Thursday, October 16, 2008

The critics weigh in on Aravind Adiga's Booker winner
From a Guardian book blog this morning.

A worthy winner? Aravind Adiga. Photograph: Alastair Grant/AP

Chair of the judges Michael Portillo is widely quoted in this morning's papers saying that deliberations over this year's Booker winner were marked by "passionate debate".
Outside Portillo's courtroom, thus far, fewer pulses seem to have been raised by Aravind Adiga's victory. This may be because only about 3,000 people have so far bought his only book to date; or because the famous potential winners were knocked out at shortlist stage and even fewer people have read the others.

The high-mindedly byline-free Literary Saloon confesses that it has read only one of the six shortlisted novels, so it's "hesitant to be too critical". Nonetheless - but luckily for the strong-opinion seeker - that one book was The White Tiger and "this is not a good choice". The blog notes that the judges praised the book's originality. "Perhaps they don't read much," it speculates, adding that the book's framing device of being a letter to the Chinese premier might have been interesting, had the author done anything with it. This leaves the reader to wonder what the Saloon's thoughts would have been had it not been so hesitant to judge.

In the Times and the Independent, Erica Wagner and Boyd Tonkin are also among the select few who have read the book. Wagner quotes an interview with Adiga explaining that his murderously ambitious central character, clawing his way up from India's brutally deprived underclass, "is a make-believe figure, but underlying it is a piece of appalling reality".
Wagner says that "this remark calls to mind the best that fiction can offer: remaking the world through a vision of actual circumstance was the work of Dickens and Tolstoy, too". Boyd Tonkin's comparisons are not so extravagant, and he's one of a fair few to suggest that the Booker always loves a post-colonial tale, and "the shade of Salman Rushdie hangs over it". However, Adiga, "quickens his pace and focuses his insight in a way the sprawling deltas of modern Indian fiction seldom manage".
Read the rest at the Guardian online.

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