Adiga’s White Tiger fetches him Booker
Indian writer Aravind Adiga won the 2008 Booker Prize, one of the world’s most prestigious literary awards, for his debut novel The White Tiger, judges announced late on October 14.
The 33-year-old was awarded the £50,000 ($87,000) prize at a ceremony in London for his tale of a man’s journey from Indian village life to entrepreneurial success.
Chairman of the judges Michael Portillo said the book’s originality in showing “the dark side of India” had set it apart from the others.
“My criteria were ‘does it knock my socks off?’, and this one did,” he said.
Adiga was one of two Indian writers nominated for the award, which is given to the best work of fiction by an author from the Commonwealth or the Republic of Ireland, alongside Amitav Ghosh for Sea of Poppies.
The other shortlisted authors were Australia’s Steve Toltz, with A Fraction of the Whole, Irishman Sebastian Barry for The Secret Scripture, and British writers Linda Grant and Philip Hensher for The Clothes on Their Backs and The Northern Clemency respectively.
The White Tiger follows Balram Halwai, the son of a rickshaw puller who dreams of better things than life as teashop worker and driver. But when he finally makes it to the bright lights of New Delhi, he is caught between his loyalty to his family and his desire to better himself.
“I would like to dedicate this award to the people of New Delhi,” Adiga said on accepting the prize, adding that 300 years ago it was the most important city on Earth and could become so again.
Portillo said Adiga’s book was chosen because it “shocked and entertained in equal measure”.
“The novel undertakes the extraordinarily difficult task of gaining and holding the reader’s sympathy for a thoroughgoing villain,” he said, adding that it also dealt with pressing social issues with “astonishing humour”.
Interviewed by NDTV news channel after the award ceremony, Adiga confessed he was stunned to have won the prize.
“I had no idea it was coming,” he said, adding that he regarded just making the shortlist as a significant achievement.
He also rejected the idea that his book was overly critical of Indian society, saying that he had intended to be provocative but “funny’ at the same time.
“I don’t think its a harsh critique unlike a lot of books written,” he said. “The reader is entirely free to take the narrator’s views or not. It’s a novel.”
Adiga is also only the third debut novelist to win after DBC Pierre in 2003, for Vernon God Little, and Roy in 1997 for The God of Small Things.