This is the birth centenary year of RK Narayan. Of all the Indian novelists in English, RK Narayan remains one of the most highly regarded, perhaps the most widely popular, and even the most ‘typically Indian’.
Last year, in September 2005, I designed this front page of an imaginary newspaper ‘Malgudi Times’ on the occasion of RK Narayan’s 99th birth anniversary(Oct.10).
Few authors are remembered more for the place they wrote about than the characters they created. But treating Malgudi as just a place would only indicate literary ignorance of the reader. For Malgudi is also perhaps the most memorable of characters created by Narayan, arguably the Indian author who came closest to getting the Nobel Prize.
RK Narayan weaved a world existing nowhere, but striking a chord of perfect reality with readers across people reading English. His books appeal in a quiet, reassuring way and have remained popular over many decades. His writing is also part of literature coursework in some American universities. Narayan evokes a diction of unusual freshness and rare ingenuity with the English literary idiom.
The greatest point about Narayan’s writing is its use of language. His talent goes beyond mere aptitude with words or a maverick Malgudi. Narayan stands for the immense flexibility, adaptability and élan of English; he uses the language of Bible, Shakespeare and American Constitution to an amazing effect while dealing in subjects vastly removed. His creatures squat on the floor for meals, wear dhoti with a coat, read the Ramayana, regard mothers as sacred, rebel against fathers, marry for love over money, and aspire for eternal life. The author writes all this without a single footnote, without any discernible twang of the foreign, with a sense of disarming familiarity. Narayan represents the synthesis that is English, a language evolving through the synergy of civilizations, known and unknown; a language in continual quest.
Malgudi lives on. And so does his writing.
A fan’s tribute to MS, R.K. Narayan The collection of English, Tamil, Kannada and Malayalam articles includes the 1974 Magsaysay Award citation and MS’ response.
BS Ramakrishna’s letter to the editor As I was reading the article, I could not help remembering the late R.K. Narayan, whose educational outlook always differed from those of his elders and well-wishers.
A scrapbook of priceless clippings The most prized item in the scrapbook is a rare picture of the two Rasipuram brothers together.