Why do countries suddenly start producing great novelists? When I was in Russia recently a friend complained to me that the transition to capitalism had killed Russian literature – under communism they had had Solzhenitsyn, Pasternak, Akhmatova and Bulgakov. But modern Russians, my friend lamented, seem to be too busy consuming to read or produce great literature.
In India, however, an economic boom has gone hand in hand with a literary boom. Once again a novel by an Indian-born writer has carried off Britain’s leading prize for fiction. Last night Aravind Adiga won the Booker Prize with his first novel – “The White Tiger”. He follows in the footsteps of Salman Rushdie (1981), Arundhati Roy (1997) and Kiran Desai (2006). (And lots of people think that Vikram Seth should also have won with “A Suitable Boy” in 1993.) In the 1970s, a couple of novels about India – written by British authors (Paul Scott and Ruth Prawher Jhabvala) – won the Booker. But now Indian authors are regularly winning the prize in their own right. Read more