R K Narayan Biography

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Who is RK Narayan?

R K Narayan was a well-known English author of Indian literature. The full name of RK Narayan was Rasipuram Krishnaswami Iyer Narayanaswami. He was an Indian writer best known for his works set in the fictional South Indian town of Malgudi. Along with Mulk Raj Anand and Raja Rao, he was a leading author of early Indian literature in English. Narayan emphasises his character's social background and day-to-day lives. He's been compared to William Faulkner, who built a similar fictional town and explored the vitality of daily life with humour and compassion. Due to his ability to simplify a plot, Narayan's short stories have been compared to those of Guy de Maupassant.

In this RK Narayan biography, we will learn about RK Narayan’s early life and education, his family history, his career as an English author of Indian literature, his achievements and his death.

Early Life and Education of RK Narayan 

In this section, we will look into RK Narayan information about his early life and education.

  • The birth date of RK Narayan is 10 October 1906.

  • RK Narayan full name is Rasipuram Krishnaswami Iyer Narayanaswami.

  • He was born in Madras (Chennai), Tamil Nadu, India into an Iyer Vadama Brahmin family.

  • RK Narayan’s mother's name was Gnanambal and his father's name was Rasipuram Venkatarama Krishnaswami Iyer.

  • RK Naryan had 7 siblings, 5 brothers, and 2 sisters. RK Naryan was a second child to his parents.

  • RK Narayan’s younger brother Ramachandran was an editor at Gemini Studios, and the youngest brother Laxman was a cartoonist.

  • Their father was a school Principal, and Narayan attended some of his father's classes.

  • Narayan spent part of his childhood with his maternal grandmother, Parvati, since his father's work required frequent transfers.

  • A peacock and a mischievous monkey were his best friends and playmates at the time.

  • RK Narayan’s nickname was Kunjappa given by his grandmother.

  • He learned arithmetic, mythology, classical Indian music, and Sanskrit from his grandmother.

  • His family was apolitical and considered all governments as wicked and untrustworthy.

  • Narayan attended a number of Madras schools while living with his grandmother, including the Lutheran Mission School in Purasawalkam, C.R.C. High School, and Christian College High School.

  • Narayan was an avid reader who grew up on Dickens, Wodehouse, Arthur Conan Doyle, and Thomas Hardy.

  • When his father was transferred to Maharaja's College High School, Narayan moved to Mysore to live with his family.

  • His reading habit was fuelled by the school's well-stocked library, as well as his father's, and he began writing as well.

  • After failing the university entrance exam after graduating from high school, Narayan spent a year at home reading and writing before passing the exam in 1926 and enrolling in Maharaja College of Mysore. Narayan received his bachelor's degree in four years.

  • He briefly worked as a school teacher but resigned in protest when the school's headmaster requested him to fill in for the physical training master.

  • The experience persuaded Narayan that writing was his only choice, and he decided to stay at home and write novels.

RK Narayan Career as a Writer

In this section, we will learn about RK Narayan works on English literature

  • RK Narayan's first piece of writing was a book review for the book Development of Maritime Laws of 17th-Century England.

  • He began writing local interest articles for English newspapers and magazines, occasionally. Despite the low pay, he had a normal life and few needs, and his family and friends appreciated and embraced his unconventional career choice.

  • Swami and Friends, Narayan's first book, was mocked by his uncle and rejected by a number of publishers in 1930. The novel was based on several incidents from his own childhood and was semi-autobiographical. 

  • With this book, Narayan developed Malgudi, a town that not only creatively replicated the social sphere of the country while ignoring the constraints imposed by colonial rule but also grew in response to the numerous socio-political changes that occurred in British and post-independence India.

  • Narayan worked as a reporter for The Justice, a Madras-based publication devoted to non-brahmins rights. He came into contact with a wide range of people and concerns as a result of his work.

  • Narayan had sent the manuscript of Swami and Friends to an Oxford acquaintance, who had shown it to Graham Greene around this time.

  • The book was eventually published in 1935 after Greene recommended it to his publisher. Greene also advised Narayan to shorten his name so that it would be more recognisable to an English-speaking audience.

  • RK Narayan's second book, The Bachelor of Arts, was influenced in part by his college experiences and dealt with the theme of a rebellious adolescent transitioning to a rather well-adjusted adult. It was published in 1937 by a different publisher on Greene's suggestion.

  • His third novel, The Dark Room, dealt with marital strife, portraying the man as the oppressor and the woman as the victim inside a marriage, and was published in 1938 by a different publisher. 

  • RK Narayan's fourth novel was The English Teacher. This book is autobiographical which was almost entirely based on his own life, although with different names for the characters and a different setting in Malgudi.

  • Narayan tried his hand at publishing a journal, Indian Thought, in 1940. Narayan was able to get over a thousand subscribers in Madras city alone with the aid of his uncle. However, due to Narayan's inability to handle the company, it only lasted a year before ceasing publication.

  • Malgudi Days, his first book of short stories, was published in November 1942, and The English Teacher, in 1945.

  • Narayan founded his own publishing house, Indian Thought Publications, which was a success and is still in operation today, run by his granddaughter.

  • Narayan's books began to sell well, and in 1948 he began construction on his own home on the outskirts of Mysore, which he finished in 1953.

  • Around this time, Narayan wrote the screenplay for the Gemini Studios film Miss Malini (1947), which was the only storey he ever completed for the screen.

  • RK Narayan’s next novel Mr Sampath was a more imaginative and creative external style compared to the semi-autobiographical tone of the earlier novels.

  • In 1951, he published The Financial Expert, which is widely regarded as his masterpiece and one of the most original works of literature.

