Read “Last Man in Tower” by Aravind Adiga with Rakuten Kobo. From the Booker Get $5 off your first eBook; Get your first audiobook for free. Sign in with. Last Man in Tower by Aravind Adiga – review . The Guardian is editorially independent – our journalism is free from commercial bias and not. Last Man in Tower has ratings and reviews. Sofia said: Sorry to start with a cliche, but wow. I have never been to India and I’m only somewhat.

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I f the residents of Tower A, Vishram Society, pride themselves on anything, it is their respectability — their ” pucca ” way of life in their “unimpeachably pucca ” apartment building.

Once mwn, Tower A may now be a “rainwater-stained, fungus-licked grey”; it may not boast an uninterrupted supply of running water; it may sit amid the slums of Vakola, in the flight path of Mumbai’s domestic airport; and it may be falling into a state of disrepair unchecked by its ineffectual secretary.

But Vishram Society’s virtues outweigh its failings; a model of neighbourliness and middle-class virtue, it brings together those of different backgrounds — originally built for a Catholic population, it admitted Hindus in the s and “the better kind of Muslim” in the 80s — in harmonious testimony to the possibility of cooperative living.

Ftee, at least, is the theory, although Aravind Adiga’s painful tragicomedy demolishes it more quickly than Dharmen Shah, his ruthless property developer, throws up his luxury redevelopments. The set-up is impressively simple.

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Shah and his “left-hand man”, the sinuous Shanmugham, ride adigq town offering each resident a vast sum of money to quit their property: Tower B, filled with young executives, falls into line immediately, while Tower A proves a slightly tougher nut to crack.

Aeiga residents have their unofficial “parliament”, but they also have complicated individual histories and sensibilities that Shah and his henchman must negotiate. Among them are the anxious Ibrahim Kudwa, proprietor of the Speed-tek Cyber Zone Cyber Cafe, whose mantra dictates that “a man with twoer bad stomach should never be asked to make decisions”; social worker Georgina Rego, staunch in her loathing of amoral redevelopers but tormented by the need to “trump” her well-to-do sister; and the retired Mr and Mrs Pinto, torn between the desire to send dollars to their children in America and their loyalty to “Masterji”, the former schoolteacher who quickly becomes the linchpin of opposition to Shah’s enticements.


Masterji is the eponymous last man, entrenched in his commitment xravind resistance, secure in his belief in the power of cooperative living, impervious to bribes and threats alike.

Last Man in Tower by Aravind Adiga – review

With the Pintos, he imagines forming a “Vakola Triumvirate”, the trio’s strength of purpose rivalling that of Caesar, Crassus and Pompey. But if his secret and apparently inviolable weapon is a lack of material desire that means he cannot be bought, it also comes to seem like a weakness, indicating an inability to empathise with his towed residents. Is Mrs Puri so wrong to wish for better surroundings in which to bring up her year-old son Ramu, whose Down’s syndrome she poignantly describes to her neighbours as a small developmental delay?

Would it be so awful if Secretary Kothari could live in sight of the flamingos of his youth, rfee that “all the wasted decades in between fell away”? And do the convictions of one man cancel out the desires of the rest of the qdiga body?

Adiga skilfully poses these problems and equally skilfully frustrates our attempts to answer them. For much of the time, our sympathy is almost entirely with Masterji, particularly as his neighbours — whose arsvind behaviour has hitherto been largely confined to gossiping, eavesdropping and nosing around in one another’s rubbish bins — begin to treat him with increasing disdain and viciousness.

Similarly, Adiga’s portrait of Shah as a rapacious, bullying parasite seems, at first laxt, to preclude very much in the way of tenderness or respect.

Last Man in Tower by Aravind Adiga

And yet both men have unexpected hinterlands: Masterji’s unyielding austerity is also a form of narcissism, while Shah’s ambition mn be interpreted as embodying asiga kind of explosive energy needed to change people’s circumstances. Last Man in Tower can tend slightly towards the schematic — as each resident falls inexorably under Shah’s spell, the novel risks concentrating its power in the suspense of whether Masterji will triumph or eventually be subsumed by peer pressure, external threat, or both.


But Adiga also manages to thicken his narrative with a subtle and nuanced examination of the nature of personal corruption — more subtle, in fact, than in his powerfully scathing first novel, The White Tigerwhich won the Man Booker prize in His targets here are similar: Last Man in Tower has a broader and more forgiving feel than The White Tigerincorporating a gentler comic tone that finds affection as well as despair in poking fun at its characters’ pretensions and frailties.

But Adiga’s anger at the India he describes — cities in which rapid economic expansion comes at an impossible price for a vast swath of their inhabitants, and in which the slow fading of the caste system has not been accompanied by a rise in social egalitarianism — remains undimmed. Describing his childhood reading in Mangalore, Adiga once professed his early enthusiasm for the works of Golding, Orwell and Shaw, three writers with a keen appreciation of the muddy intersections between individual and political will.

In this complex and multi-layered novel, he continues his project of shining a light on the changing face of India, bringing us a picture that is as compelling as it is complex to decipher.

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