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Adiga bags prestigious Man Booker Prize 2008 for The White Tiger
The book that is set against the backdrop of India’s growing wealth gap was described by the jury as revealing “the dark side of India”. Adiga received the GBP 50,000 (USD 87,000) prize at a glittering ceremony on Tuesday night in London’s Guildhall.
Speaking at the event, the 33-year-old former journalist said his book – the story of Balram Halwai, a village boy who becomes an entrepreneur through villainous means – aimed to highlight the needs of India's poor.
"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," Adiga, the fifth Indian-origin writer to win the prize, told the BBC.
"These people at the bottom have the same aspirations as the middle class - to make it in life, to become businessmen, to create business empires. They need to be given their legitimate needs - the schooling, the education, the health care - to achieve those dreams. If not, as I said, there are only two ways up: crime or politics."
But Adiga added that although India has "an extreme divide between the rich and the poor", his book wasn't a social commentary.
"It's an attempt to dramatise this and get it into literature. It's meant to be a fun book and to engage its readers," said Adiga, who beat off competition from five other authors, including fellow Indian Amitav Ghosh, nominated for his "Sea of Poppies".
Chairman of the jury, Michael Portillo said that Adiga – only the third debutant to claim the award in its 40-year-history – won because judges felt that his book "shocked and entertained in equal measure”.
"The novel undertakes the extraordinarily difficult task of gaining and holding the reader's sympathy for a thoroughgoing villain. The book gains from dealing with pressing social issues and significant global developments with astonishing humour."
The other shortlisted authors were Steve Toltz of Australia ("A Fraction of the Whole"), Sebastian Barry of Ireland ("The Secret Scripture"), and British writers Linda Grant and Philip Hensher ("The Clothes on Their Backs" and "The Northern Clemency" respectively).
Chennai-born Adiga is the third debut writer to win the award after DBC Pierre in 2003 for his "Vernon God Little" and Arundhati Roy in 1997 for "The God of Small Things".
Adiga, when asked about winning the prize in the midst of a financial crisis, said: "India and China have come into their own and the fiction that comes from these countries should reflect the fact.”
"What that means is writers from those countries need to be more critical in looking at those countries because they no longer need protection. As they step out into the world stage and potentially rule the world, it is even more important."
As the writer wrote 'The White Tiger' while his stay in Delhi, he dedicated the prize to the city.
"It's a city that I love and a city that's going to determine India's future and the future of a large part of the world. It's a book about Delhi, so I dedicate it to the people that made it happen," he said.
Each of the six shortlisted authors, including the winner, receives 2,500 pounds ($4,357) and a designer-bound edition of their book.
The judging panel for the 2008 Man Booker Prize for Fiction comprised: former MP and Cabinet minister Michael Portillo, editor of Granta Alex Clark; novelists Louise Doughty, founder of Ottakar's bookshops James Heneage and Hardeep Singh Kohli, a TV and radio broadcaster.
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