Friday, June 19, 2009

Between the Assassinations - Aravind Adiga

Aravind Adiga's second book, Between the Assassinations is a set of short stories which describe life in Kittur, a fictitious town in coastal Karnataka. The title refers to a period of time between the assasinations of two former Indian Prime Ministers Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi (1984-1991). The stories are set during this time frame, when India yet had to liberalize its economy, and had not seen the economic growth witnessed during the latter half of the nineties.

Although I am not a big fan of short stories, Adiga's storytelling makes for some really delightful reading. Comparisons with his more famous 'Man Booker Prize' winning "The White Tiger" are inevitable, and I felt this book was equally enthralling. As is the case with 'The White Tiger', most of the stories deal with crushing poverty, casteism, the innumerable injustices and ironies of Indian life. Each story describes a certain aspect of life - a clash of ideologies, the fury of an underprivileged worker etc.

I could not help comparing the book to many of R K Narayan's stories from another fictitious town Malgudi. I think a major similarity between the two writers is that R K Narayan's stories are simple, delightful tales of everyday life of a common man. 'Between the Assassinations' is similar, the striking difference being that Adiga depicts casteism and excruciating poverty and the gap between haves and have-nots in India in close detail.

Some thought provoking words from Aravind about his books:

"At a time when India is going through great changes and, with China, is likely to inherit the world from the West, it is important that writers like me try to highlight the brutal injustices of society (Indian). That's what I'm trying to do -- it is not an attack on the country, it's about the greater process of self-examination."

His books are about self-examination alright, 'brutal' self-examination, if I might add. You will love it if you have liked 'The White Tiger' or even R K Narayan's writings.


ZiLliOnBiG said...

hey, incidentally this is part of the 12 books i bought while on my last vacation to India, 4 months back.

I love reading Adiga, and his attention to minutest details is startling.I read few stories, the one of the journalist and another of the boy who comes across a terrorist. I was touched by what I read. Amazing writer, I am greatly influenced by him. And his similarity to RK is astounding. Adiga has claimed RK to be one of his Favorite authors in one of the interviews, so I feel its natural one sees the likeness.
Thanks for this review. This book deserves another major award.

Rahul Anand said...

@ZilionBig: Yes Adiga is one of my favs too. Got to wait for his next one. Thanks!

Smita said...

Had picked this one the day it was released, read the first story and left it because am not so fond of short stories. But your review encourages me to pick this up.

BTW do u know this one was written before "The White Tiger"?

Rahul Anand said...

@Smita, this one was written after 'The White Tiger'. If you have not read it, try 'The White Tiger' first and then you will enjoy this one.

I don't like short stories either, but can say this one is an exception :)

Smita said...

No this was written Before White Tiger but released after that am 120% sure of that :)

And have read White Tiger and loved it. Have even reviewed it.

Rahul Anand said...

@Smita, looked up your review of 'The White Tiger' and some older posts which I had not read. I think we share the same opinion of the following books:

Inheritance of Loss
A House for Mr. Biswas
A Suitable Boy
The God Of Small Things

Picked up, tried to read, somehow could not connect with the authors. And 'Sea of Poppies' also had to be left unfinished.

Yes, a little more research showed me that 'Between the Assassinations' was indeed written before 'The White Tiger' but was published later.

PS: you buy all those books? wow, you must be rich :-)

Smita said...

lol, Yes I do buy these books but no am not rich!!!! Could have been had I not bought those book ;-)

Sea of Poppies is staring at me from the book shelf and urging me to pick, have heard only good things about it!!!!

All the books that u have listed are a sour point in my thoughts, they keep reminding of my failure. Need to read them!

Chhaya said...

Adiga is among the very few indian writers that i like. there is a sense of intense honesty around his words..

Rahul Anand said...

@Chhaya, you are right. His writing connects very well with what happens in real life.

Aparna said...

Rahul I haven't read this one. I was told this was not as enthralling as The White Tiger. Your post makes me feel that perhaps I should have tried it.

Rahul Anand said...

@Aparna, the writing style is similar in both books, but 'The White Tiger' keeps you engrossed as its one story, while this one has several short stories. But yes, its good too.