Monday, 3 November 2008
ARAVIND Adiga forewarns the reader from the start that his hero is a murderer, so every event is flavoured by that pre-knowledge.
This year's Booker winner isn't so much a novel as a diatribe against the corruption of India.
He writes about an India with an even worse case of the post-colonials than Ireland.
Landlords in 'the darkness' - the countryside - run a kleptocracy where they vote on behalf of their tenants, and their thugs beat to death anyone impertinent enough to want to use his own vote.
Balram, our hero, aka the White Tiger, is scholarship material. But in a village where the teacher steals the money for uniforms and school meals, he's soon put to work breaking coals.
Ambition leads him out of the village, to life as a serf in the town home of the family of the psychopathic local industrialists, where he learns how to bribe politicians, and how the 'rooster coop' of Indian life works.
After the murder, there's a moment where he reads a one-paragraph story: "Family of 17 murdered in northern India", and knows it's his own family, murdered in revenge.
If you want a sweet book to calm your troubled heart as you watch the destruction of the world economy, look elsewhere. If you like a savage satire, this is the book for you.