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'Booker Prize is the Holy Grail'

October 17, 2008
Mumbai-based Aravind Adiga arrived in London last week as one of the six finalists for the Man Booker Prize, one of the literary world's most prestigious awards, hoping to meet with the fellow writers and have a great party after the event.

"Being on the shortlist itself, for the Man Booker Prize, especially with the first novel, is like winning," he said talking from his hotel room in London soon after he was declared the winner for his comedic fable, The White Tiger which also fetches him 50,000 British pounds (app Rs 42,29,750). "I was so happy just to be on the shortlist. I had no expectations of any kind. I assumed that someone else who had been published before would win. I was looking forward to a great party on the night of October 14. None of the six authors on the shortlist for the Man Booker prize is a loser because being on the shortlist is a major achievement and a guarantee of sales in itself."

He added: "All our books had received quite a bit of publicity the moment the list was announced."

"But I had no time for the party at all," he continued, chuckling. "I had to give quite a few interviews."

The 33-year-old author adds to the list of Indians winners: Salman Rushdie, Arundhati Roy and Kiran Desai. Among the shortlisted writers this year was Amitav Ghosh for the novel Sea of Poppies.

Adiga spoke to Senior Editor Arthur Pais.

How did you celebrate on winning the Man Booker Prize?

(Chuckles) Unfortunately I had no party because I spent the whole night doing interviews. I'm speaking only to a few people. I don't feel obligated to speak to everyone. Naturally, I'm not a very media-friendly person. I'm speaking only to people with whom I feel a connection. I have to do a lot of interviews but I feel no pressure to do them all. I am doing as many (interviews) as I can in a day and at some point I will stop. I do as many as I can and then I go and have a drink. Otherwise, I'll break down.

What would you say is the real significance of this award?

It will help the sale of the book. And there is also a cash award (50,000 British pounds). For many years, it is the dream of every young person who wants to write serious fiction in English to be nominated one day for the Booker Prize. Never mind where the writer is based in the former Commonwealth countries, Booker Prize is the Holy Grail -- the highest recognition of literary merit in the English language. The importance of the nomination and winning the prize means the vindication of a serious literary effort. The Booker nomination and award tells a writer that all those months and years of working alone were not in vain.

Image: Aravind Adiga with the Man Booker Prize.
Photograph: Shaun Curry/AFP/Getty Images

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