Thursday, November 6, 2008

Orbis Terrarum Book Review: The Talking Man by R.M. Narayan

I am now 2/3 of the way across the globe as part of my armchair journey on the Orbis Terrarum Reading Challenge(nine books by nine authors from nine different countries)having just visited India by reading The Talkative Man: A Novel of Malgudi, by R.K. Narayan, NY: Viking, 1987.

This was a short hop as the book is a short novella of only 123 pages. "The Talking Man" is a fable set in a rural village in South India which is the fictional setting for many of Narayan's other works. The tone and dialogue are light and humorous and are perfect for describing the gossip, intrigue and comedy of manners that ensue in everyday Malgudi.

One day a mysterious visitor who works on equally mysterious projects around the world for the UN worms his way into local village life, first camping out in railway station much to the detriment of the agitated station master's mental health. The stranger then stays as a lodger with TM, a well-off man who dabbles in journalism. The Mysterious One carries on an inappropriate romance with a young college student and after hearing from other women around the globe who have been romanced by this cad, TM and the other villagers save the young lady and her family from embarrassment in a farcical ending involving pompous government ministers, apocalyptic scenarios involving weeds, and hecklers of every stripe.

I found this novella thoroughly enjoyable and will seek out other Malgudi novels so I can visit again. Recommended for those who enjoy comic novels, Indian literature and short romps where villains get their comeuppance.

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