Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Aravind Adiga
Atlantic Books – NZ $37

With his second work of fiction the 2008 Man Booker Prize winner has more than proven that his brilliant first work, The White Tiger, was no flash in the pan. He is clearly an important new literary talent, yet another from the Indian sub-continent.
I started reading this second book assuming it was a novel but now that I have finished it I see it more as a collection of short stories, all set in the fictional city of Kittur, on India’s south-west coast between Goa and Calicut.
The stories are cleverly framed between page extracts from an imagined guidebook to the city. This gives it the sense of a novel but on reflection these are definitely interlinked short stories employing the same sort of technique that the noted New Zealand short fiction exponent Charlotte Grimshaw uses so effectively.

The title of the book refers to the fact that the stories are set in the 1980’s between the 1984 assassination of Indira Ghandi and the 1991 assassination of her son, Rajiv Ghandi.
These are the unsentimental stories of mainly young, poor ,unemployed and disenfranchised people, greatly discriminated against and often bound by the caste system. I must say my heart bled for many of Adiga’s characters, such is the power of his observation and his command f the language. His images are simply breathtaking and often memorable. This is poverty and under-privilege about which we in first world countries really have little idea. People living in poverty in New Zealand? Yeah right. Read this book to learn what real poverty and discrimination is about.

Don’t miss this powerful collection, but be prepared to be shocked and made to feel uncomfortable.
500+ pages so a big read.

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