R.K.Narayan`s writing career began with "Swami and Friends". At first, he could not get the novel published. Eventually, a mutual friend, Purna, showed the draft to Graham Greene. Greene liked it so much that he arranged for its publication. Greene was to remain a close friend and admirer of his. After that, he published a continuous stream of novels, all set in Malgudi and each of it, dealt with different characters in that fictional place.
Autobiographical content formed a significant part of some of his novels. For example, the events surrounding the death of his young wife and how he coped with the loss form the basis of The English Teacher. Mr. Narayan became his own publisher, when World War II cut him off from Britain. R. K. Narayan passed away on May 13, 2001, due to cardio-respiratory failure. He was 94. Narayan`s novels are characterised by Chekhovian simplicity and gentle humor. He told stories of simple folks trying to live their simple lives in a changing world.
Characters in his novels were very ordinary down-to-earth Indians trying to blend tradition with modernization, often resulting in tragic-comic situations. His writings style was simple, unpretentious and witty-conveyed, with a unique flavour as if he were writing in the native tongue. Many of Narayan`s works are rooted in everyday life, though he is not shy of invoking Hindu tales or traditional Indian folklore to emphasize a point. His easy-going outlook on life has sometimes been criticized, though in general he is viewed as an accomplished, sensitive and reasonably prolific writer.
He won numerous awards and honors for his works. He won the National Prize of the Sahitya Akademi, the Indian literary academy, for The Guide in 1958. He was honoured with the Padma Bhushan, a coveted Indian award, for distinguished service to literature in 1964. In 1980, the Royal Society of Literature awarded the AC Benson Medal R. K. Narayan. He was an honorary member of the society. He was elected an honorary member of the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters in 1982 and nominated to the Rajya Sabha in 1989. In addition, the University of Mysore, Delhi University and the University of Leeds conferred honorary doctorates on him.