Saturday, June 04, 2011

Malgudi Days (Penguin Classics)
Malgudi Days 

"I have named this volume Malgudi Days in order to give it a plausibly geographic status. I am often asked, 'Where is Malgudi?'  All I can say is that it is imaginary and not to be found on any map . . ." (p 2)

Malgudi Days, written by R.K Narayan, chronicles the lives of people in the fictional town of Malgudi.  The stories, which share the lives of everyone from entrepreneurs to beggars, all take place in  and near this Indian village. Thus  the heart and the soul of that village is on display and we find it is a place where most people are haunted by illiteracy and unemployment. Yet despite the ubiquity of the poor many of the stories come across with humorous good-natured episodes of their lives. Among the stories the reader meets an astrologer, a gatekeeper, and a young man yearning to pass the examinations; there are the young and the old, some rich and many poor;  one of my favorite stories was about the boy who regretted exaggerating the ferocity of his teacher when his father decided to take action with the almost predictable result of unintended consequences for the boy. There are also animals including a forlorn dog who befriends a blind man and a ferocious tiger (perhaps a hint of Narayan's short novel, A Tiger for Malgudi).  Above all there is a pervasive irony that reminded me of other short story stylists from O'Henry to Chekhov and Gogol.  More often a character's dreams or expectations do not lead to the results he desires. This keeps the reader guessing as to what the next story will show in the lives of people who become endlessly fascinating, if only for the reason that you have met them before in your own town.  In his introduction R. K. Narayan observes that "I can detect Malgudi characters even in New York:  for instance, West Twenty-third Street . .  possesses every element of Malgudi, with its landmarks and humanity remaining unchanged--"(p 2).
Following publication of this collection, the stories in this book were made into both serials and cinema. Through these tales the author, R.K Narayan, captures the readers' heart with his journey through the village of Malgudi and its' not so unfamiliar denizens.

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