8. Between the Assassinations by Aravind Adiga
Mr. Adiga vaulted onto the literary scene when his debut novel, The White Tiger, won the 2008 Man Booker Prize. Between the Assassinations is a followup collection of linked short stories that showcases Adiga’s considerable skills, proving that Tiger was no fluke – we may have only just glimpsed the glimmering edge of his potential talent. These stories, set in the small Indian town of Kittur on the Arabian Sea, feature the seemingly boundless population of fully formed characters residing at the author’s fingertips. An illegal bookseller sells photocopied versions of banned titles and pays a steep price. A young man of privilege sets off an explosive in his Jesuit-run school, citing that “no man should be judged merely by the accident of his birth.” A small town boy climbs the ranks at the bus depot, only to learn how finite social climbing in Kittur really is. A snake-oil salesman finally allows his conscience to get the better of him. An overworked delivery man works harder than the elephants doing the same job and is kept under foot by his fanciful dream of moving upward in life. The characters float in and around each other’s stories, only getting as close to one another as social caste will allow. Kittur itself is the true character, providing a backdrop for the broad-sweeping narrative on the intricate social caste system that is very much alive in modern India.