Biography (Cyclopedia of World Authors, Fourth Revised Edition)
Rasipuram Krishnaswami Narayan (nuh-RI-yuhn) was born into a prosperous middle-class family on October 10, 1906, in Madras, India. There he spent his early years with his grandmother and uncle. Later he joined his parents, brothers, and sisters in the family home in Mysore. Mysore is probably the basis of his fictional city Malgudi, an Indian city as complex and as real as William Faulkner’s Yoknapatawpha County. Although according to his memoirs he was never particularly enthusiastic about academic work, Narayan attended a Lutheran mission school and Christian College High School (both in Madras) and in 1930 received his B.A. from Maharaja’s College (later the University of Mysore). He married in 1933; his wife, Rajam, gave birth to their only child, a daughter named Hema, in 1938. Rajam died of typhoid in 1939. Narayan never remarried.
Narayan began reporting for the Madras newspaper The Justice in 1933. After brief stints in teaching and journalism, he decided that he would be a fiction writer. His first novel, Swami and Friends, the comic story of two young Indian boys, was set in the fictional city that would make him famous. Yet the friend in England to whom Narayan had entrusted his manuscript could not find a publisher for it. In despair Narayan told his friend to destroy it. Instead, the friend took the manuscript to the...
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Biography (Critical Survey of Short Fiction, Second Revised Edition)
Rasipuram Krishnaswami Narayan was born in Madras, South India, on October 10, 1906. Until the family moved to Mysore, he remained in Madras with his grandmother, who supervised his school and college education. In his autobiography, My Days (1974), Narayan admits his dislike of education: he “instinctively rejected both education and examinations with their unwarranted seriousness and esoteric suggestions.” Nevertheless, in 1930, he was graduated from Maharaja’s College (now the University of Mysore).
In 1933, he met a woman by the name of Rajam and immediately fell in love with her. In 1935, after overcoming almost insurmountable difficulties (to begin with, their horoscopes did not match), Narayan and Rajam were married. She was a great help in his creative work, but she lived to see publication of only three novels. She died of typhoid in 1939. Narayan’s fourth novel, Grateful to Life and Death (1953), dedicated to his dead wife, centers on the trauma of this loss and on a hard-won sense of reconciliation. Rajam is portrayed in some detail as Sushila in that novel and, later, as Srinivas’s wife in The Printer of Malgudi (1957).
Narayan had not begun his career as a writer without some false starts. Indeed, only after having worked at a number of jobs without satisfaction and success—he worked for a time in the civil service in Mysore, taught for a while, and served as a correspondent for Madras...
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Biography (Critical Survey of Long Fiction, Fourth Edition)
Rasipuram Krishnaswami Narayan was born in Madras on October 10, 1906. During his early years he was reared by his grandmother in Madras. Very early in his autobiography, My Days, he records his dislike of education, of the mission schools, of the British colleges, and of his short-lived adventure as a schoolteacher. All these experiences permeate his writing and serve as the subject matter of his fiction. His literary education was predominantly Victorian in flavor. Francis Turner Palgrave’s The Golden Treasury of the Best Songs and Lyrical Poems in the English Language (1861), Sir Walter Scottthe works of, and reading William Shakespeare’s plays aloud were its staples.
In 1933, Narayan fell in love with a woman named Rajam, whom he married only after great difficulties because their horoscopes showed theirs was not an auspicious match; she died of typhoid in 1939. The trauma of this loss, his inability to come to terms with his fate, and his effort to defy his destiny led to Narayan’s interest in purported psychic communication with the dead and provided the inspiration for The English Teacher. A feeling of helplessness in the face of destiny takes sometimes comic and sometimes tragic turns throughout Narayan’s work.
Narayan was commissioned to write a travel book on Mysore, and after several years of writing for The Hindu and other journalistic experiences, he began publishing Indian...
