Summary (Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

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.)

The World of Nagaraj Bibliography (Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Afzal-Khan, Fawzia. “R. K. Narayan: The Realm of Mythic Realism.” In Cultural Imperialism and the Indo-English Novel. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1993.

Jussawalla, Feroza. “When ’Sweet Mangoes’ Turn to ’Malt Vinegar.’” In International Literature in English: Essays on the Major Writers, edited by Robert L. Ross. New York: Garland, 1991.

Kain, Geoffrey, ed. R. K. Narayan: Contemporary Critical Essays. East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 1993.

Kirpal, Viney. “An Analysis of Narayan’s Technique.” Ariel: A Review of International Literature 14, no. 4 (1983): 16-19.

Mason, Wyatt. “The Master of Malgudi.” The New Yorker 82, no. 42 (December 18, 2006): 86-91.

Mishra, Pankrah. “The Great Narayan.” The New York Review of Books 48, no. 3 (February 22, 2001): 44.

Olinder, Britta. “R. K. Narayan.” In A Readers Companion to the Short Story in English, edited by Erin Fallon et al. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 2001.

Sankaran, Chitra. Myth Connections: The Use of Hindu Myths and Philosophies in R. K. Narayan and Raja Rao. 2d rev. and enlarged ed. New York: P. Lang, 2007.

Walsh, William. R. K. Narayan: A Critical Appreciation. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1982.