R. K. Narayan 's essay , A Writer’s Nightmare : Critical Observation on Censorship of Writings and Writers by the Governmental Parameters

"There are writers- Tolstoy and Henry James to name two- whom we held in awe, writers- Turgenev and Chekhov- for whom we feel a personal affection, other writers whom we respect- Conrad for example- but who hold us at a long arm's length with their 'courtly foreign grace.' Narayan (whom I don't hesitate to name in such a context) more than any of them wakes in me a spring of gratitude, for he has offered me a second home. Without him I could never have known what it is like to be Indian." --- Graham Greene

            R. K.Narayan in his A Writer’s Nightmare vividly sums up a critical observation on censorship of writings and writers by the Governmental parameters. It is a sweet anecdote of dream like qualities. Here is not only a simplicity of consecration but also of lasting literary merits. R. K. Narayan’s essay, A Writer’s Nightmare reveals his keen observation on the situation of writing in India. The essay is also a virtue of simplicity, precision, clarity and readability. Here, Narayan uses the minimum of words to achieve his purpose, and his vocabulary has a modest range.

            Through a dream like quality, Narayan observes the nightmare of a Writer where he is pathetically subjugated and minimized by narrow restrictions of Governmental dictation. In the world of ‘Xanadu’, the kingdom of fantasy the author dreams of and appointment of an officer called – ‘controller of Stories’. The controller of Stories has the functioning of monitoring, regulating, and reprimanding the bad stories altogether.

 In fact,  Government is ready to accept the new department which is an ex-official-controller of stories. The whereabouts of this department is to be a vigil to those essential commodities of the masses where next to rise and water, the stories are the most demanded stuff in daily life. Thus the Government has made up his mind that they will not tolerate bad stories any more.

            Writing a story is no more a child’s game, it is rather a few stage bureaucratic haphazard. Filling up the form, sending up, synopses of it in quadruplicate to the chief story Bureau for further sanctions became a regulation. There should be final authorization certificate after the consideration of diversified aspects of story writing. The central story Bureau is a facilitating body which will consists of four directorates. Each of the directorates will consider the plot, character and atmosphere and climax separately. They could also provide utilization and improvement directives. The writer failing in such parameters must be punished. The purpose of these measurements is enhancing the writing skill and the content of the story. Finally what the Govt. says is an object misery that if the procedures fail in achieving its goals, they should take the writing for themselves. At this stage, the dream shatters.   

            Narayan’s observation is pivotal to that criticism of Governmental censorship and parliamentary debate. Through bunter and situational laughter he criticizes the tendency of curving of spontaneity of a writer by the governmental mechanism. Writing- be it a story or any other literary piece must be a will of the author’s powerful ambition through subjectivity or objectivity. A Government should not regulate writers and if so, they should be propagandist not the writers proper. Notably, Narayan’s comic tone is very clear as he has hinted the hoax parliamentary procedure through questionnaire. The Writer’s Nightmare is typically Narayan’s social critique.    

(The title essay A Writer's Nightmare is included in a collection of essays with the same name by R. K. Narayan published in 1988.)

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