Considered as one of the greatest Indian writers, R.K. Narayan changed the landscape of English writing in India with his novels and short stories set in the fictional South Indian town of Malgudi but based on his own experiences. Swamy and Friends, The Guide, The Bachelor of Arts, The English Teacher, and Malgudi Days are considered Narayan’s most important works. His stories have highlighted social issues in India through the use of humour. On Narayan’s death anniversary, we take a look at some of the key facts about him.
R.K. Narayan was born on October 10, 1906, in a Tamil Brahmin family, to parents Rasipuram Venkatarama Krishna Swami Iyer and his wife Gnanambal. His full name in the family tradition is Rasipuram Krishnaswami Iyer Narayanaswami.
R.K. Narayan’s youngest brother is the famous Indian cartoonist and illustrator R.K. Laxman, who illustrated many of R.K. Narayan’s stories.
English novelist Graham Greene, known for works such as Brighton Rock, helped Narayan publish his first novel, Swamy and Friends. He became his mentor and lifelong friend.
R.K. Laxman provided the sketches shown in the Malgudi Days (1986-1988), the televised adaptation of Narayan’s short story collection of the same name.
R.K. Narayan’s fifth novel, The English Teacher (1945), was autobiographical and is about the passing of his wife Rajam in 1939, from typhoid.
Several of Narayan’s stories were adapted for television and for films, but he never worked on them. The 1947 Tamil film, Miss Malini, was the only one for which he wrote a story.
A recognisable aspect of R.K. Narayan’s writing is his dry humour and the lack of a self-conscious or deliberate design.
Narayan’s recurring use of the fictional town of Malgudi, has been compared with Wessex in Thomas Hardy’s stories.
He received the Sahitya Akademi Award for his eighth novel, The Guide (1958). He was also the recipient of the Padma Bhushan and the Padma Vibhushan.
R.K. Narayan passed away on May 13, 2001, at the age of 94.