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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Simply delightful
Call it a trip down the memory lane or a story of a little boy, this is one book to delight all and sundry. Graham Greene calls it 'A book in ten thousand'. It is that and much more.

R K Narayan is without any doubt one of the most famous Indian writers. His books echo the simple lives and daily trials of the people of 'Malgudi'. This in fact is Narayan's first...
Published on February 16, 2005 by Raghuveer

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0 of 19 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars This book was poorly written
This book was poorly writen. The details are wron
Published on March 29, 1999


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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Simply delightful, February 16, 2005
Call it a trip down the memory lane or a story of a little boy, this is one book to delight all and sundry. Graham Greene calls it 'A book in ten thousand'. It is that and much more.

R K Narayan is without any doubt one of the most famous Indian writers. His books echo the simple lives and daily trials of the people of 'Malgudi'. This in fact is Narayan's first foray into the world of literatue.

The book is about a little boy Swamy who hates school, loves to play all the time (what else but cricket?), snuggles beside his grandma every night and has his own gang of friends. Swami's family life mirrors the typical Hindu brahminical household. There is no central plot in the book and it is more episodic. One fictitious incident of the Indian freedom struggle is superbly shown through the eyes of a child.

More than anything, the book is a reflection of our own childhood days when longed for the classes to end, the teachers we loved and hated, the school bully with whom it was great to strike up a friendship, the special kid whom we had to impress and the peon who, we were sure, knew all the questions of the examination.

There are books more profound than this running into hundreds of pages. But we realize that sometimes simple words and plain language of an effective writer can make a bigger impact if it is something we can relate to. This is a story that can be read pretty quickly but one that you will stay with you for a while.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Swami and Friends is fantastic, May 1, 2005
Swami and Friends is the story of idyllic childhood, when life for some lucky kids consists entirely of avoiding the homework and playing all the time in the street with friends. Swami is one such lucky boy, studying in standard 1 A, at Albert Mission High School. We are soon introduced to his class mates and they are a reasonable lot. Shanker's specialty is to top every exam, the `Pea' and Somu occupy the middle positions but Mani is Swami's best friend who sits on the last bench and takes more than one year to clear some classes. Together Swami and Mani lord over the class and just barely manage to scrape past the exams. They live for summer vacations.

But this peaceful setting is disturbed occasionally by the stern headmaster of the school and sometimes by the religious study teacher, Ebenezar. Though real chaos happens when a new boy, Rajam, comes to study in Swami's class. Rajam's father is the police commissioner of the town. In 1930, that would mean working for the British Government. After some scuffles that threaten to involve wooden clubs on Mani's part and an air gun on Rajam's, peace descends on 1 A again and Swami, Mani and Rajam become fast friends. We see them getting involved in forming a cricket club and harassing cart drivers.

But all good things come to an end, and Swami manages to get thrown out from his school. He participates or rather gets caught in Anti-British protests. Next day, when his headmaster tries to cane him, he runs away swearing he will never come back. His father is forced to change the school. Still, his friendship with Mani and Rajam totters along, till Swami manages to run away from the second school too. He feels that now there is nothing left but to run away from home also. Eventually Swami returns home, only to find one of those childhood's great calamities, lying in wait for him. The book ends on a bitter-sweet note.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The most respectful, truest, funniest recreation of childhoo, February 23, 1999
By A Customer
Shaw said that people laughed hardest when he told the simple truth. This book might have been written to illustrate the profundity of that remark, as tiny Swaminathan, so profoundly imagined that we leave the book understanding (and loving) him, enables us to feel a deep tenderness not only for him but for all children (including ourselves). Swami loves (and hustles) his mamaji, loves (and trembles, needlessly, before) his father, loves (and stoutly patronizes and instructs) his Granny, generally conducting his life in school and among his friends with an endearing combination of courage, ablomp, cheek, incomprehension, and vulnerability. Narayan is the writer that Graham Greene admires most in the English language; Swami and Friends is a goodish argument why. The book illustrates how Narayan has come to command the respect of writers and the love of readers throughout the world.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Indian equivalent of Tom Sawyer, only better, November 8, 1999
By A Customer
This fictionalized autobiography of a young Indian boy and his world is so charming and amusing that I have read it several times. I strongly recommend it to everyone, especially to those who believe that the only good books are written by Americans and Europeans. Most of all, the author is quintessentially human and not afraid to show us himself as a mischievous child with all his warts. As such he is more lovable than a more perfect hero. At places in this book you will laugh until the tears roll down your face. DON'T, repeat, DON'T miss it! Words cannot express how marvelous this story is. In addition, it has universal appeal to both children and adults, though on different levels.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Simple Child's Life Told Simply, July 23, 2010
By 
M. Frost (Des Moines, Iowa) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Swami and Friends (Paperback)
What Jack London did for animals, Narayan does for children: he makes them come alive as both characters (i.e., real people of a young age, with their loveable warts and all) and children. I marvelled throughout at how Narayan can bring forth so much detail about people and places as well as feeling for same in such a short book using so few words. Yet he succeeds magnificently. This is real writing to effect, where one key word, some short dialog, or a simple phrase pack so much meaning and ability to communicate.

