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Narayan, R(asipuram) K(rishnaswami)

story social indian malgudi

(Indian, 1906–2001)

Narayan, one of the first internationally successful Indian novelists to write in English, was renowned for his creation of Malgudi, the remote, self-enclosed fictional town where most of his novels and short stories are set. Taken to be representative of rural southern India, Malgudi is relatively sheltered from political disturbance and social change, and there is a timeless quality to Narayan's accounts of the small concerns and everyday routines of his entirely convincing characters. The books are often slow-paced, but are written with an elegant simplicity. They provide a close, sharply defined portrait of Indian culture over the twentieth century, subtly addressing a range of specific social issues, such as the effects of poverty and the position of women in the community, while simultaneously exploring universal themes of jealousy, ambition, mortality, and love.

Begin with Malgudi Landscapes (1992), a collection of Narayan's best short stories, and move on to The Grandmother's Tale (1993), a sequence of three novellas about family life, money, women, and writing. The title story depicts four generations of social change as the present-day narrator-novelist questions and cajoles his grandmother into telling the story of her mother's child-marriage to the 10-year-old Viswa, his subsequent disappearance, and her journey to retrieve him. The English Teacher (1945), the story of Krishna's attempts to rebuild his corporeal and spiritual worlds after his wife's death, is among the most absorbing of the earlier novels.

V. S. Naipaul, Amit Chaudhuri, Anita Desai. See INDIA  SR

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