Friday, 28 August 2020

Book Review of 'Malgudi Days' by R.K.Narayan

I'm reading this collection of short stories for the second time, the last time being a couple of years ago. I had watched a play based on the book, where three of the stories were enacted. They were as enjoyable as reading the stories, though there were some changes in the story-lines.

The TV series based on the novel was enjoyable as well. However, nothing compares to reading the original work penned by the author. 

The fictional town of Malgudi brings alive numerous nuances of India before the readers' eyes. The imagery is strong and situations are relatable, even to city dwellers. Everyday problems of people, some with no solutions, are presented in a matter-of-fact narrative. Some stories are hilarious in the irony, while others are heart-rending in their reality. 

RKN's Introduction

RKN's introduction at the beginning is an interesting read. He recounts why short stories are easier to write for him, as compared to novels, that required 'considerable labour' and 'concentrated attention.' His description of sentence-ridden minds, with  words ringing about one's ears sounds relatable for most authors. One small paragraph encomapasses a writer's journey from words to drafts to manuscripts mailed to the publishers.

His definition of the short story and how he discovers them all around him is profound.

Another interesting aspect is how RKN 'detects' the characters of Malgudi in the general populace of New York. His characteristic ironic humour about his experience at Chelsea hotel and his conversation with a London  producer, double up as alluring advertisements for his next book 'Tiger At Malgudi', which in any case, doesn't disappoint the fans of RKN's work.

The Stories

Malgudi Days is comprised of 16 stories from An Astrologer's day, 8 stories from Lawley Road and 9 later stories, under the same headings. 

The first story, An Astrologer's day, is filled with strong imagery of a typical Indian village street and offers a host of conflicting feelings, with a suspense which is solved at the end. 

Engine trouble is another story that was screened as an episode on television. Characteristic of RKN's stories, what starts out as a boon for the protagonist ends up almost ruining his life, until miraculous twists of fate set everything in order again.

The Tiger-claw is my favourite story, perhaps because it is strong reminder of RKN's next book 'A Tiger for Malgudi', that he mentions in his introduction of the book, or also 'Man-eater of Malgudi', an immensely delightful read. It is also reminiscent of Ruskin Bond's short story 'No room for a Leopard'. Both tales are grim reminders of depleting wildlife owing to the atrocities of hunting, and the clash between the animal species and man. 

In fact RKN and Bond are one of the few writers who present society and it's various eccentric foilbles with clarity, sans direct criticism or judgement. 

'Father's Help' is a delightful read, especially for those who love 'Swami and Friends', the other favourite of Narayan's work. It is captivating to read about little Swami's tension filled day in this collection as well.

An interesting aspect of the tales is the character of a talkative man who appears in multiple stories with different chronicles of his own. It is typical of RKN's good naturedly satire to refer to this braggart, albeit gifted storyteller, as merely 'talkative.' It is possible that this character was fashioned from multiple trumpeters that RKN must have encountered in his life.

The Blind Dog is a heart-rending tale of human oppression over animals. It reminded me of George Orwell's Animal Farm, that I just finished reading a while ago.

Conclusion

A must-read for readers who love journeys of nostalgia or a revisitation of bygone days or just a good Sunday tea-time read.

I rate it 4.7 out of 5. 

I trust you enjoyed my review. Keep reading and stay safe, readers.

Do put down your suggestions in the comments space below. Happy reading!

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Book photography:Chethana





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