"The Vendor of Sweets" is a 1967 short novel by R.K. Narayan, considered to be one of 20th century India's greatest writers. Like most of Narayan's works, it takes place in Malgudi, a fictional Indian state.

The novel tells the story of Jagan, the titular "Vendor of Sweets", a businessman that operates a fairly successful bakery. The other main characters in the novel are Jagan's "cousin", a busybody that serves mostly as a sounding board for Jagan, and Jagan's son, Mali, as well as Mali's American wife, Grace. The novel is somewhat picaresque, not having a single main plot, but instead being a character study of Jagan. And I think the novel did a good job at portraying Jagan: for the first dozen or so pages, I thought the book would be a type of Indian "Babbitt", portraying the banality of a fatuous Indian businessman. Because Jagan is shown to be silly in many ways. He speaks in truisms, jumps from one idea and scheme to another, and is at least a little hypocritical: he wants to publish a book on a sugar and salt free diet, which is in opposition to his chosen occupation. But Jagan was also a former follower of Gandhi's during the struggle for independence, and a man who wants to see his country succeed. The tension in Jagan's character, and in the book, comes from the fact that while Jagan wants to do well, he is also tied down by his own understanding of tradition and personal vanities.

As mentioned, this book doesn't really have a plot. There was actually the flickers of a plot, and an interesting one, half-way through, when Jagan's son planned to invent a machine that would automatically write stories, but this turned out to be another diversion. There is probably a lot of events and characters in this book that make more sense if connected with the rest of Nayaran's Malgudi books. The lack of a unifying plot could be due to the differing standards of Indian storytelling, or just to Narayan's own style. I myself found the book quite interesting and lively, despite its episodic format.

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