Monday, January 26, 2009

Book 9: The White Tiger

The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga

I had underestimated how much I would read while in Berlin, so when it came time to take a train back home, I needed a new book. This was one of the few English-language books they had, and I'd actually almost ordered it from Amazon previously but had decided to wait a little bit.

Balram Halwai, the narrator, reveals the ending of his story early on. Written as a letter to the Premier of China, Halwai identifies himself as an entrepreneur who has left behind the poverty and uncertainty of his childhood and early adulthood, and has a secure place in the world. He also quickly refers to the fact that he was wanted by the police, had stolen a significant amount of money, and murdered his former boss. There is little surprise when it comes to the fate of the characters. However, the story of how Halwai got from where he started to where he was is interesting, and certainly holds one's attention.

There are definitely times when Halwai seems unlikable and somewhat selfish, but it is also hard to feel much pity for many of those around him. His family is demanding; his fellow servants are equally self-interested; his bosses are corrupt, and completely unaware of the misery around them. As the novel progresses, Halwai realizes that in ways the rich are all alike, and equally cheap, even the ones that think they are better or of the people. It's a really compelling read and commentary on class struggles.

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