The Painter of Signs

R.K. Narayan

Penguin 2006 [1976]
A book review by Danny Yee © 2018
Set in Narayan's imaginary south Indian town of Malgudi, The Painter of Signs follows sign painter Raman as he becomes infatuated with birth-control worker and advocate Daisy. His self-control and claims to rationality are overcome by his passion, but what about her commitment to her mission? Meanwhile the other woman in Raman's life, an elderly aunt who cooks and keeps house for him, is determined to go on one last pilgrimage to northern India.

Its background is Indira Gandhi's push for population control in the early 1970s, but The Painter of Signs remains a private story, a finely wrought study of the course of an infatuation, but also of everyday life, of a household and a local community. Neither comedy nor tragedy, it sensitively and gently mixes humour with the bittersweetnesses of possibility and inevitability. We can't help but sympathise with the characters, no matter how constrained their lives may seem.

March 2018

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- R.K. Narayan - The World of Nagaraj
- R.K. Narayan - The Mahabharata; The Ramayana
- more South Asian literature
%T The Painter of Signs
%A Narayan, R.K.
%I Penguin
%D 2006 [1976]
%O paperback
%G ISBN-13 9780140185492
%P 153pp