First published on 25 Jul 2011. Updated on 12 Aug 2011.
Born in Madras (now Chennai) and raised in Mangalore, Aravind Adiga understands India in a way no backpacker or yoga enthusiast ever will ever – from the inside out. In a country of a billion people and a chaotic social system based on caste, ethnicity and religion, you need to be part of it to ever have a hope of grasping the intricacies. There is no "I'm running away to India to get me some spirituality and live amongst the poor cos that's where life is real" malarkey.
Adiga is clearly fascinated by the class system and the social ambitions of the new republic. His first novel, the Man Booker Prize-winning White Tiger, was a rags-to-riches tale and Last Man in Tower is a continuation on a theme. The upstanding, pucca residents of a middle class building are offered a fantastic sum of money by a property developer to vacate. The only catch: they must all agree, or none may benefit.
Last Man in Tower is, in all likelihood, the most authentic depiction of Mumbai's middle class in modern fiction. Adiga's characters are not looking for the simple life: they want the good life, and, like all desperate people, are willing to go to shocking lengths to secure it. This is a story about the corrupting power of money in a rapidly changing world. No one is the hero, but no one is the ultimate villain either, because life is rarely that simple.