Written in 1930 and published a few years later, Narayan's first book shows both his genius as a writer using the then King's English and his masterful ability to create a fictional place that seems more real than so many real places. I truly felt as if I was beginning to understand what life was like, at least for this middle-class native child, in India in the 1920s and 1930s.

This is a book to be enjoyed for the sheer pleasure of reading great, simple writing. Hardly a wasted word or phrase. This was the second Narayan book I'd read, having started with the early 1970s The Sign Painter. Both are great in their own ways, both are absolute pleasures to read, and both highlight a master of the modern English novel, one where real characters and vivid setting make plot almost an afterthough. You read on just to enjoy reading on, letting the characters and place take you where they will!

If you like this, read VS Naipaul's classic early novels about his native Trinidad. Both he and Narayan show how non-Englishmen can write some of the best English anywhere in the world.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Children's book for the elders, August 31, 2000
By 
Venkat Manthri (Bangalore, India) - See all my reviews
An excellant presentation of child hood. The fictional autobiography of swamy, the little lovable mischievous boy from a small south indian villege is a true depiction of every Indian boy of his times. I was born after more than 30 years since it was written still my child hood has resemblences in lot of places whether it be trying to escape from teachers in last benches or playing cricket or loosing friends like rajam. Presented in a lucid and lyrical fashion, this book can be finished nonstop. This is a book of children for the elders. Not many great works of this kind could be referred by me so far. Tomswayer of Mark Twain in English, Seryosha of Vera Panova in Russian and Budugu of Mullapudi Venkata Ramana in Telugu(a shouth indian language) are few of similar brilliant works I read so far.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Best Novel, January 8, 2009
This review is from: Swami and Friends (Paperback)
Swami and Friends was the first novel written by RK Narayan. I completed reading this novel yesterday. It is part of a collection of 3 novels called A Malgudi Omnibus, others being Bachelor of Arts and The English Teacher. I just started reading Bachelor of Arts. In this review, I will not give summary of the story as it will spoil the thrill when one reads the novel.

As is the case with all Narayan works, this novel is also set in an imaginary town in South India called Malgudi. Swaminathan is a young boy less than 10 years old. This novel narrates his experiences with his parents, grandmother, friends, residents of Malgudi, and even his new-born brother when he is in second class. However, Swami and his friends are the prime focus of this novel.

Swami is a quite different child than the present day children. He lives in a village and he is extremely innocent which sometimes makes him look mischievous as well. His fate lands him in trouble in whatever he does. He has his own perception of the world and tries to be the conqueror in spite of his own shortcomings like fear, innocence, etc. Circumstances make him a mis-fit to any school in Malgudi.

On the other hand, his friend Rajam is a city-born child who acts beyond his age quite similar to the present day children. He is very ambitious and courageous with least respect for the elders. His father is a policeman which is also a reason for his courage. Apart from being very good in studies, he is very adamant to achieve things which are beyond his reach and is not bothered by the consequences of his present actions.

There is another friend of Swami called Mani who is a village version of courageous child. Even though he is courageous, his innocence mostly overtakes that. He is very close to Swami and offers him lot of advice even when not asked. He also carries a club which he feels will protect him in adverse situations.

The incidences which involve these three close friends form the crux of the novel. Swami has a strict father, a kind grandmother, and a mother who loses interest in him once she gives birth to a new baby. The novel is pretty slow to start with and provides every small detail which form the base for the fun later. I will just provide some of the instances which I thoroughly enjoyed from this novel.

