Tag-Archive for ◊ Columbia College ◊

• Sunday, October 21st, 2012

Aravind Adiga was born in 1974 in Madras, now Chennai, India. He grew up in Mangalore where he went to Canara High School. In1990 he graduated from St. Aloysius High School in Andhra Pradesh. He emigrated in the 90s with his family to Sydney Australia and continued his studies in St. James Ruse Agricultural High School in Sydney, followed by English literature at Columbia College, Columbia University in New York City, graduating in 1997. He also studied at Magdalen College, Oxford. Starting his career he worked as a journalist for the Financial Times and Time Magazine.

Aravind Adiga lives in Mumbai, India and has written three novels to date:
Last Man In Tower, published in 2011.
Between The Assassinations (short stories/essays) published in 2009.
The White Tiger, his début novel, published in 2008, has sold many copies in several countries – won the 2008 Man Booker Prize for fiction and will be made into a film.

The story of The White Tiger is narrated during the course of seven nights as a series of letters addressed to the Chinese Prime minister, Wen Jiabao, who was visiting India at the time. The narrator is the novel’s main protagonist, the astute, determined, hard working, Balram Halwai. The Chinese premier wants “to meet some Indian entrepreneurs and hear the story of their success from their own lips.”

Balram writes the letter to Wen Jiabao from his 150-square-foot office, which is the only one in Bangalore“with its own chandelier”. The letter is about Indian entrepreneurship and explains that, despite the servitude, destitution and corruption prevailing socially and politically in present-day India, there is still some integrity to be found and some hope for mankind.

Balram Halwai writes about how, according to his school teacher, despite being gifted with an intelligence as rare as the white tiger, he couldn’t pursue his studies. He is born into an impoverished family and has to do menial work in the village tea shop. Nevertheless, he aspires to a better future than his father, the rickshaw puller, who died of tuberculosis in extreme poverty.

The highly ambitious Balram tries to improve his status by becoming a driver/servant to a rich landlord from his village as a first step to climbing the ladder to a better life. He wants to prove that he is indeed a rare feline species, an atypical Indian who refuses to perpetuate or be part of the “Rooster Coop” establishment, as he calls it metaphorically. His aim is to break the Indian ingrained class boundaries taken for granted by society from top to bottom and find a way out of this ambit to freedom.

Throughout the narrative the story changes rapidly, especially after Balram travels with his employer to New Delhi. The big capital becomes more of an eye-opener for the countryman that he is and makes him firmer in his beliefs, while kindling his desire for a brighter life. He becomes a “Thinking Man”, a sort of a philosopher, a thief and a murderer, before ending up as an amoral, successful entrepreneur in Bangalore.

He fulfils his ambition by becoming the proud owner of a taxi service through his auspicious Machiavellian plan of killing his master and stealing his money to finance his long coveted project – the White Tiger by now knows the law of the jungle. Balram watches his employers and proves to be a fast learner and a good observer, he becomes aware that in a corrupt society bribes are the only means to a successful business.

There are two phases in the novel, two different worlds: the rural dreary “Darkness”, the name given to a grim and rustic small village where Balram spent his young years in poverty before moving with Ashok, the young son of his employer, to the stimulating “Light” of the vibrant capital, New Delhi. In New Delhi he finds to his amazement the same constrained opportunities in the conventional, “Rooster Coop”. The wide breach he left behind, impersonated in the masters and chauffeurs/servants, is whirling around him. Even in this big city there is no escaping from class hierarchies and injustice.

The author is describing the current India and the considerable differences between the poor, backward rural areas and the advanced big cities. Through his writing the reader can detect his indignation, exasperation and concern about this important problem which might lead to an explosion one day if it is not addressed soon.

Aravind Adiga, tackles an array of subjects about Indian society. There is the caste system, the multiple religions and sects, the family ties and duties, democracy, corruption and advanced technology.

Balram Halwai, the main character, is interesting, witty and captivating, despite cool-bloodedly murdering his employer who treated him well. Nevertheless, in spite of his grim future in an unjust society maintained by the conservative mentality of people, is his act justified or even excusable? Couldn’t he find another way to attain his bid for autonomy without resorting to drastic measures? Knowing that reprisals will be swift on his family who will be killed because of his deed, as is customary in his village, are we to look upon him as a utopian, a rebel, a visionary or a common ruthless rogue, a social Machiavellian climber?

Through his main, cynical protagonist, the author is addressing the imperative future adjustments that have to be made in India, between the haves and the have nots. The well-being of citizens needs to be part of the economic prosperity of a country, as Balram says very succinctly to Wen Jiabao: “Never before in human history have so few owed so much to so many”.

