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Malgudi Days is a short story collection by R. K. Narayan. According to Wikipedia:

Malgudi Days is a collection of short stories by R. K. Narayan published in 1943 by Indian Thought Publications. The book was republished outside India in 1982 by Penguin Classics. The book includes 32 stories, all set in the fictional town of Malgudi, located in South India.

Narayan's own Wikipedia page also says:

His first collection of short stories, Malgudi Days, was published in November 1942, followed by The English Teacher in 1945.

But in one of the stories of the collection itself, "Lawley Road", the following passage appears:

The Municipality kept itself in the background, and remained so till the country got its independence on the fifteenth of August 1947. History holds few records of such jubilation as was witnessed on that day from the Himalayas to Cape Comorin.

This is too accurate to be a hopeful prediction: the exact date is correct. This story must have been written and published after 1947. I'm reading the Penguin Classics version from 1982, but presumably the stories weren't edited or new ones added when the collection was "republished".


I noticed also that the stories of Malgudi Days are not all in one unified collection. They are separated into three parts as follows:

  • The title "From An Astrologer’s Day" precedes the first sixteen stories: "An Astrologer's Day", "The Missing Mail", "The Doctor's Word", "Gateman's Gift", "The Blind Dog", "Fellow-Feeling", "The Tiger's Claw", "Iswaran", "Such Perfection", "Father's Help", "The Snake-Song", "Engine Trouble", "Forty-Fice a Month", "Out of Business", "Attila", "The Axe".
  • The title "From Lawley Road" precedes the next eight stories: "Lawley Road", "Trail of the Green Blazer", "The Martyr’s Corner", "Wife’s Holiday", "A Shadow", A Willing Slave", "Leela’s Friend", "Mother and Son".
  • The title "New Stories" precedes the last eight stories: "Naga", "Selvi", "Second Opinion", "Cat Within", "The Edge", "God and the Cobbler", "Hungry Child", "Emde".

I don't know if this is relevant. Perhaps the first sixteen were published in 1942 or 1943, as I didn't notice any anachronisms in them (at least one is certainly set before Indian independence, given the mention of British soldiers) and the other sixteen later.


Clearly, Wikipedia is wrong. What is the real publication history of these stories? When were they first published?

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The very PDF you link to has part of the answer. See page 15 (in the PDF, not page number 15 as the book numbers it), for a list of other titles from the author, which includes this:

SHORT FICTION

*Dodu and Other Stories (1943)
*Cyclone and Other Stories (1945)
An Astrologer’s Day and Other Stories (1947)
*Lawley Road and Other Stories (1956)
A Horse and Two Goats (1970)
Malgudi Days (1982)
Under the Banyan Tree and Other Stories (1985)
The Grandmother’s Tale and Selected Stories (1993)

[…]

*Published in India only

And looking around in Google Books, I found this snippet from R. K. Narayan as a novelist by P. S. Sundaram (1988), which says:

The distribution of stories is as follows:

A) Malgudi Days (1943) 19 stories

So it seems certain that some of the stories included in the 1982 book were not in the original publication and were published after it. Lawley Road and other stories is stated in the Penguin publications as having been published in 1956, so Narayan definitely wasn't predicting a future date of Indian Independence back in 1943.


Looking further, I found an article titled Analysis of R. K. Narayan’s Stories by Nasrullah Mambrol, stating:

Among the nineteen stories in Narayan’s first collection, Malgudi Days, there are two stories, “Old Bones” and “Neighbours’ Help,” that are laced with supernatural elements. This volume includes such memorable stories as “The Gold Belt,” “The White Flower,” “An End of Trouble,” and “Under the Banyan Tree.” [...]

One of the finest stories in the collection, “The Mute Companions,” centers on the ubiquitous Indian monkey[.] [...].

Malgudi Days, it should be noted, is also the title of a later collection, published in the United States in 1982. Eight of the thirty-two stories in this collection—“Naga,” “Selvi,” “Second Opinion,” “Cat Within,” “The Edge,” “God and the Cobbler,” “Hungry Child,” and “Emden”— were previously uncollected; the remaining stories were selected from Narayan’s two earlier volumes, An Astrologer’s Day and Lawley Road.


In Short Stories of R.K. Narayan, H. C. Trivedi and N. C. Soni (Indian Literature Vol. 16, No. 3/4 (JULY—DECEMBER 1973), pp. 165-179) state:

Malgudi Days

Malgudi Days is another collection of nineteen fresh and original stories out of which two stories — Old Bones and Neighbour's Hip deal with the supernatural element. The collection contains delightful stories like The Gold Belt, The White Flower, An End of Trouble, and Under the Banyan Tree. [...] Gardens introduces sparrows and The Mute Companions, a monkey. [...]

Cyclone and other Stories

This collection brings us a fresh stock of eighteen stories that mirror quite accurately Indian life and character. The remarkable quality of these stories is the ingenuity of their plots. The Doctor's Word, An Astrologer's Day, The Roman Image are good illustrations of this fact. [...]

