June Selection: The White Tiger (2008)

For our June discussion, I have selected the novel “The White Tiger,” by Aravind Adiga. Published in 2008, this first novel won the Man Booker Prize for Fiction for that year.

There is so much to surprise the reader in this modern look at India that to read a synopsis of the novel would truly ruin many of the plot surprises hidden therein. However, the first two paragraphs of this New York Times Book Review article by Akash Kapur swiftly sums up some of what the novel is about:

The Secret of His Success
By AKASH KAPUR
“Balram Halwai, the narrator of Aravind Adiga’s first novel, “The White Tiger,” is a modern Indian hero. In a country inebriated by its newfound economic prowess, he is a successful entrepreneur, a self-made man who has risen on the back of India’s much-vaunted technology industry. In a nation proudly shedding a history of poverty and underdevelopment, he represents, as he himself says, “tomorrow.”

Balram’s triumphal narrative, framed somewhat inexplicably as a letter to the visiting Chinese premier, unfurls over seven days and nights in Bangalore. It’s a rather more complicated story than Balram initially lets on….”

As you read this imaginative novel, try to “hear” Balram’s voice in his Hindu/British accent.

There is much humor, and pathos, in this gruesome, contemporary tale.

Ron Powers

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About powersron

I'm a member of the Tacoma Retired Men's Book Club.
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One Response to June Selection: The White Tiger (2008)

  1. Ron Powers says:

    The following are Balram Halwai quotes, selected from The White Tiger, Aravind Adiga’s award-winning novel about life in modern India. Any of these quotes could be a jumping off point for our discussion on Tuesday, June 5th. Please select at least one to cite and then comment on. Thank you!

    …our nation, though it has no drinking water, electricity, sewage system, public transportation, sense of hygiene, discipline, courtesy, or punctuality, does have entrepreneurs. Thousands and thousands of them.

    …our erstwhile master, the white-skinned man, has wasted himself through buggery, cell phone usage, and drug abuse.

    I am tomorrow.

    I know by heart the works of the four greatest poets of all time—Rumi, Iqbal, Mirza Ghalib, and a fourth fellow whose name I forget. I am a self-taught entrepreneur.

    What a fucking joke.

    Entrepreneurs are made from half-baked clay.

    I am in the Light now, but I was born and raised in Darkness.

    Everywhere this river [Mother Ganga] flows, that area is the Darkness.

    The story of a poor man’s life is written on his body, in a sharp pen.

    ..but my father was a man with a plan. I was his plan.

    You can’t expect a man in a dung heap to smell sweet.

    ..the one infallible law of life in the Darkness is that good news becomes bad news—and soon.

    Even as a boy I could see what was beautiful in the world: I was destined not to stay a slave.

    I am not an original thinker—but I am an original listener.

    I’ve always been a big believer in education—especially my own.

    To sum up—in the old days there were one thousand castes and destinies in India. These days, there are just two castes: Men with Big Bellies, and Men with Small Bellies.

    Is there any hatred on earth like the hatred of the number two servant for the number one?

    There are three main diseases of this country, sir: typhoid, cholera, and election fever. This last one is the worst.

    Like eunuchs discussing the Kama Sutra, the voters discuss the elections in Laxmangarh.

    Free people don’t know the value of freedom; that’s the problem.

    Servants need to abuse other servants.

    A servant gets to know his master’s intestinal tract from end to end—from lips to anus.

    The trustworthiness of servants is the basis of the entire Indian economy.

    The Great Indian Rooster Coop…a handful of men have trained the remaining 99.9 percent…to exist in perpetual servitude…Why does the Rooster Coop work?…the Indian family, is the reason we are trapped and tied to the coop…only a man who is prepared to see his family destroyed…can break out of the coop…It would, in fact, take a White Tiger.

    When the master’s life is in chaos, so is the servant’s.

    Men drink because they are sick of life.

    …Lord Krishna—another of history’s famous chauffeurs….

    Do we loathe our masters behind a façade of love—or do we love them behind a facade of loathing?

    We are made mysteries to ourselves by the Rooster Coop we are locked in.

    The coop is guarded from the inside.

    See, the poor dream all their lives of getting enough to eat and looking like the rich. And what do the rich dream of? Losing weight and looking like the poor.

    The more I stole from him [Ashok], the more I realized how much he had stolen from me.

    [Ashok said], “We rich people, we’ve lost our way, Balram.”

    “You were looking for the key for years/But the door was always open.” Muhammad Iqbal, Muslim poet

    Iqbal, that great poet, was so right. The moment you recognize what is beautiful in this world, you stop being a slave.

    If you taught every poor boy how to paint, that would be the end of the rich in India.

    Let animals live like animals; let humans live like humans. That’s my whole philosophy in a sentence.

    My humble prediction: in twenty years’ time, it will be just us yellow men and brown men at the top of the pyramid, and we’ll rule the whole world. And God save everyone else.

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