I have been reading a book of short stories since the past half month or so. Yes, I’ve been slower than what I thought could be my worst.
Anyway, the book is a collection of short stories of one the most prolific writer from India. Rasipuram Krishnaswami Iyer Narayanaswami. He’s better known as R.K Narayan. Yeah, him.
He’s best known for his Malgudi Days series, which was televised in the early 2000s on national television in India. Although, Narayan was a literary wizard and is known for many enviable stories and plots but he is best known for Malgudi Days and The Guide. Malgudi is a small fictional town somewhere in South India but, and this is universally accepted, it’s global in its small world feel. It could have been anywhere in the world. It is so because Narayan didn’t just create a small village in his mind; he blew life into it. Narayan’s dry style of writing has been compared to many greats in the literary world but this is not why I chose to write about him tonight.
In my aimless internet browsing sessions a couple of nights ago I came upon another writer, whose short stories I have admired since I was in school, who had a working relation with Narayan. Graham Greene. Now my admiration, perhaps, arise from the reason that when ever I have had to write a short story the intention was always singular. I only wanted to do a litmus test. It could either be a character, a plot, the story-line, or simply a motto or a moral. I was extremely happy one fine night when I found myself reading the preface to one of Green’s short story collection. Our ideas matched to perfection!
I don’t remember much of what he said but the crux of the matter was simple. Short story writing was mostly a more personal activity than writing a full length novel. I am no great artist to write about the brilliance, or the absence of it, in any writer’s short story endeavour and will desist getting into it. Greene and Narayan were friends. In fact, it was by Greene’s help that Narayan was able to initially get published in the first place. My reading of the two writers has been too far apart to compare their respective styles but I can safely say that while Narayan’s world of Malgudi was small and simple, it was not necessarily the same with Greene. Although, the folks from Malgudi were farmers and poor peasants who lacked the city feel to them and their lives were enunciated with the basics of what only village life could be, the characters of Greene weren’t capsuled in a simple bracket.
Of course, just because they knew each other and were friends, it doesn’t mean that their style could be compared. No two writers can be compared unless you’re comparing the eruption of pleasant and incomparable happiness that one writer brings forth inside of you. Narayan’s character creation is impeccable; read The Guide and Swami and Friends to know what he can do with a scattered premise and barest of essential surroundings! Greene? I have a plethora of insights on him! His short stories have a way of making me take notice. There was this story I read really long back of how a writer comes across his old childhood stories and there is an amazing sequence involving real-time story telling and the flashback.
Insane. Creative. Swashbuckling.
This is what we all need.