Sunday, January 22, 2017

The Ever Present Tension of Modern India: Aravind Adiga's Selection Day

Aravind Adiga skyrocketed to literary prominence with his debut novel, White Tiger, a hilarious and biting satire about modern India, won the Man Booker Prize in 2008. Departing from previous Indian fiction that gained popularity in the West, which focused on the aftermath of independence,  Adiga focused on the modern economic and cultural tensions of contemporary India.

In his newest novel, Selection Day, Adiga delves into new terrain, exploring the pressure of economically marginalized families as they try to gain uplift through the athletic prowess of their children. At the heart of the story is Manju, the younger of two brothers whose father has assiduously trained to become cricket stars. Although Manju's older brother, Radha, is seen as the true prodigy, it quickly becomes apparent that the younger/less attractive/sexually confused sibling is the talent, while Radha's star quickly burns out prior to Selection Day, where professional teams draft teenage players.

While gifted as a batsman, Manju's true dream is to pursue a college degree in sciences. His feelings about the game he excels at are ambiguous at best but he feels burdened to pursue an athletic career by a father who has thrown his entire self into assuring one of his children succeed. Manju is forced to confront these pressures, as well as his own sexual identity and attractions that would certainly marginalize him and undermine any chance of success.

Adiga is certainly ambitious in his writing. He challenges difficult issues facing Indian society, intertwining how children respond to familial pressures for social and economic uplift with the difficulties of young gay men trying to come to terms with their sexuality when doing so could undermine the dreams of aspirations of all around them.

That said, while Adiga is ambitious topically I didn't find his writing to be quite as biting as it was in White Tiger. The latter was hilariously tragic and satiric and while Adiga tries to match this tone in Selection Day the writing does not quite match what you get from White Tiger.

I still recommend this to those who enjoyed White Tiger, but don't expect it to match the award winning novel.

No comments:

Post a Comment