  • Waiting for the Mahatma, a novel loosely based on Mahatma Gandhi's fictional visit to Malgudi was published in 1955 and deals with the protagonist's romantic feelings for a woman while attending the visiting Mahatma's discourses.

  • Michigan State University Press published his works for the first time in the United States in 1953.

  • The Guide, his next book, was written while he was on a Rockefeller Fellowship in the United States in 1956.

  • Narayan met his friend and mentor Graham Greene for the first and only time during a visit to England around this time.

  • Narayan was known for writing essays, some of which were published in newspapers and journals, to share his ideas. Next Sunday was a compilation of these kinds of conversational essays, and it was his first book. My Dateless Diary, detailing his experiences during his 1956 visit to the United States, was published soon after.

  • The Man-Eater of Malgudi, Narayan's next book, was released in 1961. According to reviews, the book has a plot that is a classic comedy art form with delicate power.

  • Gods, Demons, and Others, a collection of revised and translated short stories from Hindu epics, was Narayan's first mythological book, published in 1964.

  • The Vendor of Sweets, a novel written by Narayan in 1967, was his next published work. It was influenced by his travels to the United States and contains extreme portrayals of both Indian and American stereotypes, showcasing the many cultural differences.

  • A Horse and Two Goats, a collection of short stories, was his next book, released in 1970.

  • He started translating the Kamba Ramayanam to English which was published in 1973, after five years of work.

  • In 1978, Narayan completed a condensed translation of the Sanskrit epic Mahabharata, which was published.

  • In 1977, he released another book, The Painter of Signs.

  • The Karnataka government-commissioned Narayan to write a book to encourage tourism in the state. In 1980, The Emerald Route was written.

  • In 1982, he released two collections of short stories: Malgudi Days, a revised version that included the original book and some additional stories, and Under the Banyan Tree and Other Stories.

  • In 1987, he published A Writer's Nightmare, a collection of essays about the caste system, Nobel Prize winners, lust, and monkeys, among other topics. Since 1958, he had written essays for newspapers and magazines, which were included in the collection.

  • His next book, The World of Nagaraj, was released in 1990 and is also set in Malgudi.

  • Grandmother's Tale, Narayan's final novel, was published in 1992. This was an autobiographical novella about his great grandmother's quest for her husband, who had run away shortly after their marriage. When he was a child, his grandmother told him about the story.

RK Narayan Family and His Death

  • RK Narayan was married to Rajam, a 15-year-old girl in 1933. His was a love marriage and met Rajam while vacationing at his sister's house in Coimbatore.

  • RK Narayan’s only daughter Hema Narayan was born in 1936.

  • RK Narayan’s wife Rajam died of typhoid in 1939. After this, he lived his entire life as a widower without remarrying and taking care of his 3-year-old daughter.

  • RK Narayan’s daughter Hema Narayan died in 1994 due to cancer.

  • RK Narayan’s granddaughter Bhuvaneswari is currently taking care of his publication house Indian Thought Publications.

  • Narayan was admitted to the hospital in May 2001. He was planning on writing his next book, a tale about a grandfather, just hours before he was to be placed on a ventilator. Narayan, on the other hand, did not improve and never began the book. At the age of 94, he died in Chennai on May 13, 2001.

Awards and Honours of RK Narayan

  • The Sahitya Akademi Award for The Guide was Narayan's first major award, given in 1958. He won the Filmfare Award for Best Story when the book was turned into a film.

  • During the Republic Day honours in 1964, he was awarded the Padma Bhushan.

  • The British Royal Society of Literature, of which he was an honorary member, awarded him the AC Benson Medal in 1980.

  • In 1982, he was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters as an honorary member.

  • He was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature on many occasions but never received it.

  • He was conferred honorary doctorates by the University of Leeds in 1967, Delhi University in 1973, and the University of Mysore in 1976.

  • For his contributions to Indian literature, Narayan was nominated to the upper house of the Indian Parliament for a six-year term beginning in 1989.

  • In 2001, he received the Padma Vibhushan, India's second-highest civilian distinction.

  • Narayan's former home in Mysore was turned into a museum in his honour in 2016.

  • Swami and Friends were named one of the BBC's 100 Novels That Shaped Our World on November 8, 2019.

In this RK Narayan biography, we have covered who RK Narayan is, what is the full name of RK Narayan, his early life and career, his family, his achievements, and his death.


Through his work, Narayan's greatest accomplishment was to portray India to the rest of the world. Along with Raja Rao and Mulk Raj Anand, he is considered one of the three most important Indian authors for English-language fiction. He gave his readers beautiful stories to look forward to about Malgudi and its inhabitants, and he is widely regarded as one of India's best novelists. He created a realistic and immersive experience for his audience by depicting small-town India to them. Malgudi was more than just a fictional Indian town it was also a hive of characters, each with their own quirks and attitudes, making the situation feel as familiar to the reader as if it were set in their own backyards.

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

1. Who is RK Narayan?

Ans: RK Narayan was one of the most important English-language Indian fiction authors. He is widely regarded as one of India's best novelists. He created a realistic and immersive experience for his audience by bringing small-town India to them.

2. When and Where Was RK Narayan Born?

Ans: RK Narayan was born on 10 October 1906 in Madras (Chennai), Tamil Nadu, India into an Iyer Vadama Brahmin family.

3. Which Was the First Book Published by RK Narayan?

Ans: Swami and Friends was RK Narayan's first book, published in 1930. The novel was based on several incidents from his own childhood and was semi-autobiographical. It is still one of the most recommended English readers in Indian schools.

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