R.K. Narayan Life and Works Semester II notes for BA English BBMKU University. Short notes for the final examination. R.K. Narayan is one of the most prominent figures in Indian English Literature.
Short note on the life and works of R.K. Narayan
R.K. Narayan is now regarded as one of the greatest Indians writing in English. His full name is Rasipuram Krishnaswami Iyer Narayanaswami. As the custom of the South ‘R’ in his name stands for the name of his village ‘Rasipuram’ in the district of Salem in Tamil Nadu and the ‘K’ stands for his father’s name ‘Krishnaswami Iyer’ and the ‘Narayan’ is Narayanaswami. He as a novelist never used his full name. He calls himself simply Narayan instead of ‘Narainaswami’. Narayan’s family belonged originally to Rasipuram before R.K. Narayan’s birth. long before, the family shifted to Madras where Narayan was born on 10 October 1906. Soon after his birth, His father joined the school as a teacher in Mysore and he had to move there with his family. But R.K. Narayan himself was last behind with his grandmother. It was only later that he too shifted to Mysore, which has been his home ever since.
He graduated from Maharaja College, Mysore in 1930. As his father was a humble school teacher and had a large family to support, Narayan was called upon to contribute to the family income soon after his graduation. He worked as a clerk to support his family. Those days were gloomy and his wife, children, and servants always remain in a state of terror. His wife Savitri was a true symbol of traditional Indian womanhood. She was very beautiful and profoundly devoted to her husband. The English Teacher was published in 1945 after seven years the publication of the Dark Room(1938). Much of Narayan’s personal suffering has gone into the making of this novel. He tells a love story, but a love story entirely different from the conventional love stories. It narrates the story of the domestic life of Krishna, a lecturer in English, in the Albert Mission College, Malgudi.
The Guide is the most popular novel by R.K. Narayan. It was published in 1958 and won the Sahitya Academy Award in 1960. It narrates the adventures of a railway guide, popularly known as ‘Railway Raju’. As a tourist guide, he is widely popular.
R.K. Narayan is not only a great novelist but also a leading writer of short stories in English. From 1939-1945, he did not publish any full-length novel. Between ‘The Dark Room (1938)’ and ‘The English Teacher (1945)’ there is a gap of seven years. The shocking domestic tragedy, and the horrors of World War II, it seems touched the sensitive Narayan, too nearly, and he could not make any sustained artistic effort. However, he was not entirely idle. During this period he contributed a number of short stories to the Hindu and to the short-lived Quarterly Journal of Indian thought. These short stories were later on published in book form and are among the finest Indo-Anglian short stories.
R.K. Narayan and Mulk Raj Anand are two of the greatest Indian writers of fiction. But while Anand is a writer with a purpose, a writer who writes because he has some political or economic axe to grind, R.K. Narayan is a novelist who has no axe to grind. He is the rare example of a pure artist, one who writes for the sake of art, and not out of any ulterior motives. That is why his popularity has been worldwide and lasting these works have been translated into a number of languages of the world, and his reputation as an artist has been steadily rising, while that of Anand has suffered a set book, for many of his pre-occupations have ceased to be of interest with the passing of time.
R.K. Narayan is one of those lucky writers who have achieved recognition with the publication of his very first novel. He has ten novels about a hundred short stories, a number of articles and sketches, to his credit, and all this large body of work, with few exceptions (such as the Dark Room), is uniform of a high standard. His first three novels deal with the three different stages in the life of the same character, though he is given different names Swami and friends (1935), Bachelor of Arts (1937), and The English Teacher (1945) are novels about school and college life and they are deeply autobiographical.
The Dark Room came in between the last two and The Vendor of Sweets (1967) are also novels of domestic life. The financial Expert, Mr. Sampath. The Guide and the Man Eater of Malgudi, deal with the careers of money-hunting men of the world. Usually, Narayan takes no note of the stirring political events of the day, but in The waiting for the Mahatma (1955), he has introduced the figure of the great Mahatma, and the effect is rather melodramatic but this too is not a political novel. It was no doubt an artistic mistake to have dragged in the great Mahatma, too big for any single work of art, but the Gandhian movement is not its theme. Its real theme is the love story of Sri Ram and Bharati, and it has been dealt with effectively and credibly. All this work is remarkably even in the quality of its achievement. Naturally, his later work is more complex and more introspective than his earlier work, but there can be no question about the quality even of his earlier work. He now regards Narayan as one of the most distinguished novelists writing in English in the commonwealth. He admires his work for its curious blend of eastern material and western methods.