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The Romantics Paperback – 9 Feb 2001

3.8 out of 5 stars 15 customer reviews

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Paperback, 9 Feb 2001
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Product details

  • 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)
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Product description

Amazon Review

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.

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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
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Format: Kindle Edition
The narrator, Samar, is a disillusioned Brahmin student preparing [in a desultory manner] for the Indian Civil Service exams in Benares. A compulsive reader, he is drawn to Flaubert’s ‘Sentimental Education’, which he describes as having ‘long detailed descriptions that go nowhere, of artistic and literary ambitions that dwindle and then fade altogether... a sense of life as a drift and futility’

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.
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By A Customer on 27 May 2002
Format: Paperback
There is none of the intense heat, colour, noise, and passion usually assoicated with Indian novels in this book. Shrouded in fatilism the narrator drifts aimlessly and naively into a futile love affair. So frustratingly cool and calm is he you feel he's in need of a good night out. Mishra's softly undulating prose floats the reader through the novel on a mellow cloud of curiosity. The characters may be going nowhere but this is a successful beginning for Mishra full of promise and I look forward to his next novel.
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By Kamran Rahman VINE VOICE on 22 Jan. 2002
Format: Paperback
This is an astounding book which is very unlikely to disappoint, unless you have picked it up thinking that it is a love story rather than a literary novel. Its an exciting "first novel" as praise-worthy as other debuts such as Arundhati Roy and Zadie Smith, although Mishra is undoubtedly more serious and reflective. This autobiographical work is steeped in introspection, self-examination and a very personal exploration executed through the eyes of Samar, a "bookish" character with whom readers will instantly identify. A fascinating tool used by Mishra is the idea of displacement as a counterpart to exploration. He makes each of his characters alien to their world - and this is very much at the core of the beauty of the book. Samar himself is an Indian in India, but his world and his experiences are more alien to him than the European characters in the book who come "seeking" to Samar's country.
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
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Format: Paperback
Samar is a 20 year old student in 1989. He arrives in Benares, "the Oxford of the East", where he hopes to study and spend his time with his favourite books. He is a shy young man who does not enjoy the casual display of personality at social gatherings. The superficial amiability and the light chatter make him feel uncomfortable and he doesn't enjoy taking part in conversations, afraid to say the wrong thing and not quite sure what the right thing to say is. He grew up alone and therefore developed no skills for intimacy or even friendship which he feels requires a degree of self-abnegation from him.
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.
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