Anita Desai, 4 December 1986
Narayan has written a postscript to his new novel which ought to have been a foreword, since it answers the exclamation practically every reader will make on seeing it: ‘Such a short novel!’ One hundred and nineteen pages of large print would hardly make a novella: it is only slightly more than a short story. Narayan is perfectly aware of this inevitable reaction from his devoted readers, who can never have enough of Malgudi. His reply is uncharacteristically forceful: ‘Why not only 119 pages? I question. While a poet or dramatist rarely exceeds a hundred pages even in his most ambitious work, and is accepted without anyone commenting upon the length of his composition, a writer of fiction is often subject to a quantitative evaluation.’ Too true: we are conditioned by the size and weight of the classics, of the Odyssey and the Mahabharata, of Tolstoy and Dostoevsky, to take seriously only what has weight, although the weight of a book’s worth ought surely not to be connected with its avoirdupois.