(Book Jacket Status: Jacketed)In the novels of R. K. Narayan (1906-2001), the forefather of modern Indian fiction, human-scale hopes and epiphanies express the promise of a nation as it awakens to its place in the world. The three novels brought together in this volume, all written after India’s independence, are masterpieces of social comedy, rich in local color and abounding in affectionate humor and generosity of spirit.Mr. Sampath–The Printer of Malgudi is the story of a businessman who adapts to the collapse of his weekly newspaper by shifting to screenplays, only to have the glamour of it all go to his head. In The Financial Expert, a man of many hopes but few resources spends his time under a banyan tree dispensing financial advice to those willing to pay for his knowledge. In Waiting for the Mahatma, a young drifter meets the most beautiful girl he has ever seen–an adherent of Mahatma Gandhi–and commits himself to Gandhi’s Quit India campaign, a decision that will test the integrity of his ideals against the strength of his passions.As charming as they are compassionate, these novels provide an indelible portrait of India in the twentieth century.From the Hardcover edition.
Published: Alfred A. Knopf an imprint of Random House Publishing Group on Jul 22, 2009
Three Novels by R. K. Narayan is comprised of three short novels, Mr. Sampath- The Printer of Malgudi, The Financial Expert and Waiting for the Mahatma. All of the novels are set in the fictional Indian city of Malgudi.Having recently read A House for Mr. Biswas, I was somewhat familiar with many of the cultural and lifestyle practices of the Indian people and this collection is very similar in style and content to that earlier noted work by V. S. Naipaul. Narayan is one of the most widely read and critically acclaimed Indian writer and this is, by all accounts a sampling from one of his most productive periods.In Mr. Sampath- The Printer of Malgudi, we are presented with an industrious, young newspaper publisher who falls in with Mr. Sampath, the printer of his periodical. Through a series of circumstances and machinations, our young publisher is swept along in a whirlwind of characters and events that ultimately leads him to the pinnacle of success as a movie screenwriter before the obvious house of cards predictably comes crashing down.In The Financial Expert, we are introduced to a sly, manipulative money lender who has eked out a modest living on the backs of his clients. Desirous of greater wealth and riches, the loan shark experiences a completely unexpected and inexplicable financial windfall which changes his life completely. In the background of this major career move is the relationship between he and his family, including an incorrigible and ne’er-do-well son.The final novel in the collection, Waiting for the Mahatma, follows the story of a young man in Malgudi, living with his grandmother, who has come into his modest inheritance. He soon falls under the spell of a young woman who is a member of Gandhi’s entourage. In an attempt to ingratiate himself with the young woman, the man becomes a follower of Gandhi and works toward Indian independence, though one wonders whether his heart is really in the effort or he is merely going through the motions in order to stay on the good graces of the woman he is pursuing.Each of these novels, set in the mid-20th century, displays a rich tapestry of Indian culture and mores, many of which are almost beyond the understanding of modern, Western minds. Written by a native Indian, in the midst of both the struggle for Indian independence and the rigid caste system, the stories indicate the near inevitability and predictability of an individual’s effort to better one’s self and improve his/her station in life.read more
This one was a recommendation from my friend Sangit Chatterjee, an Indian-born stats professor who works in the office next to me. Considered one of the great contemporary Indian novelists, Narayan gradually won me over with his subtlety and patience in developing surprising twists with seemingly mundane characters.Srinivas, the protagonist of the story, has moved to a new region of India in an effort to launch a newspaper. Mr. Sampath quickly comes to his rescue with answers to seemingly every dilemma faced by an aspiring publisher. Sampath appears to be a very dedicated but otherwise typical Indian businessman… but we slowly see signs that his aspirations are quite beyond anything we might imagine. It’s enjoyable to watch the protagonist puzzle over his stalwart printer’s evolution as an individual, and it turns out to be an unexpected pleasure as a novel. This one is hard to find in bookstores but available online. Others by Narayan are more readily available, and they’re worth a try if you want to experience a taste of another cultureread more