15.10.08

Caging The White Tiger?

As always, people are going around claiming him. Now that he has got the award. They don’t care jackshit about the contents, the form.

It was hugely funny to read Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s comment: "The nation is proud of the international recognition of Adiga's talent."

Just as the nation is proud that you got us the nuke deal? Hold it, these are two different achievements. And if something is good the nation ought to be proud whether or not it is internationally recognised.

Then comes Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee; he said the award will inspire and encourage aspiring young authors to produce quality literature of world standard.

What is world standard? Does Mr. Chatterjee have some little handbook for it?

The White Tiger wasn’t a bestseller. It was moving slowly, which is strange for fiction. In Mumbai, as in most parts of the world, people like stories. What the book had was reviews, lots of them. Indian publications. International publications. Award juries look at these. They want views of people who supposedly understand, not the guy who picks up the copy and pays a few crispy notes for it. Irony here. The book talks about this kind of guy.

Last night the author Aravind Adiga was awarded the Man Booker Prize for 2008.


Today, the distributors are rushing to order copies.

How do I know? We share the same publisher and the same distributors. I will comment more on the book later. We have been talking about the benefits of awards, here is evidence. And a damn good thing it is.

Michael Portillo, chairman of this year’s panel of judges, said that Mr. Adiga’s book had prevailed “because the judges felt that it shocked and entertained in equal measure”.

It is good to see entertaining work being lauded. Gone, one should hope, is the starchy attitude where sentences are framed like pictures in gilt-edged frames. But, why was it shocking? The India that the writer talks about is venal and corrupt in large measure. Is this shocking? Or does it shock that the olde worlde charm has disappeared and poverty too hits back?

Adiga said his book was an “attempt to catch the voice of the men you meet as you travel through India — the voice of the colossal underclass…This voice was not captured, and I wanted to do so without sentimentality or portraying them as mirthless humorless weaklings as they are usually.”

I hate it when writers have to explain all this. Isn’t it obvious? And the voice has been captured several times. Sometimes, they are “mirthless humorless weaklings” because society is not an equal opportunity dispenser.

Responding to a question about what he’d do with the money (it gets him a cheque for about $86,000) – why are only writers and beauty contest winners asked this? No one seems to question the monetary gains made by business people or executives – Adiga said, apparently in jest, “The first thing I am going to do is to find a bank that I can actually put it in.”

Was this an extension of his ‘writerly’ duty to convey the book’s intent and comment wryly on the less than shining possibilities of India? Fortunately, the banks have a lot of space. And this is the sort of salary an executive would make in two years. Or even a journalist in a fairly high position, which Adiga was until a while ago.

Welcome to the world of the white tiger. It may be rare, but is not so exotic anymore.

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Results of the earlier poll

Which Indo-Pak politician gives you the creeps?

Narendra Modi - 6 (40%), L.K.Advani - 3 (20%), Manmohan Singh - 0 (0%), Asif Zardari - 8 (53%), Yousuf Gilani - 3 (20%), Pervez Musharraf -1 (6%)

6 comments:

  1. FV:

    Have you read the book? Is it an entertaining read?

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  2. Farzana, here's my one anna on this ( i hate the yankee 2 cent contribution term ...I am more proud of the humble ruppee)....

    In my view, awards are never an evidence of Talent, they are of sheer acknowledgement of Populism ....lets take bollywood for example, three specific cases....who would you rate as better female actor , Tabbu or any of the plastic Bipasahas...of Course you would award tabbu but filmfare wont....In Maths and average is not a representation of the highest..becaise of range....Shahrukh rates than higher than Irfaan ...Irfaan is awesome actor ....I can relate why Aamir does not take awards..........Tagheuer will never beat Citizen .....Class is for a few ....Good writings never get recognised ...I have more to say but I have go for a meeting ....

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  3. I am back ...two things, First, I have a fundamental disconnect with Indian Creativity seeking a Western seal of approval (oscars, Booker), I believe that as a Race, we are simply more creative, period ,,,Hollywood would struggle to pack our magnitude of emotions in one single movie (Compare Anil Kapoor in Lamhe to Hugh Grant in Love Actually), our creativity in words ( Farhat Shahzad ..Gulzar..Nida fazli)...our creativity in Ads ...they are a light years away from making an equivalent of the Fevicol ad.
    So, Dont think if Booker decides who is a good indian writer ...

    Second, I am absolutely moved by the sheer depth of the thoughts you portray in such direct, politically incorrect way, you force the reader to question prejudices and do an introspection...Please blog on ...like Rock On ....

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  4. Is A journey Interrupted "entertaining"? Maybe I should finally pick it up...Do I hear the Booker people calling?? :)

    Should pick up Adiga's book too..after you endorsed it as entertaining..

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  5. Personally, I do give some weight to prize winning books. If it is only for popular, then HARRY POTTER is the best. These awards do contribute, to some extent, in bringing some very good literature to main stream or to acknowledge authors.

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  6. PS:

    Yes. Entertaining in the mainstream sense.

    Manish:

    I agree that we do not need to seek western approval, but unfortunately that is how things work here. Just see how people ran to buy this book after the award...and NRIs who go whine-whine when the India Shining is criticised are all over this guy. And most have not read the book.

    However, awards are not evidence of talent, but getting awards does not mean lack of talent, either.

    Ultimately, it isn't the Booker or any group of people who can decide who a good writer is; they can only comment on a particular book. A reader is the best judge of what s/he wants.

    Are Indians more creative? In some ways. But then why do we ape the west? The ad agencies are the worst in this respect. I too like the Fevicol ad...have you seen the Aquaguard one.."Yeh Amrit hai, jeevan hai"? Beautiful...

    And yes, thank you for what you have to say about me...I don;t know about rock on; more likely to roll and gather moss...

    Ronin:

    I don't know your definition of entertaining, but if you find this blog so, then AJI might be. I am not a good judge.

    The Booker is for fiction.

    Did not know my endorsement would work. Read him before you read me. (A trifle surprised that you have not yet 'picked up' my book. I guess you are not that kind of guy :)

    Farhan:

    I said the acceptance of an entertaining work is something. But then it would contradict your position about good literature. I wish they had used different terminology.

    It is a quick read and I have some issues with it. Just written a piece, let's see...

    People want you to come up with standard flattery.

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