So far, my life hasn’t changed at all,” says 34-year-old Aravind Adiga, two months after becoming the fifth writer of Indian origin to win the Man Booker Prize, the world’s most-hyped literary award. But can that really be? With his debut novel, The White Tiger, set to become one of the biggest ever Booker-winners in terms of world-wide sales, surely, things can’t quite be the same? “Well, when I go abroad these days, sometimes I am surprised at the attention I get.”It’s not merely that. There must be the second-book syndrome — the disquiet fuelled by raised expectation after a first novel comes from nowhere, defies all odds and fancied competition and wins the prize after "knocking the socks off" the judging panel’s chairman.
|If he is worried, Adiga is not letting on. "The next one is never a burden," he says. "It’s what gets me out of bed in the mornings."|
“No one is waiting for you to write your first book. No one cares if you finish it,” said the American novelist Jeffrey Eugenides. “But after your first, if it goes well, everyone seems to be waiting. You go from having nothing to lose to having everything to lose, and that’s what creates the panic.”
If he is worried, Adiga is not letting on. “The next one is never a burden,” he says. “It’s what gets me out of bed in the mornings.” His second published book is a collection of stories, which had been written before The White Tiger. So, his real book-after-the-Booker is still in gestation.
Which should be fine for him. Adiga’s novel has come not a moment too soon. Sharp and mordant, it follows an uneducated man from the hinterland coming to make good in the bright lights of the big city. It is about the underbelly of what we call New India, and about its glaring inequalities.
The story of India is rapidly moving on. And waiting, watching, tracking the shift, readying to put his pulse on what exactly is changing is no bad thing for a writer who has emerged as an acute, triumphant chronicler of the country’s here and now.