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First-time novelist wins the Booker prize

By / October 15, 2008



At the age of 33, Indian author Aravind Adiga has become the third debut novelist to win one of the world's most prestigious literary awards. Last night in London, the 40th Booker Prize was awarded to Adiga for his novel "The White Tiger."

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The novel, which was described by the Booker judges as "compelling, angry and darkly humorous," tells the story of an Indian servant who kills his kindly employer as part of his journey from village life to entrepreneurial success.

Adiga was born in Madras and lives today in Mumbai, but he spent his high school years in Australia and studied at Columbia and Oxford universities. He is also a former correspondent for Time magazine in India. Adiga has told the press that he credits the success of "The White Tiger" in part to his years spent living in both Sydney, Australia, and New York.

These cities, he said, gave him a taste of a more egalitarian style of life. When he returned to India, he said, he found that made him more interested in exploring questions of class.

Sometimes, Adiga said in an interview, class is neglected by novelists in favor of an interest in questions of gender or memory.

Adiga has also said that in creating the protagonist of "The White Tiger" he hoped to more vividly capture "the voice of [India's] colossal underclass” rather than to portray the country's poor as "mirthless humorless weaklings” – the image he feels has more often prevailed in literature.

The Booker judges apparently felt that Adiga succeeded, saying that his novel "shocked and entertained in equal measure."

Two other first-time novelists have won the prize: DBC Pierre won in 2003 for "Vernon God Little" and Arundhati Roy in 1997 for her novel "The God of Small Things."

Adiga, who had been considered a long-shot to win the Booker, is the fifth Indian author and the second-youngest writer ever to win the $86,000 prize.

The other authors short-listed for the Booker prize this year were Steve Toltz, Sebastian Barry, Amitav Ghosh, Linda Grant, and Philip Hensher.

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