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Swami and Friends, The Bachelor of Arts, The Dark Room, The English Teacher

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Swami and Friends, The Bachelor of Arts, The Dark Room, The English Teacher by R. K. Narayan
Hardcover $27.00
Mar 07, 2006 | ISBN 9781400044764

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  • Mar 07, 2006 | ISBN 9781400044764

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“There are writers–Tolstoy and Henry James to name two–whom we hold in awe, writers–Turgenev and Chekhov–for whom we feel a personal affection, other writers whom we respect–Conrad for example–but who hold us at a long arm’s length with their ‘courtly foreign grace.’ Narayan (whom I don’t hesitate to name in such a context) more than any of them wakes in me a spring of gratitude, for he has offered me a second home. Without him I could never have known what it is like to be Indian.” –Graham Greene

“[The English Teacher is] an idyll as delicious as anything I have met in modern literature for a long time. The atmosphere and texture of happiness, and, above all, its elusiveness, have seldom been so perfectly transcribed.” –Elizabeth Bowen

“Narayan’s humour and compassion come from a deep universal well, with the result that he has transformed his imaginary township of Malgudi into a bubbling parish of the world.” –The Observer

“The first writer of his kind…A more accurate guide to modern India than the intellectually more ambitious writers of recent years.” –Pankaj Mishra, The New York Review of Books.

Author Essay

by Alexander McCall Smith

A novelist of all humanity

R. K. Narayan’s novels are like a box of Indian sweets: a highly-coloured container conceals a range of delectable treats, all different in a subtle way, but each one clearly from the same place. There are fourteen novels in the oeuvre — enough to create a world. Enthusiasts of his work will read them all and return to them time and again. The busy, or the less committed, may open the box and take out one at random — it does not really matter which order one reads them in. But be warned: the consumption of one leads to a strong craving for more.

Narayan’s life spanned the twentieth century, which meant that he belonged both to an old world and a new. At the time of his birth in 1906, the British Raj, that astonishing imperial conceit, was firmly in place, as were those iron-clad notions of caste that were to prove so difficult to shrug off. The British presence in India had brought with it a large civil service, an educational system, and railways — to all of which institutions the people of the subcontinent took with enthusiasm. But it had also brought with it a language, and the literature which that language created, and it is this which proved a most productive legacy. The British took English to India and the Indians gave back a literary tradition which continues to delight and enrich us to this day. Contemporary writers such as Vikram Seth, Rohinton Mistry, or Anita Desai, whose novels have given such pleasure to readers in Europe and North America, stand rooted in a tradition which R. K. Narayan, as one of the earlier Indian novelists to write in English, did a great deal to establish.

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