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Trail of the Green Blazer

R.K. Narayan, 5 June 1980

... The Green Blazer​ stood out prominently under the bright sun and blue sky. In all that jostling crowd one could not help noticing it. Villagers in shirts and turbans, townsmen in coats and caps, beggars bare-bodied, and women in multi-coloured saris were thronging the narrow passage between the stalls, and moving in great confused masses, but still the Green Blazer could not be missed ...

A Bottle of Ink, a Pen and a Blotter

Amit Chaudhuri: R.K. Narayan, 9 August 2001

... In the obituaries of R.K. Narayan (1906-2001), written by the ‘talkative men’ of modern India who once knew the writer slightly or quite well, there were one or two remarks about his habit of walking around without any apparent purpose. Here, for instance, is the novelist and journalist Khushwant Singh on a visit to Mysore forty years ago: ‘Being with Narayan on his afternoon stroll was an experience ...

Handfuls of Dust

Richard Cronin: Amit Chaudhuri, 12 November 1998

Freedom Song 
by Amit Chaudhuri.
Picador, 202 pp., £13.99, August 1998, 0 330 34423 4
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... The first of the great Indian novelists to write in English, R.K. Narayan, wrote modest novels about modest people living in the small South Indian town of Malgudi. The completeness of the world he creates is possible only because that world is so circumscribed. Then in 1981 Salman Rushdie published Midnight’s Children, and such a narrow focus no longer seemed possible ...

Ineffectuals

Peter Campbell, 19 April 1990

The World of Nagaraj 
by R.K. Narayan.
Heinemann, 186 pp., £12.95, March 1990, 0 434 49617 0
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The Great World 
by David Malouf.
Chatto, 330 pp., £12.95, April 1990, 0 7011 3415 1
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The Shoe 
by Gordon Legge.
Polygon, 181 pp., £7.95, December 1989, 0 7486 6080 1
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Trying to grow 
by Firdaus Kanga.
Bloomsbury, 242 pp., £13.95, February 1990, 0 7475 0549 7
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... R.K. Narayan has the most godlike of the novelist’s powers: to know all his characters equally well – too well to love or hate them, except, perhaps, in a godlike way, as parts of the entirety of his larger creation. Malgudi, most real of imaginary towns, is that larger creation. Like the Gods, Narayan is a comedian: the smallest things, the most counter-dramatic lives, are within his compass ...

Malgudi

Anita Desai, 4 December 1986

Talkative Man 
by R.K. Narayan.
Heinemann, 119 pp., £7.95, September 1986, 0 434 49616 2
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... Narayan has written a postscript to his new novel which ought to have been a foreword, since it answers the exclamation practically every reader will make on seeing it: ‘Such a short novel!’ One hundred and nineteen pages of large print would hardly make a novella: it is only slightly more than a short story. Narayan is perfectly aware of this inevitable reaction from his devoted readers, who can never have enough of Malgudi ...

Fear among the Teacups

Dinah Birch: Ellen Wood, 8 February 2001

East Lynne 
by Ellen Wood, edited by Andrew Maunder.
Broadview, 779 pp., £7.95, October 2000, 1 55111 234 5
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... General Gordon, Joseph Conrad and Edward VII. Its appeal spread far beyond British readers. R.K. Narayan dwells fondly on the ‘bitter tears’ he shed over East Lynne in his 1975 memoir, My Days: ‘Reading and rereading it always produced a lump in my throat, and that was the most luxurious sadness you could think of.’ Isabel Vane, the novel’s ...

Living in the Aftermath

Michael Gorra, 19 June 1997

The God of Small Things 
by Arundhati Roy.
Flamingo, 340 pp., £15.99, June 1997, 0 00 225586 3
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... doubting Apostle. Our chief literary image of the South has come from the pastoral fables of R.K. Narayan, and it’s refreshing, too, that The God of Small Things makes no attempt to repeat them. Ayemenem’s caste rivalries are fierce and nearly indistinguishable from its politics; and while the stooped and shrivelled aunt who seems to figure in every ...

In the Spirit of Mayhew

Frank Kermode: Rohinton Mistry, 25 April 2002

Family Matters 
by Rohinton Mistry.
Faber, 487 pp., £16.99, April 2002, 0 571 19427 3
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... The Indian novel in English goes back a long way, at least to R.K. Narayan, who flourished from the Thirties to the Eighties of the last century. The achievements of Vikram Seth, Arundhati Roy and others now at work suggest that it still flourishes despite the opposition view that modern Indians should not write in English ...

Freedom to Tango

Michael Wood: Contemporary Indian English novels, 19 April 2001

Babu Fictions: Alienation in Contemporary Indian English Novels 
by Tabish Khair.
Oxford, 407 pp., £21.50, March 2001, 0 19 565296 7
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An Obedient Father 
by Akhil Sharma.
Faber, 282 pp., £9.99, January 2001, 0 571 20673 5
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The Death of Vishnu 
by Manil Suri.
Bloomsbury, 329 pp., £16.99, February 2001, 0 7475 5270 3
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The Glass Palace 
by Amitav Ghosh.
HarperCollins, 551 pp., £16.99, July 2000, 0 00 226102 2
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... city life, gender and class, before settling into detailed analyses of work by Raja Rao, R.K. Narayan, V.S. Naipaul, Salman Rushdie and Amitav Ghosh. Ghosh is Khair’s anti-Rushdie (‘Rushdie continues to write with only a fractional awareness of the complexities of alienation’), a sort of demystified, theoretically alert version of ...

Boss of the Plains

D.A.N. Jones, 19 May 1983

The Boy Scout Handbook and Other Observations 
by Paul Fussell.
Oxford, 284 pp., £9.95, January 1983, 0 19 503102 4
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... sly description of a British Scoutmaster instructing Arab boys in Aden. The Indian novelist, R.K. Narayan, went to a school where ‘the great god was Baden-Powell and the principal recreation soccer’; the African playwright, Wole Soyinka, served under a Scoutmaster nicknamed ‘Activity’. So those Scout-like writers of the Commonwealth are not quite so ...

How many nipples had Graham Greene?

Colm Tóibín, 9 June 1994

... replied. On 7 November 1989, after the publication of The Satanic Verses, Greene wrote to R.K. Narayan about Salman Rushdie: ‘He has just done a very charming review of my book of letters and I have met him briefly at a lunch party, but I have never read any of his books, so I wouldn’t be able to say whether he had gone out of his way to provoke ...

Bankura’s Englishman

Amit Chaudhuri, 23 September 1993

Alien Homage: Edward Thompson and Rabindranath Tagore 
by E.P. Thompson.
Oxford, 175 pp., £8.95, June 1993, 0 19 563011 4
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... is also a true, and unread, precursor of a line of Indian writing in English that begins with R.K. Narayan – writing which explores, in small and forgotten localities, tiny, ridiculous colonial ironies. Thompson’s first meeting with Tagore took place at the latter’s school in Santiniketan, in 1913, ‘on the very night that the news first came through of ...

Malgudi Revisited

Robert Taubman, 21 May 1981

... it is like to be Indian.’ Reading Graham Greene’s friendly words on the back of each of R.K. Narayan’s novels in the new Heinemann edition* makes one increasingly uncertain what they mean. For nearly 50 years Narayan has been writing about a small patch of South India – in particular, about Malgudi, a city which ...

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