Thursday, September 23, 2010

The magician of Malgudi talks again

The man, although not anymore among us, continues to enthral and moreover entertain the people of India as well as abroad alike. R K Narayan is someone who loves playing with his characters, and so he does once again with Talkative Man. The moment you delve into this book, and if you have read any of Narayan’s novels before, you’ll feel you are once again in familiar territory. The same Malgudi, the most famous fictional city of India. Although the characters are new, you somehow know them, relate to them, and feel more close to them than your next door neighbour. That is the charm of the magician of Malgudi.
There are novels, there are novellas, and there are short stories. But this one comes somewhere in between. R K Narayan himself reveals the secret of 116 pages in his postscript - He had started of very enthusiastically on his project called “Novel no. 14” but it unfortunately came to an end at the 116th page only. Still in such a short space only he gives much more substance than most authors do in a full sized novel. He himself confesses that he does not like rambling on and on and instead keeps on trimming his draft every time he goes through it. And finally what he does bring out to us is pure feast for mind.
“The call me Talkative Man” – the abrupt introduction characteristic to Narayan is there. (Not only Narayan but most English authors from south-India have this habit. You often read the whole story without coming to know the name of the narrator. It is mentioned only once in this book and a careless reader may even miss it). The Talkative Man in this book, financial expert Margayya of The Financial Expert, the Tiger in Tiger for Malgudi or the sign painter Raman, they are one and the same – each time coming up with a different name and a different story. (Sometimes we are left wondering whether it’s Narayan himself).
The storyline is not one from which you can expect multiple climaxes, twists and turns, or supreme thrill. It will not take you for a roller coaster ride, but very steadily takes us through an interesting story. The book has it’s own pace, with each and every sentence bringing something new to the narrative. Ofcourse, at times the unexpected happens, but in general it is a very very believable story. (That is what Narayan is known for)
Once again, Narayan is faithful to Malgudi and stays right as the heart of the town on Kabir Street – where TM lives. TM (short for Talkative Man), is not too talkative, but is a charming narrator. The story he narrates is about “Dr Rann of the double N” in his words. Rann, whom you may want to call the antagonist, is an interesting creation by Narayan, coming from Timbuctoo – another fictional town. Although, he says he’s on a UN Project on “futurology”, he’s more interested in seducing the librarians granddaughter. That’s when out of the blue lands an imposing woman, in khaki shirt and jeans, at the Malgudi railway station and claims herself to be the wife of Rann. She also accuses Rann of being a philandering lady killer…..

So is Dr. Rann really from Timbuctoo? Is the woman saying the truth? What does TM discover about Rann?? Go grab a copy of TALKATIVE MAN to find out. Although don’t expect too much substance and excitement form a book primarily meant for lighter reading. Just let go of yourself and get immersed into Narayan’s ever evolving town –Malgudi.

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