Thursday, October 11, 2007

Book Review: Mr Sampath - the printer of Malgudi by R. K. Narayan

First published in 1949 this book is now rated as something of a classic, and in dealing with some serious and sombre subjects with an overlying story employing a farcical style of comedy, it certainly deserves some recognition.

This is the story of Srinivas, a passionate editor of the one-man newspaper "The Banner" and Mr Sampath the printer who shoulders the financial burden of the newspaper and makes uninvited editorial comments. This relationship appears to work well for Srinivas until the Truth printing Works closes down and Sampath invites his friend to join him in the world of movie making. The novel becomes something of an insight into the chaotic world of Indian movie production and concludes with the rebirth of a stronger and more determined Banner.

I found this a very readable book due to its calm style and well-defined characters, with Srinivas being quite a naive but likeable character and Mr Sampath being something of a "wide boy". Whilst the characters and events are very interesting and the understated humour highlights some serious issues, I found that I didn't really laugh at this book at all. Furthermore, whilst the story promised much it fails to develop into anything of consequence and I felt that the author had run out of ideas half way through the story. Having said that, the ending is nicely rounded and it is pleasing to find that Srinivas has learnt from his past mistakes and found his true niche in life.

Overall I found this a good book that I wanted to keep picking up, but it didn't quite live up to some of the glowing reviews of it that I have read. However, anyone interested in Indian literature and/or culture will find it an excellent and memorable book.

Score: 7/10

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