under the banyan tree review

This is an enchanting collection from India’s foremost storyteller, rich in wry, warmly observed characters from every walk of Indian life – merchants, beggars, herdsmen, rogues – all of whose lives are microcosms of the human experience. Like Nambi in the title story, Narayan has the mesmeric ability to spellbind his audience. This he achieves with a masterful combination of economy and rhythm, creating haunting images and a variety of settings to evoke a unique paradox of reality and folklore.

Under the Banyan Tree is a collection of short stories by one of India’s most famous writers: R. K. Narayan. This is NOT to be confused with the other book I’m buddy-reading with Sinead @ Diverse Book Huntress, In the Shadow of the Banyan. Sorry again Sinead!

These are quite simple tales of humanity – thronging with monks, story-tellers, beggars and wives, these stories buzz with personality and reality. I can see why Narayan has been compared to Chekov and Gogol – there’s something about the deceptive simplicity of watching people go about their daily lives that is quite appealing. This is a really good anthology to dip in and out of, for that exact reason. Stories I particularly liked included The Roman Image, All Avoidable Talk, A Breath of Lucifer, Flavour of Coconut, and Under the Banyan Tree.

However, I don’t think this is a must-read anthology. I love short stories, so for me this was a nice introduction to Narayan’s writing, but for those who are less enthusiastic, I think there are better books. I will try and read a couple of his other books. For example, Gods, Demons and Others is a collection of his own ‘versions of tales taken from the Ramayana and the Mahabarata’. I’ve wanted to read these epics for quite a while now, and I think that reading them in this context will probably be the most accessible for me right now. I think I’d also like to try his most famous series: a trilogy of novels set in a fictional town of Malgudi, starting with the book Swami and Friends.

NB: I read this book for the free space in the Asian Lit Bingo. 


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