Swami and Friends
Author: R.K. Narayan
Publisher: Hamish Hamilton Limited
Publishing Date: 1935
The first book of R.K. Narayan’s famous trilogy, ‘Swami and Friends’ happens to be Narayan’s first published book as well. It was published in 1935 with a lot of motivation and help from Graham Greene, a famous novelist. The setting is of British India, in a fictional town named Malgudi. Swami is a ten-year old boy who studies at a mission school. He lives with his parents, younger brother and grandmother. He has a set of friends in two schools that he gets removed from. Events lead Swami to leave his house and go on a run. He is drawn heavily towards the unrest that is prevalent everywhere in India, but he fails to understand the cause. What happens with Swami? Will he be able to get back home safely? To know the answer, read this book. Narayan successfully creates a child’s perspective about the adult world. What problems do kids face? What do they think of the world they live in? Swami and Friends is a true portrayal of complexities faced by Indian middle class. It is a funny and interesting tale of Swami and his adventures. Other characters are Swami’s friends, his family and people from his town and people he meets while on these adventures.
The character of ‘Swami’ has the ability to hook the readers to the story. He is used to a simple life, and just when he had it under control, new things start to happen for him. The book begins with a lecture of a teacher at Albert Mission School speaking about the greatness of Jesus and questioning the leelas of lord Krishna.
It takes place in British-colonial India in the year 1930. The story begins by introducing Swaminathan and his friends Somu, Sankar, Mani, and Pea. Swami talks about how different all of his friends are from one another and how their differences actually make their friendships stronger. Soon, however, a new boy arrives, named Rajam who Swami and Mani absolutely hate. It isn’t until the three boys confront each other that they realize they have a lot in common, and become fast friends.
So, even if the plot nothing extraordinary, it still displays the simple joys of life, the real complications and troubles in life.
If not anything, the book provides us with that nostalgic feeling of childhood innocence which is revisited as one browses through pages after pages, an incident after incident and a chapter after chapter.
Amit Roy couldn’t be any accurate when he expressed: "The novels of R.K. Narayan are the best I have read in any language for a long time. . . . His work gives the conviction that it is possible to capture in English, a language not born of India, the distinctive characteristics of Indian family life."
Swami and Friends was adapted by actor-director Shankar Nag into the television drama series ‘Malgudi Days’ in 1986.
On November 5, 2019, the BBC News listed Swami and Friends on its list of the 100 most influential novels.
About the Author:
R. K. Narayan was born in Madras, South India, and educated there and at Maharaja’s College in Mysore. His first novel Swami and Friends (1935) and its successor The Bachelor of Arts (1937) are both set in the enchanting fictional territory of Malgudi. Other ‘Malgudi’ novels are The Dark Room (1938), The English Teacher (1945), Mr. Sampath (1949), The Financial Expert (1952), The Man Eater of Malgudi (1961), The Vendor of Sweets (1967), The Painter of Signs (1977), A Tiger for Malgudi (1983), and Talkative Man (1986). His novel The Guide (1958) won him the National Prize of the Indian Literary Academy, his country’s highest literary honour. He was awarded in 1980 the A.C. Benson Medal by the Royal Society of Literature and in 1981 he was made an Honorary Member of the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters. As well as five collections of short stories, A Horse and Two Goats, An Astrologer’s Day and Other Stories, Lawley Road, Under the Banyan Tree and Malgudi Days, he has published a travel book, The Emerald Route, three collections of essays, A Writer’s Nightmare, Next Sunday and Reluctant Guru, three books on the Indian epics, and a volume of memoirs, My Days.