R(asipuram) K(rishnaswami) Narayan 1906–
Indian novelist and short story writer.
Narayan is one of India's most prominent contemporary authors. He is most noted for the creation of Malgudi, a mythical town in southern India which provides the setting for most of Narayan's novels and short stories. Some see Malgudi as a composite of Madras, Narayan's birthplace, and Mysore, where he has lived most of his life. Narayan's evocation of Malgudi has been compared with William Faulkner's Yoknapatawpha County, largely due to the highly developed sense of place and the intimate descriptions of the inhabitants and their daily lives.
Malgudi is a small village peopled by the lower and middle classes. Most of the Malgudi stories center on the struggles and triumphs of seemingly insignificant people such as the title characters in The Financial Expert (1952), The Guide (1958), The Vendor of Sweets (1967), and The Painter of Signs (1976). These characters typically strive for self-identity and awareness; some rise above their situation and achieve self-fulfillment, others never quite succeed, but all of them retain a dignified, calm acceptance of fate, which is a significant aspect of the Hindu religion. Their struggles often involve a conflict between tradition and the modern world; their self-discovery and happiness are often found in a return to the past rather than an emergence into the future.
Critics frequently praise Narayan's natural and unaffected use of the English language. Although he writes in English, it has been noted that he does not write with a Western audience in mind. He captures the essence of the Indian way of life and the Indian sensibility through the unspoken assumptions and convictions of his nation, which lie at the heart of his work and are the matter from which Malgudi is formed. It is with a compassionate yet detached approach that Narayan portrays the subtleties of his major and minor characters. His success in creating a village which stands as a metaphor for both India and the human condition partly stems from his use of irony and satire while maintaining the dignity of his characters. In his understated manner, Narayan is calling for personal and social growth in modern India, while simultaneously celebrating humanity's will to survive.
(See also CLC, Vol. 7 and Contemporary Authors, Vols. 81-84.)