Born on 10 October 1906, in Madras (now Chennai) Rasipuram KrishnaswamiIyer Narayanaswami, famously known as R.K Narayanan was one of the most celebrated English language novelist of India. His stories touched the essence and energy of the ordinary life in a compassionate manner.
His literary career started with the novel Swami and Friends followed by its successor The Bachelor of Arts, which are both set in the enchanting fictional territory of Malgudi. He was often questioned, “Where is Malgudi,” for his description of the place is so meticulously realistic that the reader finds himself literally having visited the place. Malgudi, a literary microcosm that critics later compared to William Faulkner’s Yoknapatawpha County, is a small town that the author created to which he would leave one free to meddle with its geography and details as one pleased, without incurring the wrath of any city father of any actual town or place. He described it freely as he pleased— a little street, a bungalow; a slum or a railway line, at any spot, a minor despot in a little world. Its rivers, its mountains, market place and forests imprison the reader and takes him to the little world of Malgudi.
R.K. Narayan’s writing style was marked by simplicity and subtle humour. He told stories of ordinary people trying to live their simple lives in a changing world.
His first novel Swami and Friends was read by the famous British writer Graham Greene. It got published with the financial aid of Graham Greene and from then onwards, the writer never looked back and continued enchanting millions of readers all over the world. He wrote 29 novels all based on Malgudi and numerous other short stories.
R.K. Narayan’s famous works include The Bachelor of Arts, The Dark Room, The English Teacher (1945), The Financial Expert, The Guide, The Man-Eater of Malgudi, The Vendor of Sweets (1967), Malgudi Days, and The Grandmother’s Tale.
R.K. Narayan won numerous awards and honours for his works. These include: SahityaAkademi Award for The Guide in 1958; Padma Bhushan in 1964; and AC Benson Medal by the Royal Society of Literature in 1980; R.K. Narayan was elected an honorary member of the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters in 1982. He was nominated to the Rajya Sabha in 1989. Besides, he was also conferred honorary doctorates by the University of Mysore, Delhi University and the University of Leeds.
His other publications include the collection of short stories like An Astrologer’s Days and other stories, Under the Banyan tree and other stories, Lawley Road and Malgudi Days. He has written a travel book The Emerald Route, three collections of essays A Writer’s Nightmare, Next Sunday and Reluctant Guru and three books on the Indian epics viz. Gods, Demons and Others, The Ramayana and The Mahabharata. He has even a written a diary titled My DatelessDiary telling about his views on the US when he travelled there.
Some of R.K Narayan’s novels collected in one volume can bring you joy and tear at the same time at a reasonable price. A Malgudi Omnibus (Vintage) and A Town called Malgudi (Viking) are such volumes.
R.K Narayanan departed on 13 May 2001. His work is best described in Graham Greene’s words:
“Whom next shall I meet in Malgudi? That is the thought that comes to me when I close a novel of Mr Narayan’s. I do not wait for another novel. I wait to go out of my door into those loved and shabby streets and see with excitement and a certainty of pleasure a stranger approaching, past the bank, the cinema, the haircutting saloon, a stranger who will greet me I know with some unexpected and revealing phrase that will open a door on to yet another human existence.”