While reading the 1982 collection Malgudi Days of R. K. Narayan short stories, I noticed a common theme appearing in several of them, namely that of an artist who leaves their creative work behind forever. All of these are stories reproduced from the earlier collection An Astrologer’s Day and Other Stories (1947).

  • In "Gateman's Gift", the protagonist is a gatekeeper who retires and begins making clay sculptures and sending them to his revered former boss. After almost going completely mad because of imagined disapproval, he decides to quit his hobby forever even though in fact he received approval from all sides.
  • In "Such Perfection", Soma creates a statue of the god Nataraja which is so perfect that displaying it causes the god to be angry and bring about natural disasters. Even after it becomes imperfect and the disasters cease, he "never touched his mallet and chisel again".
  • In "The Snake-Song", the Talkative Man learns to play incredible music, but after refusing to help a wandering sadhu he is forced to play only one tune to charm a cobra, and therefore gives up music altogether.

Is this a recurring theme in Narayan's writing in general? Or is it just a coincidence that three stories in the same collection have this theme? Is there any significance to it? For example, is it based on experience in Narayan's own life, or perhaps on someone he knew?


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