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"R.K. Narayan resonates across cultures"

Special Correspondent

"His concern for education and children runs through much of his fiction"


  • Call to keep all archival material in one place
  • "Recreate the Mysore that inspired Narayan"

    — PHOTO: M.A. SRIRAM

    A PEEP INTO THE PAST: Delegates attending a seminar on R.K. Narayan visited the writer's house in Mysore on Thursday.

    Bangalore: In a speech in the Rajya Sabha, R.K. Narayan made a fervent plea for reducing the "daily burden" of children. He observed that their schoolbags, which weighed over five kg, made many children "hang their arms forward like chimpanzees."

    In a presentation on the last day of the Sahitya Akademi seminar in Mysore to mark Narayan's birth centenary, Mohan G. Ramanan of Hyderabad University said this concern for children and education ran through much of Narayan's fiction as well.

    While Narayan expressed distress in his Parliament speech over an education system that did not leave children "any room to play or dream," the same preoccupation was expressed through comic representations in fictional narratives such as Swami and Friends, he said. Parallels could be drawn between Narayan's own experiences as a student and the way he dealt with them in fiction. Narayan's larger vision on education, Mr. Ramanan argued, was one that considered wisdom to be the end of all good learning.

    Evelyn Hanquart-Turner and Wang Chunjing, who came from France and China, spoke about how Narayan resonated across cultures.

    The first Chinese translation of Narayan appeared in 1980. Before this, Chinese scholars focussed attention on Western literature, Ms. Chunjing said, though Narayan was increasingly being read. Making an argument for greater literary and cultural exchanges between China and India, she said: "We need to play more with each other."

    Tribute to Malgudi creator

    As a tribute to the creator of Malgudi, it was suggested by Prof. Harish Trivedi, Chairperson, Indian Association for Commonwealth Literature and Language Studies, that all his archival and scholarly materials be collected in one place, preferably Mysore, to establish a R.K. Narayan Research Centre. Noting that the Mysore of the 1930s to 1950s, which provided much inspiration to the construction of Malgudi, had disappeared, he stressed the need to retrieve and preserve the city's landscape so that one could rediscover facets of Narayan through these "living archives."

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