- Paperback: 288 pages
- Publisher: Picador; New edition edition (9 Feb. 2001)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0330392778
- ISBN-13: 978-0330392778
- Product Dimensions: 13 x 1.8 x 19.7 cm
- Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,458,406 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
The Romantics Paperback – 9 Feb 2001
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In his impressively perceptive and thoughtful first novel, The Romantics , Pankaj Mishra explores the collisions of India's past with the onslaught of the new. Samar, a 19-year-old Brahmin, has arrived in the holy city of Benares in the winter of 1989 and taken a room where he intends to continue his solitary bookish life. His chosen companions are the likes of Edmund Wilson, Ivan Turgenev and Gustav Flaubert--with occasional unintended forays into the thick of student political upheavals through his acquaintance with the mysterious Rajesh.
But in the room next to his lives the Englishwoman Miss West, whose ex-pat entourage includes a beautiful young Frenchwoman, Catherine. Frozen by his own gaucheness and ineptitude, Samar is fascinated by what he sees as their "casual yet intimate knowingness. I felt the fragility of my own personality, my lack of opinions and taste". And yet he is convinced that in this predestined encounter with Catherine, "some of the richness of life and the world were revealed to me". With an unrelenting eye, Samar observes his own conflicts--the tumult of romantic delusion, of casual rejection, the unassuaged longings of youth--with the knowledge "that the past that had given shape and coherence to my parents lives was no longer available to me". There is neither lax nostalgia here nor conservative mourning for the past but simply a careful registering of what is.
The force of the novel's intelligence and observation, the seriousness of its purpose and its almost contemplative pace make Mishra's rite of passage for his central character and his society into a fine debut. --Ruth Petrie
Grip[s] the reader as artfully and as compellingly as the first page of A Passage to India. The New York Review of Books"
"Grip[s] the reader as artfully and as compellingly as the first page of A Passage to India."-The New York Review of Books
-Grip[s] the reader as artfully and as compellingly as the first page of A Passage to India.--The New York Review of Books --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top Customer Reviews
This description exacts fits Mishra’s debut novel, a sepia-tinted story about the clash of Eastern and Western life and attitudes. Indeed, the book’s front cover reinforces this muted, early 20th-century atmosphere. The excerpt might also be described as a coming-of-age novel were it not for the fact that Samar remains anchored in adolescent naivety and aimlessness throughout.
Flaubert’s protagonist, born in provincial France, eventually achieves his ambition of entering the middle class. Here too, the characters seek happiness in a different culture that they judge more rewarding – Samar through his relationship with Catherine, a young Frenchwoman, and an assortment of Europeans and Americans through their search for spiritual fulfillment.
The book, published in 1999, is set in the India of the 1990s but it would be easy to overlook this as the central character observes university life, Europeans and Americans, his ill father and locals with a stifling sense of detachment that only serves to undermine the book’s story. References to modern ethnic and religious conflicts, student demonstrations, India’s economic development, caste diversiveness jar with an almost Victorian atmosphere.Read more ›
Only the prose lets Mishra down. When he gets it right he is unrivalled in brilliance, subtlety and aptness, but when he gets it wrong it jars - every 10 or so pages. Neverthelss, reading the novel was a joy and it left me wanting to read it again to enjoy its subtle development in more detail. Of special delight was the very last page and a half on which hang an overwhelming mix of emotions that are in themselves the culmination of the book and the justification for its existence. They are the "romantic" emotions that can not be felt in real life, and can not be described in a review. They will be found nowhere else other than at the end of the journey of these 270 pages and when a novel manages to pull of a feat like this it is a reminder to us of why we read and why we hold literature in such high esteem
However after meeting several characters like Miss West, Rajesh - a fellow student who turns out to be a criminal - and Catherine, Samar slowly realises that socialising allows him to discover a whole new world. It is particularly his love affair with Catherine which he experiences as a strong emotional turmoil. It is understandable since Samar grew up in a culture where men and women are ushered into marriage after parents have convinced each other about their respective social and financial status. Love is supposed to follow marriage and not the other way round and it doesn't matter much if it doesn't...
An interesting tale of a young provincial man who struggles to make sense of a strange and alien cosmopolitan world. The descriptions of Pondicherry, Allahabad, Benares, Dharamshala and the Himalayas are lyrical and the reader is constantly reminded of the bewitching power of India.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I thought this would be much more interesting than it was. Introverted people do not interest me too much. I expected more about Indian life.Published on 12 April 2013 by Tricia
A BRILLIANT NOVEL SET IN INDIA WHICH DESERVES TO BE BETTER KNOWN. THE TITLE IS NOT HELPFUL FOR FINDING ON THE WEB!!Published on 19 Oct. 2010 by John Tydeman
This is Pankaj Mishra's first book, but it is a work which any writer would be proud of. Reminiscent of early Naipaul - only perhaps more measured, and the tone more sombre -... Read morePublished on 3 May 2002
This is one of the best books that I have read...ever. Though the book started off a little slow, after a few pages I just couldn't put the book down. Read morePublished on 2 Aug. 2001 by Mr. Sri Raghavan
Really enjoyed this novel! Mishra encapsulates perfectly the evocative power of India at the same time as capturing his main characters thoughts & sense of self perfectly. Read morePublished on 1 April 2001
Written in a beautiful, melancholic style. You get a "wish I was there" feeling. For all those who have a passion for India and are curious how Indians perceive Western... Read morePublished on 31 Mar. 2001 by email@example.com
It took about 20-25 pages to really get into the novel,but once i had i was utterly compelled & finished reading it within a day. Read morePublished on 31 Mar. 2001