In The World of Nagaraj, the central character fancies himself as a man with a mission. Nagaraj does not fully understand the nature of this mission, even though he expends considerable energy pursuing it. His main purpose, he believes, is to write a biography of the mythological character Narada, who traveled through the human and heavenly worlds telling stories. No ordinary weaver of tales, Narada was a talented gossip whose revelations planted distrust and raised suspicion wherever he went.
In spite of having such excellent material at hand, Nagaraj can never complete his project, only make preparations. Thus the novel may be read on one level as a satiric examination of the would-be writer who talks about his or her plans, yet never settles down to work. Although a dilettante, Nagaraj still emerges as a likable character who comes to understand his own limitations. Perhaps Nagaraj’s greatest shortcoming lies in his inability to engage in the life around him, for he fails to grasp that in order to write about life he must immerse himself in the doings of his fellow human beings. Narayan thereby describes the irony that afflicts writers, who must not only observe and participate in the world but must also shut themselves away in order to practice their art.
Despite Nagaraj’s faults or pretensions, he emerges, as Narayan’s characters always do, as a thoroughly decent man. Altogether uncomplicated, he achieves nothing of...
(The entire section is 489 words.)