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on 20 February 1999
Narayan as his typical self - comic, critical, statirical and philosophical. Reading this book one is forced to introspect the value and wisdom of doing a mundane job (practically all of them!!). Knowing that a part of you is rebelling but not heeding to the small voice is how we have been taught to live. Narayan has beautifully captured the life of a teacher in the Indian context and the futility that comes as a part of it. How and why he finally gives in to his true nature is what this book is all about. Read it if you think you are doing what you think you should be doing...
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on 18 November 2012
A lovely apparition sent
To be a moment's ornament."

It has been a treat for me to indulge in some beautiful writing by a well-respected Indian writer, revered by the British writer Graham Greene who was his mentor, friend and instrumental in promoting Narayan worldwide.
In the literary world he is regarded as one of the best novelists that India has ewer produced.I am more than happy to endorse this.

The English Teacher was not seen as a deliberate attempt to produce Narayan's autobiography but this seems to be the writer's legacy. His earlier novels were more deliberate attempts to depict his own life story and they are both wonderful reads: Swami and Friends and The Bachelor of Arts.

Narayan's inspiration revolves around two main ideas: disillusionment with teaching undergraduates with their "grim tolerance" of literature, wanting to be spoonfed rather than to develop any appreciation or sensitivity towards the great writers of English literature. The second one which tends to dominate the novel is his fulfilling relationship with his wife and the numbness, loss and emptiness when she loses her battle with typhoid and he is left with a 3 year old daughter.

As we all know, death can devastate and emotionally destroy even the strongest of us particularly when the bond between two people is so strong. The book proved a cathartic experience for both Narayan and his character, Krishna and it is well worth reading to discover how they both gained spiritual strength to combat depression and lethargy. It will lift your spirits too. It will give you hope not despair. Promise.

In The English Teacher Krishna describes the undergraduates as "morons." In fact he generalises and makes a damning comment about the whole nation:"strangers to our own culture and camp followers of another culture, feeding on leavings and garbage." It wasn't meant to be a criticism of colonialism but a criticism of education, English literature and the seemingly unimportance of Indian culture and literature.

Krishna is self-critical at 30 years opf age, seeking more fulfilment from his work and life in general. He was constantly "nagged" by the feeling that he was doing the "wrong work." That makes sense to us doesn't it? He was a poet, a writer not a lecturer of undergraduates that he had to admonish, cajole or browbeat. He brooded, he was irritable and he self-deprecatingly compared his life to that of a "cow." His ritual was simply eating, working, walking and talking. It was NOT what he wanted. It takes the tragic loss of his wife to give him that stimulus to finally resign from his college and to move on.

Cultivating simple habits of communing with nature has its rewards, seeing the "glory" of the sunrise was something he relished and he states: "I felt I was really in a new world."

His young wife, Susila is delightful, beautiful, spiritual and just the tonic for a "lost" man like Krishna. Images of "divine"and "unearthly loveliness" with eyes that "always laughed" and with a "perpetual smile in her eyes" makes her seem spiritual and not human. Her down-to-earth simplicity can be seen when she scoffs at his rendition of the Romantics when reciting love poetry to her, scorning females for their lovesickness doting on their lovers. Her love is too pure to be idolatry.

