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Booker winner Adiga ready with second novel

October 15, 2008 17:29 IST
Last Updated: October 15, 2008 18:07 IST

Enjoying the spotlight after winning the 2008 Man Booker prize for his debut novel, young Indian novelist Aravind Adiga says his second novel is "almost done" but declined to give details about the upcoming book.

The 33-year-old journalist based in Mumbai also rejected suggestions that his award-winning book The White Tiger was overly critical of Indian society saying that he had intended to be provocative but 'funny' at the same time to engage the reader.

Aravind Adiga speaks on The White Tiger

"I like books that have ideas in them and that move and that entertain," Oxford-educated Adiga told the media shortly after bagging the prestigious literary prize for his book which was described as a "perfect novel" by the chairman of the judges and former politician Michael Portillo.

Announcing the winner at a ceremony in London [Images], Portillo said "My criteria were 'Does it knock my socks off?' and this one did... the others impressed me... this one knocked my socks off."

Asked by BBC Radio about writing his next book, Adiga said he didn't "have to sit down to write it, it's almost done." He declined to give details on the subject he would be writing on.

The youngest author on the Booker shortlist said he wrote "the kind of book I'd like to read."

"Making it to the shortlist on a first novel is sort of like winning and anything beyond that is quite a bonus," Adiga said.

The novel is about a tale of a man's journey from Indian village life to entrepreneurial success.

Adiga also responded to criticism that he painted a negative picture of modern India and its huge underclass saying he wanted to write about all aspects of Indian society.

"In India if you really want to get out and do a book you have to make a conscious effort to connect to people in every conceivable way," he said. "I don't think it is a harsh critique unlike a lot of books written," he said.

"The reader is entirely free to take the narrator's views or not. It's a novel."

Adiga confessed he was stunned to have won the prize. "I had no idea it was coming," he said, adding that he regarded just making the shortlist as a significant achievement. Asked about his future literary efforts, Adiga said "India just teems with untold stories, and no one who is alive to the poetry, the anger and the intelligence of Indian society will ever run out of stories to write."

"I do want to write about people who haven't been written about, and there's a lot of them in India still."

To a question over whether winning the award meant anything to him, Adiga said "It won't change much, because I live in Mumbai, and I'm going back there day after tomorrow, and life in Mumbai has a way of reminding you that writers are not particularly important."

"It won't mean anything to my neighbours, they won't know about this. Life will continue."

About his award-winning book, Adiga said "This has been always the story of a man's quest for freedom, that's fundamentally how I've seen it."

"It's a story that's set in today's India, and revolves around the great divide between those Indians who have made it and those who have not," he added.

Adiga said his book was fiction, "built on a substratum of Indian reality. Here's one example: Balram's father, in the novel, dies of tuberculosis. Now, this is a make-believe figure, but underlying it is a piece of appalling reality -- the fact that nearly a thousand Indians, most of them poor, die every day of tuberculosis," said the former Time correspondent.

The writing of the novel, said Adiga, had come out of his career as a journalist, and his encounters -- as a relatively privileged middle-class man -- with members of India's underclass.

"Class is a boring topic to write about. Big divides are not what people are interested in. But it's the most pressing concern -- because other things spring out of it, like terrorism and instability," he said.

"The book has done very well in India -- and there is a need for books like this," he said, adding "something extraordinary is happening between the rich and the poor. Once, there was at least a common culture between rich and poor, but that has been eroded, and people have noted that."

Asked what he would do with the money, Adiga said: "The first thing is to find a bank I can put it in."

Adiga cites Ralph Ellison and James Baldwin as influences; both authors who depicted worlds that their audiences hardly knew.

Adiga said the tone of his book was meant to be provocative, to get people thinking. It is a story of the poor people who don't get represented in Indian films or books.

"There is a lot of triumphalist noise in India today. There is a sense of profound economic achievement and much of it is justified, but it is also important to listen to other noises. A large number of people are not benefiting from the economic boom. It is a fact that for most of the poor people in India there are only two ways to go up -- either through crime or through politics, which can be a variant of crime," he said.

Adiga added that even though the book was based on poverty, it was meant to be a "funny book -- there is no reason why a book dealing with poverty should be boring. It is not a political or social statement: it's a novel -- meant to provoke and entertain its readers."

"The narrator is a tainted one -- a murderer -- and his views are certainly not mine. But there is something I'd like my readers to think about. I'm increasingly convinced that the servant-master system, the bed rock of middle-class Indian life, is coming apart: and its unravelling will lead to greater crime and instability. The novel is a portrait of a society that is on the brink of unrest," he said.

Buy Aravind Adiga's The White Tiger on

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