Monday, 30th October 2017

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Adiga wins 'God' of agents

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By AMIT ROY in London
  • Published 28.10.08
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London, Oct. 28: Agentless until yesterday, Booker Prize winner Aravind Adiga now has the “king of UK literary agents” batting for him — David Godwin.

Godwin did not approach Adiga, who parted company in November 2007 — even before The White Tiger was published — with his New-York based representative, the William Morris Agency. It was the other way round.

“I needed representation,” Adiga, who celebrated his 34 th birthday on October 23, told The Telegraph. “So Godwin agreed, kindly, to represent me.”

The best story about Godwin is how after reading the manuscript of The God of Small Things, he caught the next flight to Delhi, banged on Arundhati Roy’s door and would not leave until she agreed to be represented by him.

The Englishman, who was then in the process of setting up his own agency, went on to bigger and better things, especially after Arundhati won the Booker in 1997.

Then he became the UK agent for Kiran Desai, who also won the Booker in 2006 with The Inheritance of Loss.

Godwin, whose stable of novelists, biographers and poets has grown to about a hundred — among Indians he also represents Vikram Seth — likes to joke: “I am on the hunt for a third Indian woman who will win the Booker.”

A delighted Godwin, who is now quite knowledgeable about India — he hopes to attend the Jaipur Literary Festival next January — said of his new signing: “It is the best Diwali present. Aravind Adiga’s best is yet to come. I want him to have the calm to write whatever he wants to write.”

With Godwin, Adiga has struck gold, for the former knows all there is to know about the once gentlemanly and now ruthless but essentially incestuous world of English publishing, of cross agency links, of who is sleeping with whom and, more importantly, who would like to sleep with whom.

He dismissed the notion, that has been promoted by some Indian critics, that Adiga’s The White Tiger somehow did not show the brave new India in a sufficiently glowing light.

“It really isn’t the job of a writer to be the ambassador for his country,” said Godwin. “A writer’s commitment is to the truth as he sees it.”

Godwin’s first task will be to unscramble the “complicated” contractual relationship between Adiga and the William Morris Agency (which has residual rights over The White Tiger) and then to find a publisher in the UK for a collection of short stories, Between the Assassinations, which was written by the author before The White Tiger.

Godwin and Adiga, who agreed on their deal yesterday, have yet to meet.

“He will be coming to Vienna at the end of the month when I shall go over and have dinner with him,” said Godwin, who added he was hoping to bring “a bit of calm and long-term stability” into his new author’s life.

“The thing about the authors I represent is that I care passionately about their work. The White Tiger is a powerful and searing book.”

Adiga’s short stories are being brought out in India by Picador on November 3.

“They are a collection of inter-related stories set in a small town in India between Mrs Gandhi’s assassination and Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination,” explained Adiga. “It was a time when reform should have but didn’t take place.”

Adiga adopted a conciliatory note about The White Tiger. “It is not a malicious book, it was not meant to be a malicious book. Two-thirds of the reviews in India have been favourable and others abroad take their cue from the reviews in India. India is a very powerful country (in the literary sense). Long before the Booker Prize long list, the book would have sunk had it not been for the support it has had in India.”