18 June, 2021

The Malgudi Man

Enthralling account of a writer who's made simplicity his strength

The Malgudi Man
FEW Indian novelists in English, other than R.K. Narayan, have received or deserve a biographical study as comprehensive as this one undoubtedly is. True, with 462 pages, it could do with some pruning, particularly the chapters on the Madras Seances, Brunton the Mystic and Narayan's rather tentative psychic experiences following the death of his wife. Yet overall, this is an enthralling account of a writer in whose life the interaction between experience and observation on the one side and his work on the other are so closely knit.

Two especially interesting things emerge. One is the friendship and encouragement of Graham Greene, to which Narayan responds with gratitude and warmth. As an example of a relationship between tactful guide and sponsor and eager-to-learn apprentice in a country where a writer is usually given over to large and pretentious abstractions, Narayan is unique, indeed almost un-Indian, in his adherence to the detail of reality at ground level. There is no barrier of incomprehension between the text and what the reader grasps. This immediacy is the...

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