R. K. Narayan (10 October 1906 – 13 May 2001), full name Rasipuram Krishnaswami Iyer Narayanaswami, was an Indian writer, best known for his works set in the fictional South Indian town of Malgudi. He is one of three leading figures of early Indian literature in English (alongside Mulk Raj Anand and Raja Rao), and is credited with bringing the genre to the rest of the world.
Narayan broke through with the help of his mentor and friend, Graham Greene, who was instrumental in getting publishers for Narayan’s first four books, including the semi-autobiographical trilogy of Swami and Friends, The Bachelor of Arts and The English Teacher. Narayan’s works also include The Financial Expert, hailed as one of the most original works of 1951, and Sahitya Akademi Award winner The Guide, which was adapted for film and for Broadway.
The setting for most of Narayan’s stories is the fictional town of Malgudi, first introduced in Swami and Friends. His narratives highlight social context and provide a feel for his characters through everyday life. He has been compared to William Faulkner, who also created a fictional town that stood for reality, brought out the humour and energy of ordinary life, and displayed compassionate humanism in his writing. Narayan’s short story writing style has been compared to that of Guy de Maupassant, as they both have an ability to compress the narrative without losing out on elements of the story. Narayan has also come in for criticism for being too simple in his prose and diction.
In a writing career that spanned over sixty years, Narayan received many awards and honours. These include the AC Benson Medal from the Royal Society of Literature, the Padma Bhushan and the Padma Vibhushan, India’s third and second highest civilian awards. He was also nominated to the Rajya Sabha, the upper house of India’s parliament.
List of works
- Swami and Friends (1935, Hamish Hamilton)
- The Bachelor of Arts (1937, Thomas Nelson)
- The Dark Room (1938, Eyre)
- The English Teacher (1945, Eyre)
- Mr. Sampath (1948, Eyre)
- The Financial Expert (1952, Methuen)
- Waiting for the Mahatma (1955, Methuen)
- The Guide (1958, Methuen)
- The Man-Eater of Malgudi (1961, Viking)
- The Vendor of Sweets (1967, The Bodley Head)
- The Painter of Signs (1977, Heinemann)
- A Tiger for Malgudi (1983, Heinemann)
- Talkative Man (1986, Heinemann)
- The World of Nagaraj (1990, Heinemann)
- Grandmother’s Tale (1992, Indian Thought Publications)
- Next Sunday (1960, Indian Thought Publications)
- My Dateless Diary (1960, Indian Thought Publications)
- My Days (1974, Viking)
- Reluctant Guru (1974, Orient Paperbacks)
- The Emerald Route (1980, Indian Thought Publications)
- A Writer’s Nightmare (1988, Penguin Books)
- A Story-Teller’s World (1989, Penguin Books)
- The Writerly Life (2002, Penguin Books India)
- Mysore (1944, second edition, Indian Thought Publications)
- Short story collections