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• Saturday, March 03rd, 2007

Audrey Niffenegger was born in June 1963 in south Haven Michigan. She grew up in Evanston, Illinois, which is the first suburb north of Chicago. She is a spinster with a permanent boy friend, a writer and an artist.

She obtained a BFA in 1985 from the school of The Art Institute of Chicago, and an MFA in 1991 from Northwestern University.

She is a full time professor in the Interdisciplinary Book Arts MFA program at the Columbia College Chicago Center for Book and Paper Arts, where she teaches writing, letterpress printing, and fine edition book production.

Audrey Niffenegger loved writing books and illustrating them since she was a young girl, as a part-time.

Her first book was about an imaginary road trip that she went on with The Beatles (the pop group). She was eleven years old when she wrote and illustrated this book.

But Niffenegger’s first real book is The Time Traveler’s Wife published in 2003. It was a bestseller when it came out.

She says: “The title came to me out of the blue, and from the title sprang the characters, and from the characters came the story… I got the title first, and played around with it for quite a long time, slowly evolving the characters in my head. I wrote the end before anything else, and then began to write scenes as they occurred to me.
The Time Traveler’s Wife was written in a completely different order than the one it finally took. I understood early on that it would be organized in three sections, and that the basic unit was the scene, not the chapter. It has a rather chaotic feel to it, especially at the beginning, and that is deliberate-there is a slow piecing together, a gradual accumulation of story, that mimics the experience of the characters. I made a lot of notes about the characters. I had two timelines to help me stay organized, but no outline of the plot.”

The Time Traveler’s Wife is a love story in a science fiction setting.

Clare and Henry love each other very dearly. Clare knows that she is destined to marry Henry, which creates an element of fatalism in the story.

They have to live with each other, go through the every day tasks, Clare being a free- lance artist, and Henry De Tumble a librarian in the famous Newberry Library in Chicago, while overcoming Henry’s genetic disorder called Chrono-Displacement Order. Which whisks him around in time. He disappears against his own will, to find himself transiting somewhere in a different year at any time or season.

For Clare to have Henry appearing and disappearing without any notice, spontaneously, and unpredictably, when he is needed, is quite a challenge for her love. She fears the consequences of Henry’s disappearance since she doesn’t know each time he comes back how that is going to affect her life in real time, according to whether he is returning from the past or the future.

Periodically, Henry finds himself travelling in time, faced with very emotional and sometimes dangerous situations in his existence. He is struggling to keep his sanity and is coping with his disease quite well.

Like Tamino and Pamina in Mozart’s Magic Flute, Clare and Henry had to undergo the Love Test in order to come out of it worthy of each other.

Niffenegger says:” I wanted to write about a perfect marriage that is tested by something outside the control of the couple.”

But then, The Time Traveler’s Wife is not only about love, it’s also about the notion of time, about the endless waiting, which is one of the themes in the novel we discover in the prologue.

” I wanted people to think about the intimacy of time, how ineffable it is, how it shapes us. I wanted to write about waiting, but since waiting is essentially a negative (time spent in the absence of something) I wrote about all the things that happen around the waiting.”

Clare is six years old when she meets Henry for the first time, while Henry has travelled back thirty-six years to meet Clare. But then, when they get married Clare is twenty-three and Henry thirty- one.
They both have to be patient in order to fulfil their destiny, and to prove that no matter how long it takes nothing alter their passion for each other.

Henry summarizes his love for Clare in the letter she is meant to read after his death: “ Clare, I want to tell you, again, I love you. Our love has been the thread through the labyrinth, the net under the high-wire walker, the only real thing in this strange life of mine that I could ever trust.”

Clare on the other hand, carries on living patiently waiting for the right time when Henry will come to her, when she is in her eighties, and takes her with him. Henry had seen that day and told her about it.

Niffenegger likes to go into the minute details in order to bring some life and plenty of essence to her story. We learn about different places in Chicago, about the pop groups of the time, about the taste of various characters. Even the couple’s sex life is described in details.

The author says in one of her interviews: “I am interested in mutants, love, death, amputation, sex, and time (the themes of my novel, The Time Traveler’s Wife)

She has also written two other books. The Three Incestuous Sisters, a 176- page graphic novel or “novel in pictures” as she calls it. And The Adventuress published 1st September 2006.

The actors Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston bought the rights to the film, which is going to be released in 2008.

In an interview, Audrey Niffenegger was asked: “How much of Clare or Henry is you?
The answer was: “Contrary to popular belief, not much. I died my hair red as a way of saying goodbye to Clare, as I was finishing the book. She makes very different art from mine, and she’s much quieter and more patient. Henry and I share a quirky sense of humour and a taste for punk, but not much else. First novels are often said to be thinly disguised autobiography. This one uses my places and things I know something about (libraries, paper making) but alas, this is not my life, and these characters are not me.