Ultimate fun awaits the reader in chapter 12. Swami and Mani listen to a freedom fighter's talk. The freedom fighter blasts the English rulers very much. He tells that if all the people of India go and spit on England, that is more than enough to submerge the whole England. I personally think it is quite true, unless one disproves it by actually making millions spit on England. Swami also thinks it is true and asks Mani if they can attempt that. Mani replies saying Europeans are very bad guys and they will shoot them. This chapter progresses in such a manner and engages reader with non-stop fun.

Swami's encounters with the Board school headmaster is also equally enjoyable. The attitude of that headmaster took me back to my school days when some of my teachers used to carry canes to beat students and treat the students as their slaves. Swami becomes a super-hero when he grabs and throws the cane away when the headmaster attempts to beat him. After that, his conscience makes him feel sad and leads to other troubles.

Malgudi Cricket Club (M.C.C.) which is started by Swami and his friends took me back to my school days when we also tried to start a cricket team called Danger Boys. The letter they write to Binns sports shop in Madras and the other happenings are great to read.

On the whole, Swami and Friends is an amazing novel and I do not think I would be reading a better novel ever. The novel took me to my school days and I could relate many of the Swami's experiences to my own. This novel is an unadulterated and absolutely thorough portrayal of a child's life. It is rather unfortunate that most of the present day children have their so called intelligence suppressing innocence associated with their age.

Having said that, I am sure that one can find many children like Swami in Indian villages even today. This novel is a must read for any one who want to roll back their years and enjoy the innocent moments of their life.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Boyhood in South Asia is both exotic and familiar, September 10, 2005
By 
Imagine "The Wonder Years" set in southern India. This first novel by R.K. Narayan details the adventures of a rather obstinate boy named Swaminithan. His "chums" include the usual mix: the bully, the brain, the leader, etc..., and the developing relationships between them accounts for a substantial chunk of the plot. After making friends with the new kid in town, Swami gets involved in a fraudulent financial scheme, quits school (repeatedly), and eventually runs away from home to escape his teacher's torments and his father's displeasure. Although his parents surely love their son very much, they, like most other adults, are rather shadowy figures in this book. The day to day challenges of school (both academic and social) are by far the most important facets of this boy's life.

In short, there's a great deal about this book that will be familiar to Western readers despite the exotic setting. Highlights include the time Swami gets caught up in a day of political protest that winds up trashing the school, and the time Swami runs away from home and has to face the terrible tiger. Less enjoyable is the section that deals with cricket, a sport that has absolutely no fascination for this reader and very little for the most of the world outside of India. Still, Narayan's style is just about impeccable; warm, soothing, and gently comic, with a fine understanding of human nature, and an easy acceptance of human weakness. It's not Narayan's best book (the plot could be tighter) but it's a very good starting point for someone who's just discovering this fine writer.
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5.0 out of 5 stars What young boys really are like, February 21, 2011
By 
This review is from: Swami and Friends (Paperback)
In his first novel, Narayan portrays a young schoolboy growing up in the fictional town of Malgudi. He has four close friends including Mani, a rather brawny boy. A new boy, Rajam, joins Swami's class. Swami and Mani quickly idolize him, straining the relationships with their other friends.

Swami brags of Rajam to his family, begs his grandmother to keep out of sight so that she won't embarrass him when Rajam visits, pretends his father's den is his own study room. He participates in an impromptu student strike and chooses to change schools rather than be punished. This interferes with his cricket practice so he gets in trouble again.

Swami gives himself wholly to the passion he feels for his friends and for his games. He is having fun, and to a child fun is serious. He might be a selfish brat, but then so are all young children. Narayan makes this point with charm and omits the tragic cynicism of, for example, Golding's "Lord of the Flies".

Vincent Poirier, Tokyo
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Swami and Friends, May 16, 2001
By A Customer
This Great book form R K Narayan made me remember my childhood and school days and those innocent years. Especially Swami's Grand mother, his friend Rajam and mani's characters touched the heart. This book has got lot of practical humor. Definately this book will keep you at a lighter mood and will make you to remember the stories for ever. Any guy born and brought up in India can find paralles between him and Swamy.
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Swami and Friends
Swami and Friends by R. K. Narayan (Hardcover - December 31, 1983)
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