When Susila loses her battle with typhoid she maintains a strong spiritual presence over her family and manages to communicate to Krishna. Narayan seems to be suggesting that a marriage "beyond the grave" is possible. It may be easier for Hindus to grapple with this more than cynical Europeans but Krishna finds enlightenment and that "rare immutable joy" of a relationship that will last for eternity.
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on 25 June 2000
R.K.Narayan is one of the most popular indian writers writing in English, Admired greatly by Graham Greene & V.S.Naipaul . If you have to read just one book by narayan and nothing more,then this is the book . It is by far the best in bringing out the simple nuances of indian life...and the beauty even in the simplicity of indian life
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on 4 August 1999
When a child builds a castle on the beach the sole motif is the pleasure of the moment. The feel of the sand and the mystery of the possibilities dictate this out of the world experience. Narayan builds such a castle leaving it up to the reader to make what he wants of it. Some questions jump to the mind. Is Krishna's love for his lost wife real or did he loose his mind after her death? Where does his love for Sushila spring up from?
As Krishna prods through his daily grind he finds himself more and more attracted to the family way of life. His lot is set and he would have lived a happy existence but for the death of his wife. Taking on the responsibility of caring for the house and his daughter Krishna is determined to give the best. This hidden side of Krishna is a surprise. His love for Sushila after her death is almost holy. Is this the cultural or the spiritual side of Krishna?
The evident apathy with which Leela their daughter accepts the death of her mother is difficult to believe. But belief should be held in suspension when reading this surrealistic adventure. As Krishna slips from a functioning society to the realms of the spirits R.K. Narayan tries to make the connection between the different worlds. There is a feeling that Krishna seeks redemption in this spiritual reunion but he shirks the moral obligation of the present.
This book is an ambitious project with R.K. Narayan experimenting and varying his technique. The final piece is less harmonious and more cumbersome. However this makes the book interesting as the reader labors with Narayan on a journey of self-indulgence and fantasy.
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on 23 May 2006
R K Naryan was a rare Gem in the literary world. All his books are excellent and must read for anybody who can read English.

Its specially nice for people who would like to know what Rural India was.. The relationships, the environment, the society - each and every aspect is explained in such an amazing and interesting way that you feel you are there when things are happening - you are transformed to places and situations.

Even if you are not interested in India, still its a great read. The way Narayan handles the language is must read to believe. You would have never imagined that simple stories and sitatuation's can be explained so beautifully.

Once you start reading the book you cannot stop infact you will end up reading the books again and again as i do ( which i do not do with any other books )

Its highly recommended to buy all the Novels / Books of R K Narayan
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on 3 September 2010
What a beautiful book. Having been addicted to French literature from the early to mid 19th century (Zola, Hugo, Balzac) for years, I bought this after reading about it in: Bloomsbury Good Reading Guide: Discover Your Next Great Read and found it a really pleasant change. The terribly sad storyline aside, the book has a romantic, tragic but peaceful ambiance that I couldn't wait to get back to each day, and missed it once I'd finished it. If you have ever travelled to and enjoyed rural India, this book will evoke some wonderful memories, and if not, you will certainly feel like you have. Beautifully written. I have just bought "The Vendor of Sweets" and can't wait for it to arrive.
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on 16 October 2012
My brother bought this volume of Narayan's stories, and enthused about it. "If I was a writer of short stories, I'd write like this," he said. I borrowed the book, this is my review.

Narayan has a very limpid, deceptively simple style. It would be easy to dismiss his stories as trifles, with no real warmth or breadth or depth at all. But that would be a hasty judgement, for there is real skill here, in the delineation of character. Indeed, the characters (rather than the plot, what there is of it) are the focus of interest. In their quiet, subtle way, they're very original. Other writers give you a good rich wine: Narayan offers plain clear water, from the village well.
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on 2 March 2007
This is a simple story on the face of it. A young teacher, prepares to set up home with his wife and child after having lived for some time in a hostel. His wife and baby daughter arrive, and we're taken through the next few years of their lives. The relationship that develops between the teacher and his wife Susila, and him and his daughter is beautifuly and movingingly told. There is humor and tragedy in this wonderful novel, which is enourmously memeorable.
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on 15 March 2016
I really enjoyed entering into the world of this book with its amiable, rather idealistic but immature protagonist. The depiction of family life is a delight. When disaster strikes you feel his suffering. The drawn out account of his wife's illness and death is truly heartfelt. As a cynical westerner however I found the spiritual/ supernatural conclusion of the novel hard to swallow. Probably more a fault of mine than Natayan's.
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on 1 March 2008
The beauty of this book is its exhaltation of the everyday into the sublime. The story is simple but the characters are rich and finely drawn. There is humour, pathos and a real depth of emotion to this story of love and loss. The fictional town of Malgudi is finely depicted and provides the perfect backdrop to Narayan's compelling tale.
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