Rasipuram Krishnaswami Narayanaswami,
popularly known as R.K. Narayan (1906-2001)
One of the finest Indian authors of his
generation writing in English.
He is credited with bringing Indian literature in
English to the rest of the world, and is regarded
as one of India's greatest English language
His stories were simple, fictional and celebrated
the humor and energy of ordinary life.
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Works & Achievements
Best works: The English Teacher (1945),
Waiting for the Mahatma (1955),
The Guide (1958),
The Man-Eater of Malgudi (1961),
The Vendor of Sweets (1967),
A Tiger for Malgudi (1983)
Published shortened modern prose versions of two Indian
epics, The Ramayana (1972) and The Mahabharata (1978).
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Sahitya Akademi Award for The Guide (1958)
Padma Bhushan (1964)
AC Benson Medal by the (British) Royal Society of Literature
Nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature multiple times
Nominated to the Rajya Sabha in 1989
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Published in 1945
Third of the trilogy (Swami and Friends, The Bachelor of Arts)
Republished in 1953 under the title Grateful to Life and Death
Series of experiences in Krishna’s life – joys and sorrows, journey towards
achieving inner peace and self-development.
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Krishna – The English Teacher
Susila – Krishna’s wife
Leela – Daughter of Krishna and Susila
Doctor and Swamiji
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Narayan’s wife Rajam died of typhoid
which deeply affected him.
Narayan was concerned for their
daughter Hema, who was only three
Narayan was obsessed by the thought of
communicating with her.
Knowledge and appreciation of English
Distaste for teaching uninterested Indian
Krishna’s wife Susila died of typhoid
after five years of marriage
Krishna too was worried about Leela’s
Krishna communicates to his
Knowledge and appreciation of
Distaste for teaching uninterested
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The title itself suggests the influence of the unwelcome British ruler.
By the end of the novel Krishna realizes that his profession as an English teacher
“I could no longer stuff Shakespeare and Elizabethan metre and Romantic poetry
for the hundredth time into young minds…. This education had reduced us to a
nation of morons; we are strangers to our own culture and camp followers of
another culture, feeding on leaves and garbage”.
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From predictability to unpredictability
Krishna is aroused from his predictable life at school to the unexpected news that
his wife and child are coming to join him.
Susila’s unpredictability: gets stuck in a contaminated lavatory and becomes ill
Doctor’s prediction that Susila will get well
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From the academic world to the ‘Law of
The novel opens with Krishna reading ‘for the fiftieth time,
Milton, Carlye and Shakespeare’.
Discovers that ordinary people encounter the big issues of life and
death not in the perspective of philosophy and literature, but in
Literature, philosophy and rationalism are of no use to him in
coming to terms with his wife’s death.
The law of life cannot be avoided. It comes into operation the
moment we detach ourselves from our mother’s womb.
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From adulthood to childhood
In the college, he is with the boys. But they are adults already entangled
from the system he needs to escape.
Children show him the way:
Leela, his daughter.
Children at the nursery school(Leave Alone System)
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From West to East
Coexistence of western and native
Juxtaposition of English and native
Western intellectual frame of mind
to native Indian spiritual practice.
Susila is treated by a doctor and by
Swamiji (Western scientific medicine
and mystical method of healing)
The street where the headmaster lives
is Anderson Street, but poor sanitation
with wild looking children rolling in
Communication with the spirit of his
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It depicts man as bearing ‘the sweet and bitter fruits of life’.
K.R. Srinivasa Iyengar:
The description of Krishna’s married life- the first few years of happiness,
the excruciating agony during the weeks of Susila’s illness, the ‘last journey’ to the
cremation ground- is one of the most moving and flawless pieces of writing in
modern English fiction. Not a word is wasted and not word rings false. However the
second part of the novel takes us to unfamiliar regions.
Prof. P.S. Sundaran:
The English teacher is a novel with a difference, not only in the type of love
between Krishna and Susila that is depicted, but also in the author’s bold excursion
into the realms of the dead.
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