Last Man in Tower

Aravind Adiga understands India the way no backpacker ever will

Book review, Time In

Aravind Adiga

Born in Madras (now Chennai) and raised in Mangalore, Aravind Adiga understands India in a way no backpacker or yoga enthusiast ever will – from the inside out. In a country of a billion people and a chaotic social system based on caste, ethnicity and religion, you need to be part of it to ever have a hope of grasping the intricacies. There is no ‘I’m running away to India to get me some spirituality and live among the poor because that’s where life is real’ malarkey.

Adiga is clearly fascinated by the class system and the social ambitions of the new republic. His first novel, the Man Booker Prize-winning White Tiger, was a rags-to-riches tale, and this is a continuation on a theme. The upstanding residents of a middle-class building are offered a fantastic sum of money by a property developer to vacate. The only catch: they must all agree, or none may benefit.

Last Man in Tower is, in all likelihood, the most authentic depiction of Mumbai’s middle class in modern fiction. Adiga’s characters are not looking for the simple life: they want the good life, and, like all desperate people, are willing to go to shocking lengths to secure it. This is a story about the corrupting power of money in a rapidly changing world. No one is the hero, but no one is the ultimate villain either, because life is rarely that simple.

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