Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Time for Adiga's Tiger

Aravind Adiga has won this year's Man Booker Prize with The White Tiger. Months back, Janet de Neefe who is the director of the Ubud Readers and Writers Festival wrote to tell me that I simply had to read this book. She was so impressed that she invited Adiga to the festival, though sadly for us but happily for him, he flew to London to be there when the announcement was made. Maybe Bali will get him next year?

Although I am only one book into the Booker shortlist this year, I picked the right title to bring away with me on holiday and to write a review of for Starmag. So in that sense I'm happy. As for whether I'm happy with it as the winner ... well I think it will prove a popular choice. It is highly readable (quite zippy actually!), very well written, with relevant and important stuff to say about India's economic miracle, corruption as the only means of survival, the haves and have-nots.

But I am also feeling a little underwhelmed by it. Maybe this is because some of the books I've read recently (including The Brief Wondrous Life of Osar Wao by Junot Dias and We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver - both of which I need to write about here) blew me away in a way this book just hasn't managed to yet. (And I'm two-thirds of the way through.) It isn't getting under my skin.

At least, though, I do not feel like chucking it into a Balinese swimming pool as almost happened to Anne Enright's book last year! (A novel I hasten to add that I came to greatly appreciate on second reading.)

I also keep comparing it to Indra Sinha's Animal's People which was shortlisted last year and with which I feel it shares certain similarities. Yet I feel that Sinha's book is far the stronger ... I connected with Animal far more than I'm able to connect with Balram.

But I'm happy for Adiga. He's only the fourth debut novelist to have won, and the second youngest ever, and the fifth Indian author. Michael Portillo, chair of the judges, said that for the panel in the end :
... what set this book apart was its originality; for many of us this is entirely new territory - India the dark side. It was in many ways perfect.
Charlotte Higgins writes about the winner on the Guardian website and there is also an extract from the book to whet your appetite. John Sutherland writes an amusing piece about the categories that Booker winners fit into and ask where this book belongs. (He concludes that Adiga is both shooting star and uncommonly readable.) Sam Jordison reviews the novel here.

There's another extract on the Telegraph site, and you might like to read Neal Mukerjee's review here.

I'll append any other relevant links here later.


Janet said...

I think he's a dark horse indeed. I really expected Sebastian Barry to win, after a quick comparison of the books.

kamal s said...

First of all, hi again! I'm back from hibernation! Just to inform you that OSCAR WAO will be the first selection of my college's book club, to be launched this coming Thursday Oct 23, 2008. I've selected the book (since I'm also the resident adviser for the club) because it's the only Pulitzer winner that allow more than once laugh-out-loud scenario. Lots off people gave me blank stare on the train every time I stumbled upon those well-written Spanish phrases. It's the most accessible Pulitzer winner ever (right ahead of The Road and Middlesex).

Am in the middle of THE WHITE TIGER and Marilynne Robinson's HOME.

Aravin said...

aravind won. wow. he joins the famous roy and rushdie and desai. indian authors are really doing well. sharon, do you anything about roy's upcoming novel.

Anonymous said...

Roy is rather hush-hush with her second novel. She hasn't been saying much about her new novel, other than that she has spent a lot of time in Kashmir. So, most probably the new novel is set in that sate. Her award-winning first novel was set in Kerala. We'll just have to wait and see.

The Fallen Angel

bibliobibuli said...

kamal s - agree entirely. "oscar wao" is a wonderful, laugh aloud, warm, voicy, book which totally transported me. one of my books of the year for sure. (must write about it!) hope your new book club goes well - do let us know.

aravin - indian writers, yes, are right up there! i did hear roy was writing a second novel but don't know much more. soon as i hear i'll post something.

fallen angel - thanks for adding that.

but as romesh gunasekera said to me in an interview, debut writers who win the booker seem to be jinxed, and either don't write a second or it pales in comparison to the first. i hope aravind escapes that curse. a friend of his at ubud said he is already at work on his second novel.

having finished the book and not read others yet on the shortlist, i'd say yes, it's a good book to have won. thought provoking and readable.