By Aravind Adiga
Free Press, 2008. 304 pgs.
The white tiger is rare in the animal kingdom, and so is Balram Halwai, who narrates his own entrepreneurial ascension in this fierce, darkly comedic novel. In his open letter to a visiting Chinese dignitary, who wants to learn about true entrepreneurs in India, Balram shows a side of India that is quite different from other currently reigning literary Indian voices. This is the India of impoverished small villages, of servants (modern slavery), government corruption, derelict education systems, caste, and of the depravity human nature can stoop too when continually forced into these conditions. Having traveled in India myself, I found Adiga's descriptions to be heart-breakingly accurate.
Adiga's writing is sharp, clever, and compelling as he tells a modern day 'Crime and Punishment' story following the events that lead Balram to murder his boss. And yet like Raskolnikov, and Rushdie's Saleem Sinai; Adiga's Balram is every man, he is the voice of the down trodden of India and his experience is that of every Indian. The White Tiger is haunting, startling, and captivating. A must read for anyone interested in gaining insight to one of the rising super powers of the world.