Tiger, Tiger Burning White

During the first third of The White Tiger, I was buzzing with excitement. But by the time I finished the novel, my enthusiasm gave way to a strange mixture of enjoyment and annoyance. Annoyance because Adiga’s sarcasm and excessive use of exclamation points grates. Ha! Yes, just like that. Unfortunately for Adiga, there are at least 23 registers of humor. Not just one. Which is the only one he settles into, ploppingly. Finally, Adiga’s representation of India smacks of phoniness. He depicts India as a filthy, throbbing coop of paan-spitting rickshaw pullers and harsh, degenerate landlords. The former want to murder their masters; the latter, enslave their victims. A simple typology. Which all feels a bit outlandish, almost cartoonish, really. But what do I know? I’ve never been to India. Still, that won’t prevent me from tapping my vast reservoir of non-experience and heartily recommending three alternative books: Arundhati Roy’s The God of Small Things, Rohinton Mistry’s A Fine Balance, and Siddhartha Chowdury’s Patna Roughcut (Chowdury, by the way, is described by Amitava Kumar as the Joyce of Delhi — a fine compliment, that). All three of these novels feel a hell of a lot more honest about the inner lives of the people they depict than does The White Tiger.

4 Responses to Tiger, Tiger Burning White

  1. A fine balance is one of my all time favourites. And I did like The god of small things too. However, I rather liked The white tiger also – very different – it’s cynical and it’s humour is dark. It takes a very different view of survival to Mistry. It’s sort of humour is hard to sustain I think and that makes this book a bit of a challenge. I agree it’s cartoonish, but I think it works ok in a book with the tone this one has. That said, I’d be recommending Mistry first!

  2. Dear Sir,

    My take on it was a little different. It starts as bombast, ends as bombast, and represents one person’s view and experience of an India that one would venture to guess he doesn’t like very much. I place it alongside one of my all-time favorite books (also mentioned here) _A Fine Balance._ I recommend both as a diptych, and more importantly as an insider’s view of what outsourcing can end up meaning for India.

    I liked the high energy and the manic mood throughout and while I didn’t find the whole thing humorous, I found it all a profound appraisal of India as it is today.

    That said, Mistry gives us the flip side, with relatively little humor, but a great deal of compassion and humanity and shows how, despite it all, life goes on. The same conclusion as Adiga but with considerably less bitterness.

    Thank you for posting.



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