Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests

Monday, May 23, 2011

"The Blind Dog" by R. K. Narayan and "Magudi Days-Rereading the Master" by Jhumpa Lahiri

"The Blind Dog" by R. K. Narayan (1947, 6 pages)
"Malgudi Days-Rereading the Master" by Jhumpa Lahiri (2008, 5 pages)

A Wonderful Short Story
A deeply felt appreciation for R. K. Narayan

In his brilliant (if flawed)  The Lonely Voice-A Study of the Short Story Frank O'Connor tells us that a short story should have exposition, development, drama, focus on people from "submerged groups" and express the central loneliness of the human experience.     If we observe for the sake of discussion these criterion then "The Blind Dog" by  R. K. Narayan (1906 to 2001-Chennai, India) is a perfect short story.   In just as few pages in beautiful prose Narayan creates a complete world.    In the opening paragraph the basics of the story are laid out  for us.   

A blind beggar sits in his spot collecting alms from passer just as he has done for years.    Everyday a woman drops him off at his spot and takes him home.    We also meet a very undistinguished masterless village dog who lives from garbage and roams free. 

Now both story lines come together in two interrelated
dramatic developments.  

The woman that takes care  of the beggar 
dies.    The dog is captured or takes up
with the beggar and learns to help him increase his
earnings.   If someone passes the beggar by without
giving a donation the dog chases them down and barks and threatens them until they give the beggar something.   The beggar begins to do  much better and his neighbors in the market become jealous.   The Dog begins to long for the "good old days".

 A second dramatic development occurs when the 
 dog either escapes or is released by someone with
malicious intent.  Narayan masterfully completes the 
story with developments in the lives of both central 
persons in the story, the dog and the beggar.   
O'Connor felt that the best authors stories arose from their own experiences.   Narayan would for years take
a three hour daily walk, stopping to talk to the
people he met.   There is no feel   at all of the
inauthentic in Narayan's stories.  

Jumpa Lahia (I have posted on five of her wonderful
short stories) has supplied the introduction for a
collection of Narayan's short stories, Malgudi Days.  Her essay was first published in The Boston Review. 

I urge anyone at all interested in Narayan or the short story to read her essay.

Here are her some of her thoughts on the place of
Narayan in the short story genre:

"Setting aside his plentiful and remarkable novels, Narayan firmly occupies a seat in the pantheon of 19th- and 20th-century short-story geniuses, a group that includes Chekhov, O. Henry, Frank O’Connor, and Flannery O’Connor.  Another kindred spirit is Maupassant, whose tightly coiled narratives share with Narayan’s a mastery of compression, of events quickly unfolding and lives radically changing in paragraphs that can be numbered on two hands.  With Narayan as with Maupassant there is that purity of voice, the realism and constraint. Both explore the frustrations of the middle class, the precariousness of fate, the inevitable longings that so often lead to ruin. Both create portraits of everyday life and share a vision that is unyielding  and unpitying."
(Maybe I should read a bit more O. Henry based on this.)

"The Blind Beggar" was included by Narayan in his 1947 collection

The Astrologer's Tale and other Stories which can be read HERE
Lahiri's essay can be read HERE.   I really recommend it highly.
I plan to read all 30 stories in this collection.    I have already  read and loved six of them.
Mel u


Mystica said...

I did not even know about Jhumpa Lahiri and short stories so thank you ever so much for the link. Narayan of course is very much read in my part of the world.

Mel u said...

Mystica-five short stories by Jhumpa Lahiri can be read online for free at the Web page of the New Yorker Magazine-I have links to them in my posts-