Friday, 6 March 2009

The White Tiger

Oxford killed reading for me. Or maybe dope killed reading for me. I’m not sure which. I haven’t smoked for nearly two weeks now, and I just demolished a 320 page book in less than 24 hours. Given that I have only finished one book since I left Oxford in the summer of 2007, that is quite an achievement. I’m not really sure what that is testament to – the lethargic constraints of a youth and young manhood spent smoking mind alteringly strong samples of Albion’s finest, or the fact that The White Tiger is an enjoyable read.

Either way, I’m back.

And I chose The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga for my comeback tour. OK that is a lie because I actually chose Arthur and George by Julian Barnes for my comeback tour. My mother (SAFE) recommended it to me as something that might make a good film and she was bang on. We (I say we, it was my boss at the time) passed on it eventually but I still stand by my previous convictions. If you’ve got a few million quid spare (which no one does any more – Ah, the nineties!) and are looking for a great British period movie to make, let me know.

Anyway, stick to the point at hand. The White Tiger. Won the 2008 Man Booker Prize. Must be good. It is good. Is it good? In all honesty, I couldn’t make up my mind. It reads very easily, and the story of the amoral entrepreneur is one that I’m sure resonates across India 2.0. I’ve been to India (twice, SAFE) and I am very fond of it. My only problem with the book was that it read like an example of how wealthy, educated Indian people wished their country to be viewed by equally wealthy and educated foreigners: this is a country of extremes, Adiga tells us, of rich and poor, of beauty and ugliness, and I know this; let me be your guide through this beautifully flawed nation of polarities. This is not a book for poor Indian people because there is very little they would find novel or entertaining in it. If they could read and write, they could easily have written this book. It is a novel for people who know that they are speaking to someone in Bangalore every time they try and call their energy supplier, people who think they know the new India.

I suppose that is what my problem with it is. Adiga writes with a target audience so closely in mind, that for all of his attempts to disguise it - Halwai’s anal fixation (a technique stolen quite blatantly from DBC Pierre’s Vernon God Little) and obsession with buggery, the encircling cockroaches, and the vulgar trappings of success – he only succeeds in making more clear that which he so wished to avoid. Adiga has booby-trapped himself without even knowing it. Oh, and I won't even bother touching on how post-Slumdog it is...

Oh well. I'm 75% of the way through The Third Man by Graham Greene now which is without a doubt the best film treatment I have ever come across.

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