MELISSA BLOCK, host:
Now a review of a new book of short stories from a writer who won major critical acclaim last year. Aravind Adiga's debut novel "The White Tiger" won the Man Booker Prize. His new collection is called "Between the Assassinations."
Alan Cheuse has this review.
ALAN CHEUSE: The book's dozen or so stories take place between the political killings of Indira Gandhi and her son Rajiv. That's not a broad swath of time, from 1984 to 1991. The setting isn't all that broad a swath of India either. Adiga focuses on a rather small plot of earth - Kittur, a forested town with Hindu temples and Catholic churches near the Arabian Sea.
Just six years in a small town, a length of time that Adiga reduces even further by using the metaphor of touring the entire town in six days. It's in the hearts of his characters where Adiga reveals great depth and breadth, spanning the ages from youth to late maturity and giving us a range of people whose caste affiliations and immediate aspirations for their lives rank from the highest to the lowest.
Ziauddin, small and black with baby fat in his cheeks, is a Muslim boy who finds work in a number of Kittur shops, only to steal wherever he goes. Xerox, who sells pirated books, including a copy of "The Satanic Verses," is the son of the lowest of the low waste collectors. Half Brahmin, his father, half low-caste, his mother, the rich but confused Shankara sets off a bomb at his school and suffers the consequences.
George D'Souza, who sprays mosquito repellant for a living, comes under the sway of a rich, young, foreign Christian woman and hopes, right up to the moment when he oversteps certain boundaries, to change his life.
Like Murali, the aging fiction writer turned political agitator in the last story, we are reminded of that strange mixture of the strikingly beautiful and the filthy, which is the nature of every Indian village, and maybe also in some places we've lived in right here at home.
BLOCK: Our reviewer is Alan Cheuse. The collection of short stories by Aravind Adiga is called "Between the Assassinations."
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