March 25, 2023

A Tiger for Malgudi and The Man-eater of Malgudi

R. K. Narayan

Cover art by Philippe Lau

Penguin Classics


Set in R. K. Narayan’s fabled town of Maigudi, the two novels in this volume represent Ndrayan at his best, offering charming stories of human absurdity that are also skillfully woven parables infused with Hindu mysticism.

A Tiger for Maigudi is told from the point of view of the tiger Raja, now old and toothless, who looks back on his life in the circus and in films, and on his dramatic bid to escape the brutish human world in a quest for freedom. The Man-eater of Malgudi is the story of Natarai, a mildmannered printer who stands up to Vasu, a pugnacious taxidermist, when Vasu begins to covet the beloved temple elephant for his collection.

R. K. Narayan was born on October io, igo6, in Madras, South India, and educated there and at Maharaja’s College in Mysore. His first novel, Swami and Friends (1935), and its successor, The Bachelor of Arts (1937), are both set in the fictional territory of Malgudi.

John Updike wrote, “Few writers since Dickens can match the effect of colorful teeming that Narayan’s fictional city of Malgudi conveys; its population is as sharply chiseled as a temple of frieze, and as endless, with always, one feels, more characters round the corner.”

Narayan wrote many more novels set in Malgudi, including The English Teacher (1945), The Financial Expert (1952), and The Guide (1958), which won him the Sahitya Akademi (India’s National Academy of Letters) Award, his country’s highest honor. His collections of short fiction include A Horse and Two Goats, Malgudi Days, and Under the Banyan Tree.

Graham Greene, Narayan’s friend and literary champion, said, “He has offered me a second home. Without him I could never have known what it is like to be Indian.”

Narayan’s fiction earned him comparisons to the work of writers including Anton Chekhov, William Faulkner, O. Henry, and Flannery O’Connor.

Narayan also published travel books, volumes of essays, the memoir My Days, and the retold legends Gods, Demons, and others; The Ramayana; and The Mahabbarata. In the 1980s he was awarded the A. C. Benson Medal by the Royal Society of Literature, was made an honorary member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and a member of the Rajya Sabha, the non-elective House of Parliament in India.

R. K. Narayan died in Madras on May 13, 2001.

Pico Iyer is the author of numerous works of nonfiction among them Video Night in Kathmandu, The Global Soul, and The Open Road. The Global Journey of the Fourteenth Dalai Lama-and two novels. A member of the same South Indian lyer clan as R. K. Narayan, he wrote one of his first major pieces in 1981, on Narayan’s story collection Malgudi Days. www.vpbookclub or www.penguinclassics

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