The White Tiger

The White Tiger

A Novel

Book - 2008
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Relocating to New Delhi when he is offered a new job, Balram Halwai is disillusioned by the city's twenty-first-century materialism and technology-spawned violence, a circumstance that forces him to question his loyalties, ambitions, and past.
Publisher: New York : Free Press, 2008
ISBN: 9781416562597
1416562591
Branch Call Number: FICTION ADIGA
Characteristics: 276 p.

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SCL_Justin Jul 28, 2017

When my mother first went to India she asked what I wanted as a souvenir. I requested “books by South Indian writers” and if they were ones I’d have trouble finding in Canada all the better. Aravind Adiga’s The White Tiger won the Booker in 2008, so it’s not like it’d be especially difficult for me to find here, but I hadn’t read it before this week. Well done, Mom.

The White Tiger is about a country boy named Balram from The Darkness, interior India’s villages. He’s pulled out of school as a child and eventually becomes the driver for a landlord’s son. That job takes him to Delhi where he formulates his ideas of servanthood and the terrible nature of it. Balram is telling this story in the form of reminiscent letters to Wen Jiabao (now former-) leader of China. Now that Balram is a successful entrepreneur he is teaching the communist leader how India really works.

There is a lot of cheating and other dishonesty throughout. It’s a very entertaining read and its struggle against the chicken coop of a democracy that lets votes be bought and sold is effective and maddening. There are two scenes that particularly stand out to me. In both of them Balram is a bystander as someone “goes mad” and tries to behave as if you could take what people say at face value. In one instance a man tries to enter a shopping mall. In another a man tries to vote on election day. Both are futile exercises for the poor man.

I wouldn't rely on this book as an entirely accurate depiction of modern India, but it is a pretty good story.

LPL_ShirleyB Dec 01, 2016

Great writing that connects dark humor, with characters challenged by class conflicts in India.

f
FVReader
Jun 09, 2016

This story says a lot about social standing and expectations and restrictions.
For all his faults (and actions), Balram is a man of principle and fairness. He believes in treating people as people and, although there is always a social pecking order, he believes in sincerity and honor in those positions.
I found the book incredibly interesting and, in a lot of ways, horrifying. It says a lot about caste, position, hopelessness and what these things may drive a person to do in the name of survival.

b
blolo
Mar 16, 2016

Written in a dark and humorous tone, but didn't really capture me. I was only mildly curious to read how things turned out for the main character.

h
HollyDavis022
Mar 11, 2016

Particularly fun on audiobook. Very clever and poignant

s
sasha7776
Jan 28, 2015

Does he exaggerate to make his story colourful?
I feel that he does this. But a very readable story.

s
sreenas
Jan 17, 2015

Adiga writes well, but this is poverty porn aimed squarely at Western audiences to make them feel good about their lives in contrast to the people depicted in these books. Slumdog Millionaire is another popular example of this genre. Adiga, like many other Indian writers popular in the West, is a committed Marxist (or deeply sympathetic to the cause); a failed ideology that has been rejected almost everywhere else in the world. They would like nothing better than to freeze all possibilities of development and, with it, any chance for the people that they profess to champion to escape deep poverty. The result of their socialist grip on economic policy in India for over half a century is obvious to see. In striking contrast, their comrades in China broke free from their stifling leftist dogmas and moved millions of their citizens away from oppressive poverty. In the meantime, these authors rake in the money and spend much time in the West making the fashionable circuits and living the good life that they would deny to millions of Indians. For a more balanced look at a gritty modern urban India struggling to break free from soul-sapping socialism imposed by noblesse oblige elites, try Aatish Taseer's The Temple Goers.

k
kmwatts
Jan 17, 2015

a very good book, sparkling writing, but not something that I'd ever love or read again. It's insane in all the ways that normal daily life in any corrupt world is. And while the main character normally doesn't qualify as being sympathetic, he is certainly honest and trying to live as honestly as his world will allow. Glad I read it

Jane60201 Mar 26, 2014

I liked the raw quality of this book because it seemed to express what it is like for all persons who are forced to be servants or slaves without a hope of a way out. While the protagonist's way out was pretty extreme, his need to not be exploited was very important. This made me think of books about slavery in the U.S. as well the conditions of the poor in all the developing nations.

Diell Dec 17, 2013

I agree with the comment from Harriet_the_spy, but had to take a break before reading the 2nd book,
went back to a few other India books to add another dimension to the experience.
Adiga is pretty raw.

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vchuynh
Jun 01, 2011

vchuynh thinks this title is suitable for 18 years and over

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