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The Painter of Signs (Penguin Twentieth Century Classics) [Paperback]

R. K. Narayan
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
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Book Description

28 Jan 1982 Penguin Twentieth Century Classics
In this wry, funny, bittersweet story, love gets in the way of progress when Raman, a sign painter, meets the thrillingly independent Daisy, who wishes to bring birth control to the city of Malgudi.

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The Painter of Signs (Penguin Twentieth Century Classics) + Untouchable (Twentieth Century Classics) + Midnight's Children
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Product details

  • Paperback: 143 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics; New Edition edition (28 Jan 1982)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140185496
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140185492
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 12.8 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 188,831 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

About the Author

R.K. Narayan was born in Madras, South India, in 1906, and educated there and at Maharaja's College in Mysore. His first novel, Swami and Friends and its successor, The Bachelor of Arts, are both set in the enchanting fictional territory of Malgudi and are only two out of the twelve novels he based there. In 1958 Narayan's work The Guide won him the National Prize of the Indian Literary Academy, his country's highest literary honor. In addition to his novels, Narayan has authored five collections of short stories, including A Horse and Two Goats, Malguidi Days, and Under the Banyan Tree, two travel books, two volumes of essays, a volume of memoirs, and the re-told legends Gods, Demons and Others, The Ramayana, and the Mahabharata. In 1980 he was awarded the A.C. Benson Medal by the Royal Society of Literature and in 1982 he was made an Honorary Member of the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters. Narayan died in 2001.

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First Sentence
Raman's was the last house in Ellaman Street; a little door on the back wall opened, beyond a stretch of sand, to the river. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
4.5 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fresh, fun, and full of charm. 28 April 2003
This bittersweet novel is as fresh and charming today as it was when originally published in 1976. Telling the story of Raman, a conscientious sign-painter, who is trying to lead a rational life, the novel is filled with busy neighborhood life and gossip, the alternating rhythms and sounds of the city from morning till night, and the pungent smells and tantalizing flavors of home cooking, as Narayan portrays everyday life in Malgudi. The city is growing and changing, as its inhabitants try to carve out some individual successes within the juggernaut of "progress."
Raman, a college graduate, brings a sense of professionalism to his sign-painting, taking pride in his calligraphy and trying to create exactly the right sign, artistically, for each client. Living with his aged aunt, a devout, traditional woman whose days are spent running the house and tending to her nephew’s needs and whose evenings are spent at the temple listening to the old stories and praying, Raman prefers a rational approach to life. Then he meets Daisy. A young woman devoted to improving the lives of women and the standard of living of the country through strict family planning, Daisy becomes his biggest customer, commissioning signs for all the family planning clinics she helps establish through the city and outlying rural areas. Ram soon finds his attraction to Daisy more powerful than this desire to remain "rational."
Narayan is a master of domestic scenes, presenting the major and minor conflicts of family life through the different points of view of the participants. Respect for his characters and a good-humored (and often humorous) presentation of their issues give warmth to his scenes and allow the reader to feel real empathy with the characters.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 20th Century Touching Classic 20 May 2007
One of the most beautiful books I've read in a long time. A lovely, simple story of a man's quest for love. Raman is portrayed in a certain way that dubs down his personality. He is personified as a meekest of men, a humble 'painter of signs'. And yet what lies beneath is a very passionate man - with a strong desire to produce the highest quality in his artwork but also to capture the heart of an independent, driven woman.

The story focuses on Raman's ongoing relationship with his elderly aunt and his blossoming friendship with Daisy. Indeed the story deals with a number of issues regarding family culture at its time - and the sacrifices pressed on the main characters.

The book presents a wonderful development of a humble man's life. The end of the story is touching. If one message is clear in this lovely book its that you should be very careful what you wish for in life.

The book warrants 5 stars on all fronts - story, prose, discourses, setting and the final outcome.

I would without a doubt recommend this book to anyone who prefers a frank and honest read. If you want to be read a humble yet humourous little story, this is it.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Smalltown life in South India perfectly captured 29 Mar 2010
This is another of R K Narayan's brilliant pieces of fiction. He really has a gift for capturing small town life as it really is in India.

This particular book is a slim volume and a bittersweet look at an ordinary man living his life and falling in love. The main character really is rather endearing, though at times you feel frustrated about the way he behaves! The perfect way to read this book is on a lazy Sunday afternoon. Take your time and let this wonderful evocation of small-town India wash over you.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A lovely little tale..... 8 Aug 2011
By Kitaj
Too often these days we see novels trying to be oh so clever. This is not one of's a story in the original sense of the word - brilliantly written, moving, sweet and gentle. I loved every page and will add it to my list of books to read again as it's a small volume and is well worth looking over on a rainy, winter's day.....
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Narayan mixes the themes of love, literacy and population control in this unusual take on boy-meets-girl storyline. India’s society seems to hustle and bustle as Narayan brings it to life, the characters, especially the ones Raman meets at the beginning of his story- the lawyer and the bracelet seller are illustrations of life drawn with a sharp eye for the flaws and habits of the individual.
Narayan juxtaposes old and new India in the characters of Raman’s aunt and Daisy. Raman’s aunt constantly harkens back to her grandfather’s days of concubines and she is obsessed with housework. Daisy is passionate about spreading the message of child prevention to the overpopulated countryside. Both however have many similarities in personality and their final desertion of Raman. They show how new India might have different ideas to the old way but underneath there is little difference. Even without their hidden meaning both Daisy and Raman’s aunt are wonderful characters and only second to Raman (despite a dubious idea towards rape).
This is both a wonderful novel for fictions sake but also a fantastic study on the attempts the family planning organisation in the 1970’s made to try to convince a religious and fatalistic society to start to control their own destinies and the individuals (such as Daisy) who were dedicated to this cause.
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