The painter of signs of R.K.Narayan

Source – own copy

R.K.Narayan was one of the first writers from India to break the british market ,he was mentored in the early days by Graham Greene ,after one of his early manuscripts was given to Greene .he won many awards and in later life spent time in the higher parliament of India for his contribution to Indian literature .

Like a  lot of Narayan’s book this book is set in  the fictional town of Malguldi ,this town in southern india the area Narayan came from ,well the painter of signs is about one of the inhabitation of the town Raman a well educate man ,whose job is to paint signs .He takes great pride with this advising his clients on style of calligraphy and colours .Now early on we find Raman is a single man and happy being a single man a well-known figure in the town as he has painted many signs . he one day is asked to do a sign by a feisty young women Daisy ,she intrigues Raman ,he gets slowly drawn tp this women and her fresh way of thinking she is a forthright women ,she runs family planning clinics ,thus needs a frequent supply of signs and chance to meet Raman as they travel to these different clinics as Raman needs to see the location before deciding on the sign as they do this they grow closer  .Eventually leading to Marriage .

“A very simple ceremony ” he did not wish to explain to her that they had resolved to do without any formality .He had explained to daisy the five kinds of marriage he had read about and they had come to the conclusion that the system called Gandharva was most suitable one for them ;that was the type of marriage one read about in classical literature .when two souls met in harmony the marriage was consummated perfectly ,and no further rite of ceremony was called for .

Raman and Daisy discussed marriages .

Narayan was a brilliant story-teller this is a simple story a couple meeting, but told with such delicacy and subtle tones ,he was very influenced by the western literature he grew up reading ,this is like those moved to India ,it has a slight humour running through it but also a feeling of the time it was written in the mid 1970’s as india was changing becoming more western Daisy shows this face and in some ways Raman is tied up with the traditions of Indian life ,but also the roles are flipped Daisy forthright confident with her self ,Raman reserved and in lots of ways Naive .I read another book many years ago set in Malgudi by Narayan ,he was included with his short stories in recent Penguin mini classics ,which was good to see as he is a writer that needs to be read ,he gives you a window into post colonial india from independence  to his death ,a country awakening shown through this colourful indian town and the people who live there .

Have you read Narayan ?

23 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. parrish
    May 13, 2011 @ 20:35:29

    Another writer I need to more aware of, great post, thanks


  2. Claire (Paperback Reader)
    May 13, 2011 @ 20:42:40

    I haven’t read Narayan but I’ve been meaning to for some time.


  3. Mel u
    May 14, 2011 @ 05:00:11

    This is a good coincidence-I have recently posted on 3 of his short stories and will post on two more very soon-He was the among the very first Indian authors to achieve an international audience for his English language short stories-Frank O’Connor in his 1961 study of the short story The Lonely Voice said that the Indian short story was starting to surpass the Irish short story in contemporary quality-he does not mention any names but he has to have meant among just a few writers starting to get known Narayan and Tagore. I am glad you posted on him-


  4. Vishy
    May 16, 2011 @ 17:49:59

    Great review, Stu! I used to read a lot of Narayan once upon a time, but haven’t read one recently. My favourite book of his is ‘The English Teacher’. I haven’t read ‘The Painter of Signs’. After reading your review, I want to read it now 🙂 Thanks for this wonderful review!


  5. Heather
    May 16, 2011 @ 19:59:06

    Sounds good. Thanks for the introduction to a new author.


  6. savidgereads
    May 17, 2011 @ 13:31:30

    I hadn’t even heard of the author Stu, but thanks so much for sharing this post about him and what seems to be a great book. I do love books set in India (real or fictional) so this looks like a book I should be on the scout for.


  7. Petty Witter
    May 17, 2011 @ 15:23:14

    Not an author I have heard of and yet the cover of this book seems very familiar. Thanks for bringing Narayan to my attention, I’ll be sure to look out for his works.


  8. sakura
    May 17, 2011 @ 15:49:45

    I’ve heard a lot about Narayan but have yet to read him. This sounds like a simple story, but then within the simple is what makes a story. I’ll keep this one in mind:)


  9. Geosi
    May 18, 2011 @ 13:02:42

    Not yet read this but would love to. thanks.


  10. Max Cairnduff
    May 23, 2011 @ 17:35:13

    Not only have I read Narayan, I’ve read this Narayan. Thank you for reminding me of it.

    It’s good isn’t it? I agree with your review. It’s funny and yet sad and very smoothly written. To me it’s of an older school of storytelling along with people like Maugham. Elegant prose yet a focus still on storytelling.

    He’s an underappreciated author. This is the only one of his I’ve read. I should read more.


    • winstonsdad
      May 23, 2011 @ 21:26:32

      Hi Max ,you should try some of his opther ,strnage I posted this on friday and he was in saturdays guardian ,he is like Maugham in a way ,reading up about him he grew up reading the english classics and loved the turn of century writers ,all the best stu


  11. Max Cairnduff
    May 24, 2011 @ 13:59:14

    Are there any others you’ve read you’d particularly recommend Stu?


  12. The Book Haven
    Aug 11, 2012 @ 14:35:23

    R.K.Narayan is a great author, but I like Rushdie and Vikram Seth (A Suitable boy is a Wow book) more. Rushdie is in your fav list too. How about a review of Satanic Verses or Midnight’s Children? Would bring up a lot of interesting points.


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May 2011


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