Rasipuram Krishnaswami Iyer Narayanaswami, popularly known as R.K. Narayan, was an Indian writer globally known for his fictional writings of Malgudi. Also, R.K. Narayan was amongst the first few Indians who started writing Indian literature in English. Some of the most prominent contemporary authors of his time include Mulk Raj Anand, Raja Rao, etc.
Early Life of R.K. Narayan
Born in 1906 in a family of Tamil Brahmins, R.K. Narayan was the second eldest son in a family of eight children. He was born in the Madras Presidency of British India but still made a reputed name for himself even amongst the conventional English readers.
Narayan was an avid reader from his childhood days and loved to read the writings of some of the best authors of that time. Some of his favorite authors were Charles Dickens, Thomas Hardy, Arthur Conan Doyle, and Wodehouse. Narayan developed a deep interest in writing after reading all these phenomenal authors and thus started to look for opportunities to showcase his abilities to the world.
R.K. Narayan took four years to complete his graduation, which was a year longer than the normal duration of the course. And, then he started teaching in a school but soon decided to quit this job to pursue a full-time career in writing. Narayan was once visiting Coimbatore, and there R.K. fell in love with a girl named Rajam. After facing several obstacles, he finally married Rajam in 1934.
Writing Career of R.K. Narayan
Narayan is best known for his fictional writings, but he did not start his published writing journey with a work of fiction. His first publication was a book review of the Development of Maritime Laws of 17th-Century England. Later, he worked as a short story writer for a local newspaper. Along with writing for local newspapers and magazines, Narayan also started working on his first novel "Swami and Friends" and finally completed this novel in 1930. R.K. Narayan then showed the novel to several publications but was rejected by all the publishers.
The biggest breakthrough for R.K. Narayan came when he got a recommendation for "Swami and Friends" publication from the renowned English writer Graham Greene. The recommendation came because Narayan had earlier sent a copy of his novel to one of his friends in England, and then his friend showed the novel to Graham Greene.
"Swami and Friends" finally got published in 1935 and received a positive perception. Also, it was amongst the 100 Most Influential Novels by BBC in 2019.
Green also helped publish Narayan's next two novels, The Bachelor of Arts (1937) and The Dark Room (1938). The published novels were appreciated by the critics but failed to sell many book copies. Also, these two novels, along with "Swami and Friends," are considered a part of a trilogy based on a common theme.
Death of R.K. Narayan's Wife
R.K. Narayan deeply loved his wife, Rajam. But in 1939, Rajam suffered from typhoid and died soon after. The death of his wife badly impacted R.K. Narayan, and his mental health was affected very badly. Also, he was now left alone to look after his three-year-old daughter, Hema.
Such a personal loss of Narayan provided him with the inspiration for his next novel, "The English Teacher". With the publication of this novel, Narayan's writing slowly started to get the deserved recognition and appreciation from the readers. Narayan also started his own publishing house, "Indian Thought Publications," in 1942 in Mysore. The biggest commercial success for Narayan came with the publication of "The Financial Expert" in 1952 and was also hailed as one of the most original fictional writings of the year.
Later Years of R.K. Narayan
R.K. Narayan was also nominated as a member of Rajya Sabha, the Upper House of Indian Parliament, in 1980. He was nominated to the Rajya Sabha for his extraordinary contributions to literature. The legendary writing career of R.K. Narayan came to an end with his final book "Grandmother's Tale" in 1992. R.K. Narayan died on May 13, 2001, at 94 in Chennai.
Works of R.K. Narayan
Short story collections
Legacy of R.K. Narayan
The trio of R.K. Narayan, Raja Rao, and Mulk Raj Anand is India's leading English writers. Narayan succeeded in creating a legacy through his writing which the people will remember for a long time. He also played an important role in making the Indian culture accessible to the world's people through his writings. One of his biggest fictional successes is the town of Malgudi. All the stories of Narayan revolved around the town of Malgudi and its residents. He made Malgudi alive with all his stories and the characters.