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The Bachelor of Arts
This month's Book With Buzz: "Little Fires Everywhere" by Celeste Ng
From the bestselling author of Everything I Never Told You, a riveting novel that traces the intertwined fates of the picture - perfect Richardson family and the enigmatic mother and daughter who upend their lives. See more
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Top customer reviews
Bachelor of Arts is a walkthrough of a generation revolving around the main protagonist of the story, Chandran. Chandran is so ominously present in us that it doesn't become difficult to get into his groove. There are times when the reader has to stir himself up with the feeling Oh!! Is this happening to me?!! A story starting from college days of a B.A, History graduate, progressing into that difficult phase where every student faces a huge roadblock in his life - whether to continue studies or not or rather What do I do next?, and then, falling unsuccessfully in love with the girl next door only to think that solitude is the best company before realising that family means a lot more than that of a girl's love, and chalking out a career after the worn-out days of love is the walkthrough of this brilliant piece of literature by the greatest Indian writer of all times.
Chandran's college days are a gentle reminder of our days. Planning out a study schedule for the exams brings memories where we have planned more than we studied. The household of Chandran brimming with life, with his mother, father and brother is like any typical Indian family. The college activities of Chandran are superbly written. The debates of whether historians have to be slaughtered or not, is brilliantly depicted. His friendship with Ramu and their mutual admiration for each other is well handled. R.K. Narayan has also beautifully brought out the fact how college friends do not end up as friends for life. When Ramu loses all touch from him after a few years, R.K. Narayan through Chandran says People pretended that they are friends, but the fact is they are brought together by forces of circumstances. How true!!!
The reader is constantly in a trance while reading this book not because he is elevated to fictitious situations, but because he is take to stunning reality that places him so close to this cherubic Chandan. I have read this book more than a couple of times and everytime it is a new message that gets embedded in my mind. A masterly book by a masterly writer. Not to miss this book for anything in the world.
His mother and father know nothing about this girl or her family. They do not refuse Chandra but they must be careful. Good news comes! The girl is poor but of a proper family after all. The family must negotiate a dowry. Chandra doesn't care about the dowry, but his parents insist. Negotiations begin but, well, it seems the young lady isn't interested.
In India too, such things happen.
Chandra takes his broken heart on the road to nurse it away from Malgudi. His family thinks he will stay with relatives but he sheds his former life and his clothes and becomes an ascetic. He sits under a tree in a poor village and acquires a reputation as a holy man.
In India too, there is something comic about this. And Chandra never sees the comedy of it, he is too serious, he takes his mortifications seriously. And yet, there is no satisfaction in this way of life either. His parents must be worried. Will he return to Malgudi? Will he marry one day? Will this newly promoted bachelor of arts find a suitable position?
Narayan's novels of Malgudi convey the pointlessness of life in a very Indian way. Unlike the French Existentialists (Camus, Sartre) Narayan accepts that life has no meaning but that is the starting point. Neither he nor his characters seem anguished about this; they simply take it for granted and they just get on with the business of living. Their anguish comes from more mundane worries: money, love, family, and work.
Vincent Poirier, Québec City
Published in 1937, it is most fascinating to get an understanding of Indian culture within the British Imperial Raj. We see Indians up close and personal. The Brits and their world is mostly off stage.
This is a 4-part novel. The first part is set initially in the 1930/1931 school year, during Chandran's. the protagonist, senior year in college. Part 2 has Chandran graduated, falling in love as a young man, and puruing an arranged marriage. But when the courtship fails part 3 has him becoming a wandering fake holy man. Ultimately feeling ashamed at his deception, part 4 has him getting into the newspaper business.
One thing I love about Narayan and this novel is how he just lets it...end. There is no set piece conclusion. He tells us what he wants us to know about the protagonist and his life without worrying if the reader knows everything or knows something the reader might want to know (e.g., the outcome of Chandran's love life),