R.K. Narayan (1906-2001) is unusual among Indian authors writing in English in that he has stayed contentedly in his home country, venturing abroad only rarely. He rarely addresses political issues or tries to explore the cutting edge of fiction. He is a traditional teller of tales, a creator of realist fiction which is often gentle, humorous, and warm rather than hard-hitting or profound. Almost all of his writings are set in the fictional city of Malgudi, and are narrowly focused on the lives of relatively humble individuals, neither extremely poor nor very rich.The Guide is one of his most interesting books, which begins as a comic look at the life of a rogue, but evolves into something quite different. It should be noted that Narayan is not a devout Hindu, and has accused Westerners of wrongly supposing that all Indians are deeply spiritual beings; but it is also true that he was deeply impressed by some experiences he had with a medium after the sudden death of his young wife (described movingly in The English Teacher (1945).Narayan has stated that the incident of the reluctant holy man was based on a real event which he read about in the newspaper.Formerly India's most corrupt tourist guide, Raju--just released from prison--seeks refuge in an abandoned temple. Mistaken for a holy man, he plays the part and succeeds so well that God himself intervenes to put Raju's newfound sanctity to the test. Narayan's most celebrated novel, The Guide won him the National Prize of the Indian Literary Academy, his country's highest literary honor.
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