The Romantics by Pankaj Mishra
A Novel

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On the banks of the Ganges, the holy city of Benares groans and heaves along the fault line where modern India presses against its living past, as pilgrims bathe in the sacred waters while the bodies of the dead await by the thousands their turns on the burning ghats. Into this city comes in all innocence young Samar to complete his university studies and take the civil-service examinations that will determine his future. An uprooted Brahman, bearing the responsibilities of his caste but shorn of its privileges, Samar, obsessed by the intellectual culture of the West but shaped by ancient obligations due his ancestors, finds himself suspended between conflicted worlds. He is the classic young man from the provinces, propelled by curiosity and passion beyond his comprehension. He will emerge with a story to tell: a story of lost illusions and the joy and pain of love.
On his journey of self-discovery, Samar is accompanied by two guides: Rajesh, an impoverished fellow Brahman, a hanger-on at the university who has mysterious powers over a band of student malcontents that has made him its leader; and Miss West, his neighbor in the ramshackle lodging where he has taken a room. Miss West--English, fortyish, her good looks so far intact--will introduce Samar to her circle of Western friends who have come to Benares seeking a culture more resonant than their own. From Rajesh, Samar will discover the dead end to which that culture has come.
When he arrives in Benares, Samar knows Miss West's world only through the books he has read. By the time he is ready to leave the holy city, Samar's Brahman reserves will have been tested to the breaking point by Miss West's beautiful friend Catherine and by the horror to which Rajesh has exposed him. He survives by the grace of character and intelligence with which his brilliant creator--one of the most promising talents of his Anglo-Indian generation--has endowed him in this astonishingly mature first novel, the harbinger of a major literary career.

About Pankaj Mishra

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Pankaj Mishra was born in 1969. He is a regular contributor to The New York Review of Books, the New Statesman, and The Times Literary Supplement, as well as several Indian publications. He is currently editing an anthology of Indian writing. He divides his time between New Delhi and Simla.
Published February 1, 2000 by Random House. 272 pages
Genres: Literature & Fiction, Biographies & Memoirs. Fiction

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In the novel’s muted second half, Samar is called back home by his father’s illness, wills himself to forget Catherine and the seductive allure of Benares, and begins a career as a schoolteacher—all in a long falling away from the dangers—and rewards—of a life of active involvement with other peo...

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Publishers Weekly

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In a cold room he rents from an opium-dazed musician, Samar devotes his time to reading Schopenhauer and Turgenev--the sort of big books ""that make idleness attractive,"" each filled with the promise of ""wisdom and knowledge."" When a middle-aged Englishwoman, Diana West, decides to create a so...

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Book Reporter

THE ROMANTICS concerns a Brahman student's first great desire --- a French woman with whom he spends time at what Mishra calls "the end of the known world."

Jan 23 2011 | Read Full Review of The Romantics: A Novel

The Washington Post

Miss West's odd manner and discomfiting vacillation from English primness to Bohemian excess fascinate the young man, and, in time, he is drawn into her exotic circle: "The perception that Miss West with her clean high forehead, hazel eyes, slender neck, and straight blond hair, now flecked with...

Mar 05 2000 | Read Full Review of The Romantics: A Novel

India Today

Pankaj Mishra's debut novel is drawn round a young Brahmin boy, Samar, who goes to Benares for his studies after the death of his mother and his father's retirement to the Aurobindo Ashram in Pondicherry.

Jan 24 2000 | Read Full Review of The Romantics: A Novel

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