'A rich Indian family's ambitious driver uses his wit and cunning to escape from poverty and rise to the top as an entrepreneur.'
Source: Production blurb.
'Scholarship on literary renderings of the urban has focussed primarily on poverty and thus contributed to a somewhat one-sided perception of social inequalities. For the sake of a more comprehensive perception of the social asymmetries shaping today's cities, this essay focuses on urban wealth and explores its centrality to three neoliberal city-novels written in the first decade of this century: Ian McEwan's Saturday (2005), Richard Flanagan's The Unknown Terrorist (2006), and Aravind Adiga's The White Tiger (2008). To explore how these three otherwise quite dissimilar texts represent the perceived "fantastic conspicuousness of consumption and affluence" (Baudrillard 25) in modern cities, the essay considers voices in urban studies critiquing the once optimistic understanding of cities as "wealth machines" (Molotch) and draws on Andrea Brighenti's theoretical deconstruction of the popular equation of visibility with power and invisibility with powerlessness. Conspicuousness, it submits, is only one side of urban wealth; another is, as the three novels under study show, the typical intangibility of capital power, enforced by an intricate interplay of exposure and concealment of urban wealth and itself enforcing social divides in cities.' (Publication abstract)
'The post-Cold War wave of neoliberalism that has swept South Asia has had to be propped up not just by the repressive apparatuses of the region’s states, but through an array of ideological reinforcements as well. The cultural myth of the entrepreneur has served this function as one of the main ideological legitimizations of neoliberal capitalism, attributing meritocracy to cases of individual wealth accumulation and conveying a sense of a society in which government has gotten out of the way and let the most creative and innovative thrive and thereby preempting alternative narratives of capitalist success, such as those emphasizing nepotism, illegal and/or socially harmful business practices, and/or crony-capitalist practices. The rise of the entrepreneur myth has provoked a cultural response in the form of a number of recent novels that employ alternative narratives of business success to debunk the myth of the entrepreneur and thereby challenge the legitimacy of neoliberal capitalism. This essay argues that The White Tiger highlights the criminalistic side of entrepreneurialness and, while showing how free-market capitalism in India may allow the select few to escape from residual feudal social structures, unmasks the continuing brutalities and deepening inequalities of neoliberal India wallpapered over by triumphalist popular celebrations of the entrepreneur and India’s emergence as a global capitalist powerhouse. Similarly, How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia gives lie to certain core entrepreneurial capitalist shibboleths like market inefficiencies, externalization of costs, and the pretense of a stateless capitalist future, while substituting a narrative resolution of deep human connection for the entrepreneur’s lonely, atomized economic triumph. Finally, The Golden House gives narrative form to the quixotic ill-fatedness of the dream of escaping one’s roots and joining the ranks of a transnational capitalist plutocratic elite through entrepreneurial success while exploring the recent nativist backlash against neoliberal globalization.' (Introduction)