A novelist of little things
India has long occupied a special place in the imagination of outsiders. It is in every sense an astonishing country - a country which is immensely rich in history, which is inhabited by the most remarkable and engaging people, and which holds within its boundaries virtually every type of landscape one might care to contemplate, from Rajasthan deserts to high Himalayan snowfields. For those who are smitten by India - and their number is legion - there is a rich body of literature in English with which to nurture this passion. One might pass a lifetime in a library of Indian memoirs, topography, history, religion, and philosophy, and, of course, fiction. And on those fiction shelves one would come across, in pride of place, the novels of R. K. Narayan, all well-loved short books with beguiling titles (how
could one resist a book called The Vendor of Sweets ?), and each of them a delightful window into the world that is India. Who was
he, this scholarly-looking man with his heavy-framed spectacles and his air of intense concentration? Why are his books so
cherished and admired by enthusiasts in so many countries?