My friend C and I exchange a lot of book ideas. We started our PhDs in the same class, we ended up choosing the same literary subfield, and we have the same dissertation director. She’s read some of my primary texts, and I realized I’ve not read all of hers. The White Tiger was in her list, plus I needed to up my Anglophone game. So I decided to give it a try.
Balram Halwai, the White Tiger of this book, is a young entrepreneur in Bangalore, who is writing a letter to the President of China. Over the course of seven nights, Balram shares his rise from sweets-making caste to that of his current position, and in it we learn of an India that few have ever learned to travel. It’s not the magical land of food and the Taj Mahal, but an India of corruption, poverty, and exploitation. He becomes a driver to a wealthy family and there, when he has earned the trust of his boss, an incident occurs that will turn and twist the story into the eventual denouement.
I really, really want to teach this novel. If you’re thinking about narrative voice, Balram’s is unique and unforgettable. He’s in awe of the Chinese President, but not obsequious. He’s honest and untruthful at the same time, so the discoveries he reveals are both thrilling and suspicious. It’s the kind of novel that captured my interest immediately and intrigued me till the very end. It’s also got a delightfully dark vein of humor that I appreciated immensely. While this is definitely a literary debut, I actually find it a lot more accessible than other novels that qualify as literary. Check it out!