Debut novelist Aravind Adiga won the Man Booker Prize for Fiction tonight for his work which shows “the dark side of India”.
The 33-year-old, who celebrates his birthday later this month, was the youngest on this year’s shortlist for his book The White Tiger.
He is the second youngest author to win the prize after Ben Okri, who clinched the Man Booker in 1991, aged 32.
The White Tiger was described by chairman of the judges Michael Portillo as being in the tradition of Macbeth with a “delicious twist”.
The novel concerns Balram Halwai, the son of a rickshaw puller and the “White Tiger” who dreams of escaping his life as a tea shop worker turned chauffeur.
When his chance arrives and his eyes are opened to the city of New Delhi, Balram becomes caught between his instinct to be a better son and his desire to better himself.
The announcement was made by Mr Portillo at a ceremony in London. He said: “My criteria were ’Does it knock my socks off?’ – and this one did ... The others impressed me ... this one knocked my socks off.”
Adiga is the third first-time novelist to win the £50,000 prize. Previous debut winners were Arundhati Row in 1997 for God of Small Things and DBC Pierre in 2003 for Vernon God Little.
Adiga, who wanted to become a novelist since he was a boy, was born in Madras and later moved to Mumbai.
He is the fourth Indian-born author to win the prize, joining compatriots Salman Rushdie, Roy and Kiran Desai. A fifth winner, VS Naipaul is of Indian ancestry.
The book is the ninth winning novel to take its inspiration from India or Indian identity.
Mr Portillo said what set the book apart was its originality in showing “the dark side of India”.
He said: “The novel is in many ways perfect. It is quite difficult to find any structural flaws with it.”
The reader remained sympathetic with the hero despite him becoming corrupt, he said.
There were more than two contenders for the prize on the short list, but the winner was “absolutely not a compromise”, Mr Portillo said.
“There really was a decision. The judges were asked to express their satisfaction and they all did.”
Mr Portillo said he did not exercise a casting vote and the margin was “sufficient”.
One of the judges had commented at one point: “We are trying to compare a giraffe and a lion,” he added.
He described the debate as passionate and high quality.
Tonight’s win is a first for publisher Atlantic.
The other authors short listed were Steve Toltz, Sebastian Barry, Amitav Ghosh, Linda Grant, and Philip Hensher.
According to Amazon.co.uk the six book titles enjoyed average sales rises of 700% following the announcement of the short list last month.
Barry was born in Dublin, Ghosh in Calcutta, Grant in Liverpool, Toltz in Sydney and Hensher lives in south London.
Toltz is another first-time novelist.
There was some surprise when Rushdie, who was on the long list for The Enchantress of Florence, did not make the short list.
Mr Portillo previously described the short list as “great page turners”.