The White Tiger is a novel by Aravind Adiga that follows Balram Halwai as he writes (real? imaginary?) letters to the President of China, and describes how he became a driver to a rich man in Delhi, transcended caste, and became the white tiger.
Winner of the 2008 Man Booker Prize, this is one of the books that I picked up on a whim at my local library in the attempt to find some diverse fiction. (I live in the middle of nowhere. This is proving a challenge.) I didn’t really know anything about it, but hey, a little spontaneity is good for the soul.
I loved this book. Balram is funny, believable, and shockingly astute. One of the best passages is where he describes how the 1% is able to rule the 99%. He calls this The Rooster Coop:
“The greatest thing to come out of this country in the ten thousand years of its history is the Rooster Coop…. Hundreds of pale hens and brightly colored roosters, stuffed tightly into wire-mesh cages, packed as tightly as worms in a belly, pecking each other and shitting on each other, jostling just for breathing space…On the wooden desk above this coop sits a grinning young butcher, showing off the flesh and organs of a recently chopped-up chicken, still oleaginous with a coating of dark blood. The roosters in the coop smell the blood from above. They see the organs of their brothers lying around them. They know they’re next. Yet they do not rebel. They do not try to get out of the coop. The very same thing is done with human beings in this country” (173).
This metaphor becomes increasingly elaborate as the book continues, as Balram considers himself to be the one rooster that has escaped. And this is only one of many of the recurring metaphors and motifs within the novel. (I’m an English Lit student, I live for this sort of stuff!).
He discusses everything, from globalisation to caste to foot massages with a clarity and a bluntness that is incredibly unique. I will most certainly be reading Adiga’s other novels, The Last Man in Tower, and Between the Assassinations, in the hopes that these are equally as good.