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Swami and Friends (Phoenix Fiction) [Paperback]

Narayan
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

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Book Description

1 Sep 1980 Phoenix Fiction
"There are writers--Tolstoy and Henry James to name two--whom we hold in awe, writers--Turgenev and Chekhov--for whom we feel a personal affection, other writers whom we respect--Conrad for example--but who hold us at a long arm's length with their 'courtly foreign grace.' Narayan (whom I don't hesitate to name in such a context) more than any of them wakes in me a spring of gratitude, for he has offered me a second home. Without him I could never have known what it is like to be Indian."--Graham Greene Offering rare insight into the complexities of Indian middle-class society, R. K. Narayan traces life in the fictional town of Malgudi. The Dark Room is a searching look at a difficult marriage and a woman who eventually rebels against the demands of being a good and obedient wife. In Mr. Sampath, a newspaper man tries to keep his paper afloat in the face of social and economic changes sweeping India. Narayan writes of youth and young adulthood in the semiautobiographical Swami and Friends and The Bachelor of Arts. Although the ordinary tensions of maturing are heightened by the particular circumstances of pre-partition India, Narayan provides a universal vision of childhood, early love and grief. "The experience of reading one of his novels is ...comparable to one's first reaction to the great Russian novels: the fresh realization of the common humanity of all peoples, underlain by a simultaneous sense of strangeness--like one's own reflection seen in a green twilight."--Margaret Parton, New York Herald Tribune


Product details

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press; New edition edition (1 Sep 1980)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0226568318
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226568317
  • Product Dimensions: 20.1 x 13.2 x 1.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,809,405 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

About the Author

R. K. Narayan's writing spanned the greatest period of change in modern Indian history, from the days of the Raj with Swami and Friends (1935), The Bachelor of Arts (1937) and The English Teacher (1945), to recent years of political unrest - The Painter of Signs (1976), A Tiger for Malgudi (1983), and Talkative Man (1987). He has published numerous collections of short stories, including Malgudi Days (1982) and Under The Banyan Tree (1985), and several works of non-fiction. His most recent work is The Grandmother's Tale: Three Novellas (1993). R.K. Narayan died in 2001. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A really great, fun read, a real trip to India 5 Jun 2001
Format:Paperback
Swami, the son of a lawyer (who is the epitome of Indian respectability), and a truly Indian boy, entertains the reader from beginning to end. He and his friends and their exploits delight one as much as those of Richmal Crompton's William. At the same time, Narayan touches a deeper chord by the happenings that play a small, yet crucial role in Swami's life in the tiny,yet typical Indian town, Malgudi.
Swami's grandmother, his friends - the brawny, not very bright but very trustworthy Mani, the pompous Rajam, son of the Superintendent of police - Swami's attempts at arithmetic (how much he must pay for so many mangoes) under the stern guidance of his father, who refuses to see the point (how could he calculate unless he knew if the mangoes were ripe or not?!), the Malgudi Cricket Club, Swami being served food by his mother, all capture the world of a little Indian boy at the time when India was demanding Independence, beautifully. Narayan's story brings to the foreground world that is really India, which seems to continue to this day, and to which all historical happenings are but backgrounds. The story, being seen from Swami's point of view, is delightfully candid, normal, healthy and funny. But it and don't miss any of Narayan's other books, they are pure delight for anyone who loves a good story.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of R.K.Narayan's best books! 25 Jun 1999
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
This book was excellent! I was totally able to relate to little Swami and his various experiences at home, school and with his friends. R.K. Narayan's great sense of humor is also apparent in this novel. This is a must-read for anyone who wishes to understand the South Indian way of life.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A fine read 1 Mar 2008
Format:Paperback
A delightful book of delightful days. Swami is schoolboy growing up in the shadow of the Quit India movement and he's all to willing a player in the freedom struggle especially if it means he gets to cut class. The author writes with a deft sense of humour and there were several laugh out loud moments in the book. His style is somewhat reminiscent of Graham Greene though this is an unfair comparison as they were near contemperies. The novel though light and entertaining novel has interesting political undertones. Well worth the read.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.6 out of 5 stars  19 reviews
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Simply delightful 16 Feb 2005
By Raghuveer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Call it a trip down the memory lane or a story of a little boy, this is one book to delight all and sundry. Graham Greene calls it 'A book in ten thousand'. It is that and much more.

R K Narayan is without any doubt one of the most famous Indian writers. His books echo the simple lives and daily trials of the people of 'Malgudi'. This in fact is Narayan's first foray into the world of literatue.

The book is about a little boy Swamy who hates school, loves to play all the time (what else but cricket?), snuggles beside his grandma every night and has his own gang of friends. Swami's family life mirrors the typical Hindu brahminical household. There is no central plot in the book and it is more episodic. One fictitious incident of the Indian freedom struggle is superbly shown through the eyes of a child.

