ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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The Last and the First

Aravind Adiga's novel The White Tiger has been criticised for its lack of realism and the caricature of its characters. The novel breaks with realist traditions of representing poverty and backwardness in Indian anglophone literature. Instead it poses a challenge to progressive traditions by framing the main character's revolt in Fanonian terms which challenges both the tradition of leftist movement politics as well as the liberal discourse of rights and privileges. Drawing from the same sources of anger and angst as much of realist literature, Adiga fashions a new voice which is unfamiliar and unsettling in its revolt.

It has been a year since the release of Aravind Adiga’s first novel The White Tiger. Described as brutal, blunt, stark and harrowing, this book has led to a revolving discussion of realism, faithfulness, authenticity and the potential of the novel. This is standard procedure as far as reception to Indian anglophone fiction goes, which has historically proceeded from the defensive position of requiring particular ideological justification for writing in English. In this case, that justification has been made on the basis of realism, “There are some things”, says the protagonist Balram Halwai, “that can only be said in English”. Sometimes English offers privileged access to un-mined territories.

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