Aravind Adiga's book 'The White Tiger' has beaten the bookmakers' favourite, Irish author Sebastian Barry, to win the 2008 Man Booker prize.

The award was announced in this evening at a ceremony at the Guild Hall in London.

The 33-year-old is only the third debut novelist to claim the award in the Booker's 40-year history and one of its youngest winners.

He receives a cheque for £50,000 (€64,000) and can expect not only overnight literary fame but also a significant spike in book sales in the runup to Christmas.

Booker organisers say last year's winner, Anne Enright, has sold around 500,000 copies of her winning novel 'The Gathering'.

Michael Portillo, chairman of the five-member judging panel, praised 'The White Tiger' for tackling important social and political issues in modern-day India.

Mr Portillo said the central character was sympathetic while also being 'absolutely vile and absolutely unrepentant', likening him to Shakespeare's tragic hero Macbeth.

Mr Adiga said his aim in writing 'The White Tiger' was to represent the poor.

'Balram Halwai is a member of the invisible Indian underclass - one of the millions of poor Indians who have been bypassed by the economic boom,' he said before the Booker Prize winner was announced.

Also nominated were: Sebastian Barry 'The Secret Scripture', Amitav Ghosh 'Sea of Poppies', Linda Grant 'The Clothes on Their Backs', Philip Hensher 'The Northern Clemency', and Steve Toltz 'A Fraction of the Whole'.