Friday, March 27, 2009

I just finished The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga, winner of the 2008 Booker Prize.

The White Tiger is an epistolary novel, told in a long letter from the protagonist to the premier of China. The protagonist is a poor Indian who becomes a driver for some coal magnates from his home town, only to eventually murder one of them as an act of rebellion, and start his own company. The part about his company is really just denouement - the book mainly focuses on his struggles as a child and life as a driver.

It portrays Indian society as designed to exploit the poor, keeping them in their place through familiar and cultural pressures while treating them as garbage. One of the bosses he works for is slightly more sympathetic, but the protagonist eventually sees him as simply weak and, after an internal struggle, decides to kill him and steal a bribe intended for local politicians.

The book is a polemic - condemning most of Indian society, from the way the poor treat each other to the way they are used by the rich, with some sideswipes at westerners and others along the way. It is compellingly written, and the internal growth and struggles of the protagonist are well presented.

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