Last Updated on July 29, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 415
Under the Banyan Tree and Other Stories (1985) is one of Narayan’s best-known collections of short stories and includes many brief pieces that are little more than character sketches, originally written for The Hindu in Madras during his early career. One of them, ‘‘Like the Sun,’’ gives an Indian version of the often-told tale of a man who can only tell the truth.
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Of his fourteen novels, Narayan has said that his own favorite is A Tiger for Malgudi. Set in the same fictional town as most of his fiction, this fable incorporates Indian folktales and myths and is narrated by Raja, a tiger.
Saros Cowasjee has edited two collections of Indian short fiction, Stories from the Raj: From Kipling to Independence (1982) and More Stories from the Raj: From Kipling to the Present Day (1986). Although both volumes are out of print, they are available from most good-sized libraries, and they demonstrate the variety and strength of the short story in India.
Many critics have compared Narayan’s fictional town of Malgudi to William Faulkner’s Yoknapatawpha County, though most find that Faulkner’s vision is darker than Narayan’s. Faulkner’s Collected Stories (1950, 1977) offers many stories set in his fictional landscape and features recurring characters.
Published in 1924, before Indian independence from Great Britain, E. M. Forster’s A Passage to India is a novel about the difficulties of interracial friendship in colonial India. During this time of heightened tension, even the most tolerant of the British find their compassion and common sense overrun by their racial prejudice.
The Ramayana tells the adventure story of the ruler Rama, who loses his kingdom and joins forces with the monkey king Sugriva to regain his wife and his throne. Written in about 300 B.C., the Ramayana exists in many English translations, including Narayan’s own The Ramayana: A Shortened Modern Prose Version of the Indian Epic (1972).
Considered the longest poem ever written, the Mahabharata, or the Great Epic of the Bharata Dynasty, was composed between 200 B.C. and A.D. 200. It contains many of the most wellknown stories and legends of Indian civilization. It, too, has appeared in many English versions, including a 1978 translation by Narayan, The Mahabharata: A Shortened Prose Version of the Indian Epic.
Clear Light of Day (1980) by Anita Desai, an important female Indian novelist and short story writer. Two sisters, Tara and Bim, suffer through family conflicts, political violence and an epidemic in early twentieth-century India, and learn that forgiveness can heal old wounds.