Narayan, who shortened his pen name to R.K. Narayan after British novelist Graham Greene, who became his mentor and friend for more than 50 years, advised him in 1935: "In this country, a name which is difficult for the old ladies in libraries to remember materially affects sales."
Absent the encouragement of Greene, who died in 1991 at age 86, Narayan might never have achieved worldwide notice. Greene once referred to Narayan as "the novelist I most admire in the English language." He wrote in a forward to Narayan's 1990 book, "The World of Nagaraj": "Narayan wakes in me a spring of gratitude, for . . . without him I could never have known what it is like to be Indian."
Narayan's writing, set in India but universal in theme, came to be compared to that of Greene. Scholars later saw in a collection of letters between the two men (they met only once, in London in 1964)-- auctioned in 1996--that Narayan influenced Greene's work as well.