Thursday, October 27, 2011

A Strong Follow-uo to "The White Tiger": REview of "Last Man in Tower" by Aravind Adigo

Aravind Adiga made a splash with his Booker Prize-winning "The White Tiger." With his most recent novel, he solidifies that strong reputation. This complex story of a group of Mumbai inhabitants who stand in the way of an overly ambitious developer brings the reader deep into the sounds, smells and ethos of this bustling Indian metropolis. This is a story of greed, murder, community ties and community dissolution in the face of strong pressures. The story is beautifully told and resonates with the thoughtful reader both at a personal and a macro level.

Here is a vivid example of Adiga's distinctive writing style. It shows his ability to capture both personal and societal features with his keen eye:

"The other customer at the table - Masterji noticed him now - a gaunt, middle-aged man in a dirty blue shirt, looked Muslim because of his beard. Masterji guessed he was one of those who had been pulling carts on the road - he thought he could even identify the man's wooden cart resting against the door of the cafe. The labourer picked a biscuit from the stainless-steel plate and chewed. Gone with it, he breathed, picked a second biscuit, and chewed. Each movement of his bony jaws spoke of fatigue; the permanent fatigue of men who have no one to care about them when they work and no one to care about them after they work. The thin body broadcast a raw animal silence. Middle-aged? No. His hair was greying at the edges, but youth had only recently been exorcised from his face. Twenty-seven or twenty-eight at the most. Masterji watched this young man with sunken, shocked eyes and barely enough strength to lift one milk biscuit at a time. This is his daily life. Pulling that cart and coming here for these biscuits, he thought.

The tired Muslim man returned Masterji's gaze. Their eyes met like foreign languages, and the labourer, without moving his lips, spoke at last." (Page 301)

I plan now to read all of Adiga's novels. His is a voice worth listening to.


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