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 publisher for the young Indian’s first novel.
Once Swami and Friends—a story...
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