Sunday, January 1, 2012
Last Man in Tower--Aravind Adiga
One of the blurbs on the back of Mr. Adiga's latest book compares him with Charles Dickens--and perhaps this comparison is more apropos than might seem at first glance. The White Tiger, Mr. Adiga's first book, won the Man Booker Prize the year it came out. It was a savage indictment of the current regime in India with a sharp look at the cost and benefits of "outsourcing." One might think about it as the inside story of outsourcing. Between the Assassinations, a kind of novel in short stories, I have not read. This third work, is larger in volume and yet somewhat smaller in scope than either of the first two.
Mr. Adiga takes us into the lives of the residents of an apartment house that comes to the attention of a building constructor who wants to place on the site new luxury apartments. The developer offers the people in towers A and B a princely sum for their houses. Almost all of the residents want to take him up on it. But there is a single hold-out--Masterji.
The story charts the early benevolence/indifference of the residents and their gradually increasing concern as Masterji's reluctance to leave his home endangers the deal for everyone.
Adiga gives us a story of corruption, greed, desperation, poverty, family, and friends. It is exemplary of the adage that "The Love of Money is the root of all evil." For in this book it is the deep love of money that drives the residents to their actions, which include all manner of inducements and punishments to force Masterji to change his mind.
Adiga obviously loves his native India and is rightfully concerned about what is happening there--to the culture, to the people, to the city. His story is Dickensian, as I said above, because his chief concern (other than telling a fantastically good story) is to address the evil rife in India and in the hearts of all of those who choose to value the material at the cost of the human and the humane. Just as Dickens looked with mordant eye upon the morals and mores of the straight-laced but sometimes conflicted Victorian society he was part of, Adiga does the same for the society of India right now--and by extension through out-sourcing and other connections for the world at large. As with The White Tiger, Last Man in Tower is an often savage indictment of society and an intimate portrait of the human heart.