More than anything, the book is a reflection of our own childhood days when longed for the classes to end, the teachers we loved and hated, the school bully with whom it was great to strike up a friendship, the special kid whom we had to impress and the peon who, we were sure, knew all the questions of the examination.

There are books more profound than this running into hundreds of pages. But we realize that sometimes simple words and plain language of an effective writer can make a bigger impact if it is something we can relate to. This is a story that can be read pretty quickly but one that you will stay with you for a while.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Swami and Friends is fantastic 1 May 2005
By Mridula Dwivedi - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Swami and Friends is the story of idyllic childhood, when life for some lucky kids consists entirely of avoiding the homework and playing all the time in the street with friends. Swami is one such lucky boy, studying in standard 1 A, at Albert Mission High School. We are soon introduced to his class mates and they are a reasonable lot. Shanker's specialty is to top every exam, the `Pea' and Somu occupy the middle positions but Mani is Swami's best friend who sits on the last bench and takes more than one year to clear some classes. Together Swami and Mani lord over the class and just barely manage to scrape past the exams. They live for summer vacations.

But this peaceful setting is disturbed occasionally by the stern headmaster of the school and sometimes by the religious study teacher, Ebenezar. Though real chaos happens when a new boy, Rajam, comes to study in Swami's class. Rajam's father is the police commissioner of the town. In 1930, that would mean working for the British Government. After some scuffles that threaten to involve wooden clubs on Mani's part and an air gun on Rajam's, peace descends on 1 A again and Swami, Mani and Rajam become fast friends. We see them getting involved in forming a cricket club and harassing cart drivers.

But all good things come to an end, and Swami manages to get thrown out from his school. He participates or rather gets caught in Anti-British protests. Next day, when his headmaster tries to cane him, he runs away swearing he will never come back. His father is forced to change the school. Still, his friendship with Mani and Rajam totters along, till Swami manages to run away from the second school too. He feels that now there is nothing left but to run away from home also. Eventually Swami returns home, only to find one of those childhood's great calamities, lying in wait for him. The book ends on a bitter-sweet note.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The most respectful, truest, funniest recreation of childhoo 24 Feb 1999
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Shaw said that people laughed hardest when he told the simple truth. This book might have been written to illustrate the profundity of that remark, as tiny Swaminathan, so profoundly imagined that we leave the book understanding (and loving) him, enables us to feel a deep tenderness not only for him but for all children (including ourselves). Swami loves (and hustles) his mamaji, loves (and trembles, needlessly, before) his father, loves (and stoutly patronizes and instructs) his Granny, generally conducting his life in school and among his friends with an endearing combination of courage, ablomp, cheek, incomprehension, and vulnerability. Narayan is the writer that Graham Greene admires most in the English language; Swami and Friends is a goodish argument why. The book illustrates how Narayan has come to command the respect of writers and the love of readers throughout the world.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Indian equivalent of Tom Sawyer, only better 8 Nov 1999
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This fictionalized autobiography of a young Indian boy and his world is so charming and amusing that I have read it several times. I strongly recommend it to everyone, especially to those who believe that the only good books are written by Americans and Europeans. Most of all, the author is quintessentially human and not afraid to show us himself as a mischievous child with all his warts. As such he is more lovable than a more perfect hero. At places in this book you will laugh until the tears roll down your face. DON'T, repeat, DON'T miss it! Words cannot express how marvelous this story is. In addition, it has universal appeal to both children and adults, though on different levels.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Simple Child's Life Told Simply 23 July 2010
By M. Frost - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
What Jack London did for animals, Narayan does for children: he makes them come alive as both characters (i.e., real people of a young age, with their loveable warts and all) and children. I marvelled throughout at how Narayan can bring forth so much detail about people and places as well as feeling for same in such a short book using so few words. Yet he succeeds magnificently. This is real writing to effect, where one key word, some short dialog, or a simple phrase pack so much meaning and ability to communicate.

Written in 1930 and published a few years later, Narayan's first book shows both his genius as a writer using the then King's English and his masterful ability to create a fictional place that seems more real than so many real places. I truly felt as if I was beginning to understand what life was like, at least for this middle-class native child, in India in the 1920s and 1930s.

This is a book to be enjoyed for the sheer pleasure of reading great, simple writing. Hardly a wasted word or phrase. This was the second Narayan book I'd read, having started with the early 1970s The Sign Painter. Both are great in their own ways, both are absolute pleasures to read, and both highlight a master of the modern English novel, one where real characters and vivid setting make plot almost an afterthough. You read on just to enjoy reading on, letting the characters and place take you where they will!

If you like this, read VS Naipaul's classic early novels about his native Trinidad. Both he and Narayan show how non-Englishmen can write some of the best English anywhere in the world.
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