A Tiger for Malgudi, by R. K. Narayan, is an unusual book, a story about humanity from the viewpoint of a captured tiger. It is a compelling story, with much humor, very well written and enjoyable to read. But it is much more than an entertaining read. It is full of insight and wisdom about human beings and the human condition, and I found it refreshing and uplifting.
Summary of the story from the publisher:
A venerable tiger, old and toothless now, looks back over his life from cubhood and early days roaming wild in the Indian jungle. Trapped into a miserable circus career as ‘Raja the magnificent’, he is then sold into films (co-starring with a beefy Tarzan in a leopard skin) until, finding the human world too brutish and bewildering, he makes a dramatic bid for freedom.
R.K. Narayan’s story combines Hindu mysticism with ripe Malgudi comedy, viewing human absurdities through the eyes of a wild animal and revealing how, quite unexpectedly, Raja finds sweet companionship and peace.
To give you a good idea of the wisdom of this little book, here are some of my favorite passages:
- You are not likely to understand that I am different from the tiger next door, that I possess a soul within this forbidding exterior. I can think, analyse, judge, remember and do everything that you can do, perhaps with greater subtlety and sense. I lack only the faculty of speech.
- For one used to the grand silence of the jungle, the noisy nature of humanity was distressing.
- Tigers attack only when they feel hungry, unlike human beings who slaughter one another without purpose or hunger …’
- All growth takes place in its own time. If you brood on your improvements rather than your shortcomings, you will be happier.’
- We have lost the faculty of appreciating the present living moment. We are always looking forward or backward and waiting for one or sighing for the other, and lose the pleasure of awareness of the moment in which we actually exist.
I chose to read this book as one of my 50-books-in-5-years for The Classics Club.
I also chose this book to read for my personal challenge, “Wanderlust,” an effort to read books that are from or take place in each country of the world. This was a story from India.
I love the passages you selected, especially the last one.
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Thanks, Marlo. That one was my favorite, too. It was an unusual book and I really enjoyed it.
I had never heard of this book and it wouldn’t have necessarily sparked my interest just from the cover but I love the quotes you shared. Seems like lots of good stuff to glean from reading this one!
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Iliana, I had never heard of it, or the author, either, but I really liked his writing and would like to read more by him.