A Tiger for Malgudi
April 8, 2009
I haven’t been neglecting my promise of new features. Some of them are dependent on the cooperation of a friend of mine, and the party in question at the moment is in the middle of moving. And – you may gasp at this – but taking care of something like that takes a wee smidge of precedence over my blog. Rest assured, however, I’m not planning on leaving anyone in the lurch. You’ll just have to wait. New features don’t come easy…it’s a game of give and take.
Enough channeling my inner Supreme. There’s a review to be written.
As much as I am loathe to admit it, R.K. Narayan’s A Tiger for Malgudi is the second book I had to look at sadly as it bawled helplessly on my futon while I pat it on the back cover and once again had to explain, “Look. It’s not you, baby. You did everything right. It’s just not working for me anymore.” Narayan writes with a beautiful, flowing prose and a philosophical premise exploring the inner life of a tiger wrenched from his jungle home and forced into human servitude. A Tiger for Malgudi is a visceral, emotional work that holds a mirror up to animal exploitation and the extent of human cruelty without coming off as preachy or self-righteous. Rather, the nameless feline narrator serves more as a reflection of mankind’s capacity to universally inflict pain on one another as well as animals.
In spite of the heavy-handedness of the subject matter, A Tiger for Malgudi plays host to the occasional instance of dark humor and absurdity. The narrator – foisted with the name Raja by his captives – recounts his life as a denizen of the Indian jungle and subsequent captive stints as a circus act and a film star. Both experiences leave him scarred and cynical, but things end calmly for the tiger “who possesses a soul within [his] forbidding exterior” (11). It’s a nice little tale of redemption and self-awareness, just one where I – again – had difficulty connecting. Narayan is a fine writer, and A Tiger for Malgudi is a fine book with many interesting themes and visuals. Perhaps it was the near-glacial pacing that turned me away, though for a work of philosophy one ought not expect a breezy clip. I’ve enjoyed much slower books than this. So disengagement is more or less my fault once again.
Narayan, R.K. A Tiger for Malgudi. New York: Penguin Classics, 1994.
Another good book involving a self-aware, philosophical animal as its protagonist – albeit not as the narrator – is Daniel Quinn’s Ishmael: An Adventure in Mind and Spirit. It’s been a long while since I last read it, but what little I’ve remembered was positive and got dredged up as I poured through A Tiger for Malgudi.
[Diversity Rocks! Challenge Progress: 9/24]