The Indian writer is one of two first-time novelists on the 2008 Man Booker shortlist of six. The other is Steve Toltz. Only three other debut novelists have achieved this in the past - Keri Hulme for her novel The Bone People, DBC Pierre in 2003 for his novel Vernon God Little and Arundhati Roy in 1997 for The God of Small Things.
Thirty-three year old Aravind Adiga, who has wanted to be a novelist since he was a boy, was born in Madras and now lives in Mumbai. The White Tiger is a 'compelling, angry and darkly humorous' novel about a man's journey from Indian village life to entrepreneurial success. It was described by one reviewer as an ‘unadorned portrait' of India seen ‘from the bottom of the heap'.
Aravind Adiga is the fourth Indian born-author to win the prize, joining compatriots Salman Rushdie, Arundhati Roy and Kiran Desai who won the prize in 1981, 1997 and 2006 respectively. A fifth winner, V S Naipaul is of Indian ancestry. In addition, The White Tiger is the ninth winning novel to take its inspiration from India or Indian identity.
Tonight's win is a first for publisher Atlantic; although they had a book shortlisted for the prize in 2003 with The Good Doctor by Damon Galgut and in 2004 with Bitter Fruit by Achmat Dangor.
Michael Portillo, Chair of the judges, made the announcement, which was broadcast live on the BBC Ten O' Clock News, at the awards dinner at the Guildhall, London. Peter Clarke, Chief Executive of Man Group plc, presented Aravind Adiga with a cheque for £50,000.
Michael Portillo comments,
"The judges found the decision difficult because the shortlist contained such strong candidates. In the end, The White Tiger prevailed because the judges felt that it 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."
Over and above his prize of £50,000, Aravind Adiga may expect a huge increase in sales and recognition worldwide. Each of the six shortlisted authors, including the winner, receives £2,500 and a designer-bound edition of their book.
The judging panel for the 2008 Man Booker Prize for Fiction comprised: Michael Portillo, former MP and Cabinet Minister; Alex Clark, editor of Granta; Louise Doughty, novelist; James Heneage, founder of Ottakar's bookshops; and Hardeep Singh Kohli, TV and radio broadcaster.