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Wed 15 Oct 2008 01:57 AM

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Indian first-timer wins Booker

33-year old Aravind Adiga wins debut novel 'White Tiger' with a tale of modern-day India.

First-time Indian novelist Aravind Adiga on Tuesday won the Man Booker Prize, one of the world's most prestigious literary awards, with "The White Tiger".The 33-year-old is only the third debut novelist to claim the award in the Booker's 40-year history and one of its youngest winners.

He receives a cheque for 50,000 pounds ($88,000) and can expect not only overnight literary fame but also a significant spike in book sales in the runup to Christmas.

Booker organisers say last year's winner, Anne Enright, has sold around 500,000 copies of "The Gathering", largely due to the prize. The White Tiger is published by Atlantic Books.

Michael Portillo, chairman of the five-member judging panel, praised "The White Tiger" for tackling important social and political issues in modern-day India.

"What sets this one apart was it's originality," Portillo told reporters at a gala dinner in London announcing the winner. "For many of us this was entirely new territory - the dark side of India.

"It's a book that gains from dealing with very important social issues - the divisions between rich and poor and the impossibilty of the poor escaping from their lot in India.

"It tackles these global issues and social issues with tremendous humour, and it is a book which is extremely readable. It is his first novel, and I imagine [this prize] will come as rather good news to Aravind Adiga."

The White Tiger follows Balram Halwai, the son of a rickshaw puller whose dream of escaping poverty of his village takes him on a journey to the bright lights of Delhi and Bangalore, where he will do almost anything to get to the top.

Portillo said the central character was sympathetic while also being "absolutely vile and absolutely unrepenant", and likened him to Shakespeare's tragic hero Macbeth.

He added: "The overarching evil is poverty, the chicken coop from which the poor not only can't escape but have no wish or ambition to escape."

Adiga said his aim in writing The White Tiger was to represent the poor.

"Balram Halwai is a member of the invisible Indian underclass - one of the millions of poor Indians who have been bypassed by the economic boom," he told Reuters before the Booker Prize winner was announced.

"The novel attempts to give literary voice to those who are being written out of the narratives of our time - the poor."

Adiga was one of six novels on the shortlist for the prize, which rewards the best novel of the year by a citizen of the Commonwealth of former British colonies or Ireland.

He beat the bookmakers' favourite Sebastian Barry of Ireland "The Secret Scripture".

Also nominated were India's Amitav Ghosh "Sea of Poppies", Britons Linda Grant "The Clothes on Their Backs" and Philip Hensher "The Northern Clemency" and Australian-born Steve Toltz's "A Fraction of the Whole".

Adiga is the third debut novelist to claim the prize, after Arundhati Roy in 1997 and DBC Pierre in 2003. He is the second youngest winner after Ben Okri, who won in 1991 aged 32.

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Hussain 11 years ago

Kudos to Arivind for doing his country proud. Can't wait to get a hand on the white tiger