Sunday, 22 October 2017

Fiction Reads: A Tiger for Malgudi by RK Narayan

RK Narayan (1906 - 2001)

Most of RK Narayan's novels and short stories are set in the fictional, sleepy town of Malgudi, somewhere in south India. A Tiger for Malgudi is no exception. Even as an aging zoo tiger narrates its life history, the story's climatic moments inevitably occur in the small town. Instead of its usual full-fledged role, Malgudi makes a guest appearance here. But more of that later, sample an excerpt from the first chapter: 

You are not likely to understand that I am different from the tiger next door, that I possess a soul within this forbidding exterior. I can think, analyse, judge, remember and do everything that you do, perhaps with greater subtlety and sense. I lack only the faculty of speech. 

But if you could read my thoughts, you would be welcome to come in and listen to the story of my life. At least, you could slip your arm through the bars and touch me and I will hold out my forepaw to greet you, after retracting my claws, of course.      

A common thread runs through most of Narayan's works, the flow persists here. The storytelling is simple, the characters well-defined, there are no complexities in the plot. Time is an invisible character in all Malgudi tales, it is as if time lingers on a park bench, or stands still as a statue while passing Malgudi. 

Many times I have found this lingering pace a bother in Narayan's novels. This despite the fact that none of Narayan's novels extend beyond 300 pages. But A Tiger for Malgudi is one Narayan novel I love returning to. The 176-page length works for the book. It has the charm of a fable, old world wisdom, incidental humour and at its best moments, a leisurely, enjoyable aroma of a much-repeated (and thus polished) grandmother's tale.


(Article by Snehith Kumbla) 

2 comments:

  1. I've only read Malgudi Days, the book of short stories in fiction by R. K. Narayan; I enjoyed the humour as a kid and the emotional subtleties when I re-read as an adult! I did recently read his retelling of the Indian epics, but unfortunately had to return the library copy halfway through Ramayana. With Narayan, I can always count on a blend of wit and wisdom. The final line of your review has convinced me to go hunt for this book.

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  2. Thanks Priya, your comments are priceless. Another RK Narayan novel I loved reading, a long time ago was 'The World of Nagaraj.'

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