Posted by: Lisa Hill | July 30, 2009

Between the Assassinations, by Aravind Adiga

Between the AssassinationsI really liked The White Tiger, but I’m a bit disappointed in this, a collection of short stories – written before Adiga won the Booker last year, but not published until afterwards.  Publishers sometimes do this with prize-winning authors: they resurrect previously rejected work and rush it out into the bookshops while the author’s high profile guarantees good sales.  I have learned the hard way to be suspicious of books published too soon after a big prize by a first-time author.  Between the Assassinations came from the library, picked up out of curiosity but with no great expectations.

Most, but not all of the stories have the same irreverent style as the novel, but some seem more sober as they similarly focus on the ironies of life in modern India.  It’s set in a fictional place called Kittur and features a cast of characters that seem much like a practice run for The White Tiger.  These characters are often interesting (Murali  ‘casting away for good his membership of the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Maoist)‘ is especially memorable) and the writing is fluid and evocative.  But without the voice of Balram Halwai to comment on events, these short stories seem to lack the jauntiness that made his world endurable.   Balram says (or perhaps just tells us so, it’s a question for book groups) that he was trying to be a moral man in an amoral world, but he has an endearing resilience that absolves his moral failures up to a point. (Or maybe not, that’s another question for book groups).   But in Between the Assassinations, there is no redeeming cheekiness from a narrator to inspire affection for the characters – or anything else to offer hope for a better future.

I really don’t like the title.  The assassination of any political leader is a blot on a nation’s soul, and to allude to the assassinations of Indira Gandhi and her son Rajiv Gandhi, whatever their shortcomings, as if they were mere bookends in history, seems to me to be just a bit too pert.

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