (2008)

I am reading The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga. This is a fantastic book.

The book is framed as a letter from the main character, Balram Halwai, to Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao. Balram tells his life story in the letter, amid a host of ruminations about Indian society, economics, and religion.

The story focuses on class -- in particular, the ways in which class divisions are playing out as India becomes a capitalist/consumerist society. Balram's father was a rickshaw driver, and Balram becomes a driver for a wealthy family. He is ambitious and self-focused in a Western kind of way, and he sees himself as special (thus the appellation "White Tiger").

Early on in the book, Balram says that he murders his employer (Mr. Ashok), and much of the dramatic tension builds around trying to figure out why he commits that murder, since Ashok is portrayed as the one member of the wealthy class who's actually a decent person.

Partway through the story, Balram and Ashok (and his wife) move to Delhi, and I am absolutely loving the descriptions of Delhi and Gurgaon. The vivid descriptions -- particularly the fascination with traffic/movement/bustle -- put me right back on those wild roads, riding with Olav and trying to take it all in.

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