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It is certainly to Adiga's credit that, unlike so many observers, he actually focuses on the millions of poor, thin, dark men squatting in the shadow of sparkling new suburbs. It's also to his credit that unlike India's elite leftists he knows that the worst misery is not the product of economic growth, but exists in places as yet untouched by free-market deregulation. He sees past all the propaganda about "the world's greatest democracy" to the long-term failure of the Indian state to provide the masses with the most basic services. He also senses the anger that explains phenomena such as India's growing Maoist insurgency and the paranoia about murders by servants.

But Adiga's narrator never quite convinces as a semi-literate villager in the big city. Too often the details of "the Darkness" ring false. Unlike in the work of Arundhati Roy, Mistry or Naipaul, the smells, sounds and colours of "the Darkness" lack the necessary texture. White Tiger often reads as if its author has little first-hand knowledge of village life or the servant's world.

White Tiger is reasonably entertaining, but it is a mystery how such a book could win the Man Booker. Perhaps the jurors, consciously or unconsciously, made their selection based on criteria other than literary quality: one suspects that had Adiga been white and middle-aged - easy to imagine in this case - he would not have won.

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January 27th, 2012
10:01 AM
Absolutely spot-on. This is the best review of White Tiger that I have seen in India or anywhere else.

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