The Painter of Signs (Penguin Modern Classics) Paperback – 28 Jan 1982
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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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Top customer reviews
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.
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. Raman’s belief in his own rational enlightenment and his simultaneous vulnerability to Daisy’s manipulations provide the author with unlimited opportunities for dramatic irony. Scenes between Ram and his devout, elderly aunt provide a glimpse of the conflicts between old and new India, in addition to the generational conflicts every family faces between its young and its old. Scenes between Ram and Daisy reflect the changes in the role of women in society, as women become more assertive and liberated. Though he is presented as a unique, individualized character, Ram, the painter of signs, is, in a sense, Everyman, facing his coming-of-age as all men before him have done in cultures around the world. Only the details (and the sights, and sounds, and smells) are different.
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.
Raman has a collection of regular customers for his artistry and he rides around the town ddrumming up business from them until he is taken out of his comfort zone by miss Daisy. She is modern India rampant. A strident evangelist for birth control and preventing population growth. She takes Raman off with her on a village tour to plan a new signboard campaign. It is a great challenge for him because he is obsessed with her and has fantasised constantly about getting close to her, 'chatting her up', and getting married etc. But he is so shy...
This is a brief and simple story, simply but well told, which holds the attention. As another reviewer has written, it is a bitter sweet story and when I got to the end I wasn't sure whether to feel sad or glad at the conclusion.
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Most recent customer reviews
Raman and Daisy are both characters that you can relate to in present day
annotated extensively (pencil, block caps)
front and back covers bent-