The Romantics by Pankaj Mishra

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The Romantics
Pankaj Mishra
Paperback: 288 pages
Publisher: Anchor (February 20, 2001)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0385720807
ISBN-13: 978-0385720809

Touted prior to its release a few years back as the Next Big Thing in South Asian literature, Mishra’s “The Romantics” fails to live up to its promise.

Told through the eyes of Samar, an undergraduate at the Benares Hindu University at the end of the 1980’s, “The Romantics” takes a look at the reality that is India and the romantic preconceived notions of it that Samar sees in his foreign artisan friends, in particular the beautiful French girl Catherine who, unfortunately for him, is already involved with a local musician.

Samar is faced with a variety of predictable conflicts: the conflicts of Eastern and Western culture, of his Brahmin upbringing and his attraction to ‘non-Brahmin’ vices, of his desire for Catherine and his loyalty to his friends, as well as the everyday conflicts and class struggles of Benares.

Bland prose, a sanctimonious and emotionless tone and an overall lack of substance make this a boring and not particularly memorable read. Mishra’s explorations of a post-colonial, post-Emergency, pre-nuclear India are disappointing and too self-absorbed to be realistic.

***

This review is by Sharanya Manivannan

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