An Astrologer's Day

by R. K. Narayan

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Critical Overview

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Last Updated on May 7, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 270

Among Indian authors, Narayan has probably received the most attention. Apart from a few essays that have expressed some reservation about Narayan's refusal to engage with political social realities, all others have been largely adulatory. Book-length studies of his work have dealt with various aspects of his work, including myth, humor, religion, identity, and so forth. Surprisingly, much more attention has been paid to the novels than to the short stories, although Narayan has published several collections over a career that spans more than six decades. It is to his credit that any major study of Indian writing in English would include at least a chapter on the work of Narayan.

All critical discussions of the story have been positive. "An Astrologer's Day" has been perceived as a significant work, comparable to anything else he has written. While many critical accounts have been confined to plot summaries, a few have drawn attention to the quality of irony that accounts for the strength of the story. What has not been stressed adequately is that the quality of harmony that informs all his work also frames this story. There is very little violence in Narayan's writing, and very little by way of tragedy. Not all his fiction ends on a note of optimism, but there is always a sense of reconciliation, a suggestion that contradictions will be resolved. In that sense, Narayan's work is characterized by a very Hindu sensibility, a conviction that human lives and problems are part of a larger cosmic harmony. In this story too, all the potential for violence and revenge is transformed into a vision of harmony.

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Essays and Criticism