Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Booker coming to India this year again?

The two shortlisted Indian authors, Amitava Ghosh for Sea of Poppies and Aravind Adiga for The White Tiger. I have not yet read the other three shortlisted novels but among the two I would place my bet fair and square on Adiga.
Sea of Poppies is an epic, its huge. But as works of that size go, it rambles on and on at times, there are whole pages of seemingly useless descriptions. If I skip one or two pages in between I dont feel I have missed a lot, the thread remains quite unbroken. There are too many characters which is always dangerous, but for a writer like Ghosh it is hardly so. He weaves their story together with mastery, bringing them from all parts of East India, USA, and England, in the first part (Land), as they converge slowly but surely by the time they reach 'Sea'. Given the topicality of the novel, the language is sometimes difficult even for an Indian to decipher, for a person not used to Hindi it would be tough.
In contrast The White Tiger is taut. It jumps from page to page, very easy to read, and yet you know that the language is so simple because Adiga wanted it to be simple. The narrator-protagonist is after all a semi literate writing in English to the Chinese Premier. Dark humour at its best, this novel works most because it shows the seedy underbelly of India. The villages are not verdant greens, the cities do not say India Shining. Men die of tuberculosis in unmanned hospitals, politicians are corrupt to the core, land owners are sharks, rickshaw pullers and tea shop workers are skeletons, society is rotten. Bangalore is a city of opportunity but only for the very very sly. A business blossoms only if you keep the police palms oiled. One could go on and on. The effect of this book stayed with me for days. Never read anything like this before.
I recommend this to everyone.

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