An Astrologer's Day and other stories

Those who have read the earlier collections may not find this volume very interesting as twenty-four stories out of the collection of thirty have been reproduced here. Of the six remaining stories The Tiger's Claw, Watchman, and Crime and Punishment deserve careful consideration. [...]

Lawley Road and other Stories

The volume contains twenty-eight stories out of which fourteen have been reprinted from the earlier collection. However, stories like Lawley Road, The Marty's Corner, Wife's Holiday and Half-a-Rupee are really good. Uncle's Letters and Another Community mark a departure from the traditional stories. [...]


The original version of An Astrologer's Day, available on archive.org has 30 stories. We can see that Old Bones and Under the Banyan Tree are listed there.


History of Indian Literature: 1911-1956, struggle for freedom: triumph and tragedy by Sisir Kumar Das (Sahitya Akademi, 2005) mentions one more title from the 1943 Malgudi Days:

The Malgudi Days is one of the best collections of stories he wrote. Its themes include [...] an artist refusing to accept an award convinced that he failed in his mission ('The Comedian') [...].


Another useful resource is Audrey E. Barlow's PhD thesis, A critical study of the autobiographical elements in the fictional works of R. K. Narayan (2005), specifically Chapter V: Subjectivity in his short stories. In footnotes, Barlow has noted some stories which have appeared in both 1943 and 1982 versions of Malgudi Days:

  1. "Father's Help"
  2. "A Shadow" (also in Lawley's Road (1956))
  3. "A Willing Slave"

And for some other tales in 1982 Malgudi Days:

  1. "Lawley Road", "Trail of the Green Blazer" and "The Martyr's Corner" are originally from Lawley Road and other stories (1956)
  2. "Leela's Friend" and "Engine Trouble" are originally from Dodu and Other Stories (1943).

To summarize a bit:

  1. Malgudi Days (1943) had 19 stories, of which I could find mentions of these titles:
    1. "Old Bones"
    2. "Neighbours’ Help"
    3. "The Gold Belt"
    4. "The White Flower"
    5. "An End of Trouble"
    6. "Under the Banyan Tree"
    7. "Gardens"
    8. "The Mute Companions"
    9. "Father's Help"
    10. "A Shadow"
    11. "A Willing Slave"
    12. "The Comedian"
  2. Dodu and other stories first show:
    1. "Leela's Friend"
    2. "Engine Trouble"
  3. Cyclone and other stories (1945) has the first appearance of:
    1. "An Astrologer's Day"
    2. "The Missing Mail"
    3. "The Doctor's Word"
    4. "The Blind Dog"
    5. "Fellow Feeling"
    6. "Iswaran"
    7. "Such Perfection".
  4. An Astrologer's Day and other stories (1947) first includes:
    1. "The Tiger's Claw"
  5. Lawley Road (1956) marks the first appearance of:

    1. "Lawley Road"
    2. "Trail of the Green Blazer"
    3. "The Martyr's Corner"
    4. "Wife's Holiday"
  6. Malgudi Days (1982) has 32 stories of which 8 are new, and at least 14 originally appeared in a collection other than the 1943 Malgudi Days (2 from Dodu, 7 from Cyclone, 1 from An Astrologer's Day and 4 from Lawley Road).

That leaves 10 possible stories common to both 1943 and 1982. And at least 9 titles from 1943 were not included in 1982, also leaving 10 possible common stories. We know three of these ("Father's Help", "A Shadow", "A Willing Slave"), but I can't be sure about the remaining 7:

  1. "Gateman's Gift" (this could plausibly be from 1943 - given retirement after 25 years of service starting around 1918).
  2. "The Snake-Song"
  3. "Forty-Five A Month"
  4. "Out Of Business"
  5. "Attila"
  6. "The Axe"
  7. "Mother And Son"

Of course, many of these stories were originally originally published in The Hindu newspaper, before being included in these collections.

So, if there's no way to derive 19 from 16, 8 and 8, well, after the first three collections (Dodu and Other Stories, Malgudi Days (1943) and Cyclone and other stories), the various collections each included stories that were included in previous collections as well as new ones.

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  • Good finds, but I really want more info about that 1943 publication. Like which stories were there? You can't get 19 by combining some of 16, 8, 8 (the three sections that the Penguin Classics version is subdivided into). Even what you've found here is contradictory: 1982 refers to the Penguin Classics edition, but 1943 is ... something else? a subset? with the same name. It's really confusing. – Rand al'Thor Apr 25 at 11:03
  • @Randal'Thor yep. Turns out, RK Narayan's short stories have a rich history of being republished. – muru Apr 25 at 14:16
  • Wow! I think we need a flow chart to keep track of all these republications and rerepublications :-P Great research. – Rand al'Thor Apr 25 at 14:36

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