September 16, 2006

Narayan Days

Celebrating R. K. Narayan, on the occasion of his 100th anniversary is Jhumpa Lahiri* through this article, Narayan Days.

* Read this Jhumpa Lahiri short story in New Yorker magazine from May 2006. An overview of her literature is here. I have enjoyed Lahiri's short stories far more than anything I have read from other Indian-origin authors who reside in the US...only because she did not make a big deal of mixed culturual identities (she writes equally well about both Indian and American personas and a good short story is exactly that - a good story about people!)...or so I thought until I just researched (or to use the right verb, googled) and found articles in the WSJ and Newsweek where Lahiri talks about her hyphenated existence and about the "intense pressure to be at once 'loyal to the old world and fluent in the new.'" Blaah...wonder if the media makes a big deal out of the author's mixed identities across two nations, two cultures, and worst still...the immigrant experience, every time they encounter an author of Indian origin or whether they do so only because Indian authors (Many thanks, Bharati Mukherjee & Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni!!) have made multi-culturism and the immigrant experience their only selling point over the years. Its probably a little of both - a chicken and egg problem of sorts ...

Anyways, back to RK or Rasipuram Krishnaswami Ayyar Narayanaswami... who was essentially the first Indian writer in English to become famous outside of India* too. Tagore precedes him but I consider him more a poet than a writer and more of his work was in Bengali than in English. Appropriately, RK Narayan is one of the early chapters in a recent book I read (read only about 60% of it) - Modern South Asian Literature in English by Paul Brians, part of the Series Literature as Windows to World Cultures. (Brians is a Professor of English at Washington State University, Pullman. He also maintains a webpage on Common English errors, has a page on Resources for study of World Civilizations, and The Chernobyl Poems of Lyubov Sirota)

* For example, see:
- Tribute from VS Naipual in Time magazine. (wow..he has a good word to say about someone!!)
- Pankaj Mishra discusses his work in the
New York Review of Books.
- The life of RK Narayan in
California Literary Review
- Obituary in
New York Times
- Paul Brian's
World Literature in English list has a study guide to RK's The Guide

but here is someone (Shashi Tharoor) who is not a fan!

Other Links:
Vendor of treats - a tribute to RK Narayan
A friend remembers RK.
- Another friend reminisces

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