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Biography (Magill's Survey of World Literature, Revised Edition)
A teacher’s son, Rasipuram Krishnaswami Narayan (nah-RAH-yan) was born in Madras, a major South Indian city, where he attended Lutheran Mission School and Christian College High School. In the early 1920’s, the family moved to another South Indian city, Mysore, where Narayan’s father served as headmaster at Maharajah’s College High School. Taking advantage of the library privileges granted by his father, the young Narayan read voraciously, mainly in the English classics.
In 1926, Narayan entered Maharajah’s College in Mysore. After graduating in 1930, he took a teaching position but soon gave that up. He started to write, determined to become an English-language novelist. Marrying in 1933, he then worked as a reporter in Mysore for The Justice, a Madras newspaper. Narayan recalled in his autobiography, My Days (1974), how this experience brought him into “close contact with a variety of men and their activities” and gave him material that he was to use in his future fiction.
His first novel, Swami and Friends, appeared in 1935. Rejected by several English publishers, the manuscript eventually came to the attention of Graham Greene, the British novelist, who was immensely impressed by Narayan’s narrative technique and the way he had recorded South Indian life. Greene lent his prestige to finding a...
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Biography (Magill's Survey of World Literature, Revised Edition)
In more than sixty years of writing fiction, R. K. Narayan created a memorable world whose center was the fictional South Indian town of Malgudi. From that insignificant center, life radiated in all its drabness and fullness, its richness and poverty, its daily tedium, and its rare moments of spiritual discovery. While Narayan consistently revealed men and women in their absurdity, he never condemned them. Instead he probed beneath the layers of human foolishness in search of the admirable spirit that lies within all creatures. He always discovered that spirit and made it evident.
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Rasipuram Krishnaswami Ayyar Naranayanaswami was born in Madras, a large industrial coastal city in India, on October 10, 1906. His family was Brahmin, the highest caste of Hindu society. When he was still young, the rest of his family moved to Mysore, a smaller city in the heart of the country. Narayan stayed in Madras with his grandmother, who read him classic Indian tales and myths from an early age and encouraged his imagination. He was not a serious student; he believed that the educational system was too regimented and that it discouraged students from thinking creatively, so he decided not to work hard and ended up failing several subjects and his college entrance exams.
After graduation, Narayan went to work in a government office in Mysore, but he was no more suited for mundane office work than for formal education. He tried teaching for a while, but did not last long as a teacher, either. What he wanted to be was a writer. At first, most of his stories were rejected. For three or four years he lived at home and earned less than five dollars a year, worrying and embarrassing his family.
In 1933 he married a woman named Rajam, who encouraged him in his writing. To help support his wife and daughter, he tried journalism, starting out as a correspondent for the Madras Justice and working his way up to junior editor. Rajam lived only five years as his wife, dying of typhoid in 1939. By that time Narayan had published three novels,...
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Rasipuram Krishnaswami Narayan was born in Madras (now known as Chennai), South India, on October 10, 1907. Although his family moved to Mysore when he was a child, he continued to live in Madras under the care of his grandmother, who ensured that he led a very disciplined life. A Brahmin (one who belongs to the priestly caste) by birth, he learned Sankrit as part of his training in Hinduism. His mother tongue was Tamil, a language spoken by some sixty million people in India. His knowledge of English came from his education. A voracious reader, he learned a great deal of English literature during his school years, and this knowledge was crucial to his own development as a writer. Until he passed his university entrance examination he remained in Madras, and then joined Maharaja's College, Mysore. After considerable effort, he obtained his B.A. in 1930 and decided that he would pursue no further formal education.
After having tried teaching as a profession, Narayan gave it up in exasperation and decided to pursue what he really liked: writing. Financial difficulties forced him to take up journalism for a period of time, but his main objective was to become a full-time writer. In 1933 he married Rajam, a devoted wife who died in 1939. His first novel, Swami and Friends, was published in 1935, and since then Narayan's life has been devoted to writing novels, short stories, and essays; during the last sixty years he has produced some fifteen novels,...
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