R K Narayan was certainly one of the leading novelists in India (writing in English). If I extend the boundaries of my appreciation, R K Narayan becomes a novelist who did not only appeal to the Indian readers but also to the audience in other countries. His writing was known, in those days, as a gateway to knowing India, Indian and Indianness. Even today, the present society where reading schedules have become limited to reading what’s trending, there are the admirers who appreciate and enjoy reading the works by R K Narayan. And for them, for us and many others who appreciate his works, The Guide is undoubtedly one among the very few works by Indian novelists (older generation).
So, the novel was first published in 1958 and then republished many times and sold many copies and continue to do so because the book has been prescribed in the syllabuses of many premier institutions. Main characters in the novel are only two – Raju and Rosie. The name Rosie later is changed to Nalini because Raju deems it perfect for her. Caged emotions and caged ambitions can lead a person to any street that shows rays of hope and success. Other than displaying the India of that time – just after independence – growing and preparing to glow – R K Narayan has also shown, in his novel, the Indians and particularly the Indians living in Malgudi – the ever-animated village that breathed.
Love comes as a natural theme. Love for one’s aspirations. Love for a person. Love for someone else’s dreams. Love for someone’s passion. Love for possession of wealth or a person or name. There are many kinds of love that come into play in this novel. There are many kinds of portrayal that have been ascribed to different kinds of love. The Guide is also about the philosophy that the author believed in – Karma makes a person – risen or fallen. Raju is still cited as a perfect example – a character who makes his own destiny and lives up to it. He is a cheat in the beginning. A cheat that continues and then finally a cheat that deludes his own deception and becomes victorious.
For Nalini, one can only say that she represented the helplessness that a woman kept representing for a long time in Indian novels – sometimes delusional and sometimes forceful. However, she also represents the willpower of iron – she could do anything to achieve what was hers. By portraying the character of Nalini, R K Narayan has also made The Guide a document against marriage as an institution – devoid of emotions and devoid of love. Marco, the husband of Rosie (Nalini) does not have time for her, her art and her wishes. He has married her body and only means that much.
To conclude my review, I will say that The Guide is the best basic opener if a reader wants to read philosophical novels. This novel offers a lot – philosophy, intrigue, adventure, the journey of a soul on earth and a story that is interesting, meaningful and sane. The language is standard. The plot is convincing and winning. The theme is wide and it shifts very well according to the mentality of a reader.
On the downside, you can say that the story does not do justice with many characters. Marco, who changes (perception is there) gets nothing. Raju, who changes, visibly, gets nothing but achieves many things. Rosie or Nalini, both the facets of her character, get nothing. An artistic masterpiece but poetic justice has been, if I may say, deliberately avoided!
Because it is my first review for Egoistic Readers, one of the critical platforms for book reviews in India, I am telling you, readers, I will keep my rating honest, always. I am rating The Guide by R K Narayan with 4 out of 5 stars in my pocket.
You can get a copy of this novel by visiting the Amazon link below:
review by Ashish Pandey for Egoistic Readers
The Guide by R K Narayan
- Egoistic Readers' Rating
A perfect beginning for your journey into the world of philosophical fiction (by Indian or by authors in general).