Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Romantics: A Novel” as Want to Read:
The Romantics: A Novel
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Romantics: A Novel

3.50  ·  Rating Details  ·  834 Ratings  ·  81 Reviews
In Pankaj Mishra's debut novel, East not only meets West, the two forcibly collide, causing all manner of bruises and contusions. The hero and narrator of The Romantics, a young Brahmin student, has come to the Hindu holy city of Benares to study at the university. Samar's shelves are laden with tomes by Schopenhauer and Turgenev; his dreams center around passing the rigor ...more
280 pages
Published (first published December 31st 1899)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Romantics, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about The Romantics

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 2,466)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Feb 26, 2014 Fabian rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The novel is a coming-of-age tale that's practically Victorian... its protagonist a mere spectator of a modern and exciting merger between East and West. Living in India, Samar is an intellectual who loves to read. He has this gift to take on Western classics like Flaubert's "Sentimental Education" and applies them to his daily life as a university student who, although wanting to experience his world as any youth would, is a teeny bit hesitant, i.e. hopelessly flawed. Miss West, his elder frien ...more
The Romantics, Mishra’s only novel, is well-stated, with a lovely use of language and semantics. But if I, an unestablished not-yet-emerging author, had written this novel for a creative writing class, I’m sure it would have come back to me slashed and bleeding red ink all over the place. Mishra tells a first person narrative of Samar, a young academic living in Benares, and the various foreigners - presumably the titular romantics - he encounters, becomes acquainted with, and may or may not bef ...more
The Romantics, by contemporary Indian author Pankaj Mishra, seems to be his only novel. Which is a pity, because I really enjoyed it.

Last weekend I went to a Melbourne Writers' Festival session called Bookwallah, which I thought was going be a promotion of Indian writing, but instead the session turned out to be primarily journalistic commentary about the state of India today. The panel consisted of Annie Zaidi, Chandrahas Choudhury and moderator Nick Law. Although they didn't really talk much a
Jul 21, 2011 Ruth rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Well at least I finished it this time...
Boredom got to me last time I tried to read this book. The narrator is a dull, insecure observer who doesn't reveal enough of himself or others for this reader to be drawn into his world.
Samar reminisces about his time as a student in the holy city of Benares, where he hoped to lose himself in books. My response to this book is much like his response to his first reading of Flaubert's "Sentimental Education" which struck him as "flat and overly long. [He]
Kiehl Christie
Dec 07, 2008 Kiehl Christie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone who travels / would like to travel

I felt like this book assaulted me when I was finished with it. Mishra ruthlessly handles young Western travelers who establish themselves for long periods of time in foreign countries, thoroughly questioning their motives.

It is not a book that eliminates a desire to travel, but instead invites us to question how we travel: from how we view traveling, what we hope to gain from traveling, and how we interact and perceive and relate to locals in the areas that we travel.

Wonderful, thoughtful, eff
Jan 19, 2016 Nick rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
"A Sentimental Education" transported to India. The naïf is Samar and Benares stands in for Paris (sort of). Samar is caught between two entirely different ways of being, and "The Romantics" is weakest in the way that it contrasts them. One is the circle of expatriates that form around his neighbor in the apartment building: educated, aesthetic, slumming. The other takes the form of Rajesh, murkily and probably violently involved in politics. India itself appears intermittently in the form of th ...more
Jan 05, 2015 Kecia rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: india
"Yeh meri duniya kahani hai. Main in logo ko janta hoon." My Hindi has progressed to the point that when I came to this quote in the book I did not need the translation. "It is the story of my world. I know these people well." And that's how I feel about this book. It is my story. I know these people.

Someone once said to me, treat everyone as if their heart were breaking because it probably is. This is a story of not only self discovery but the discovery that others suffer too. I identified with
Feb 07, 2014 Hrishikesh rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Pankajbhai disappoints. I abandoned this book half-way when I realized that all that I was doing was wasting my time and being rendered melancholic.

I expected the book to be a colorful account of Pankaj Mishra's days in Dehradun. It does not deliver. The characters, the "Romantics" are a bunch of shallow, pretentious individuals for whom abstraction is a convenient excuse to escape from the world; they are unable to reveal in its beauty. Pankaj Mishra is fascinated with Europeans in Benares; whi
Sairam Krishnan
Nov 21, 2013 Sairam Krishnan rated it liked it
Had been meaning to read Pankaj Mishra for some time, especially with all the raving reviews of 'From the Ruins of Empire' I came upon recently. Found this in hardback at Blossoms, Bangalore at a bargain price and pounced immediately.

I have been rewarded suitably, for this is a very very good book. Well written and poignant, the story weaves in and out of places etched on to India's layered past - Allahabad, Varanasi, Pondicherry, Dharamshala, Mussoorie and paints them in vivid, colorful portra
a superb 1st novel of the new india, rootless young people meet rootless westerners for a slap up of double melancholia. It illustrates one young man's search for meaning and love, only to find void and illusion, just like they said it would be. same as it ever was (TH's), but gains a small measure of accommodation at least, after years of work and isolation. I liked very much how the author would change his descriptive style of the world according to mood of the protagonist. That is, when he wa ...more
Fathima Cader
The blurb for this book, as printed here on Goodreads, with its binarisation of East v West and its unabashed recycling of the stupidly tired cliches, is terrifically bad. I made the mistake of reading the blurb when I was about midway through the book, when the protagonist was at his most self-indulgent, which whininess lead to a certain reductivism around the politics of intercultural relations. This made me suddenly skeptical about the whole narrative, since it seemed there was no ironic dist ...more
Apr 29, 2013 Becky rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm not sure I gave The Romantics enough attention. I read the final 80 pages or so in one fell swoop, and they stuck with me much more than the snatched moments I had devoted to it before. Another coming of age tale, this one is set in modern day India. The central character has come to Benares to take his civil service exams, but his attentions are drawn elsewhere by the mishmash of people and cultures all looking to find themselves in a town historically known for its spirituality. In the end ...more
The story of an Indian young man (Samar) and his western acquaintances, all disillusioned with India, with the west and with life. The characterization is somehow poor, yet the story is captivating. My favorite part was Samar's living and trekking in the Indian Himalayas.
Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist"
Another one I tried because it was in "1001 Books." I wouldn't say it's a must read. Kind of interesting, but not great. This book would probably have more appeal for people who are from India (like the author) and can relate more to the places and customs. I will say I enjoyed the last part, Part III, much more than the first two parts.
The story is about an Indian Brahmin boy who goes to Benares to continue his college studies. He meets some expats (English and French) and is bewildered by man
Camille McCarthy
Jul 05, 2014 Camille McCarthy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I liked this book because I felt it was written very honestly. Pankaj Mishra writes beautifully and is the best Indian author I've read so far. I liked that he was not trying to sound British or American but he also didn't add in a lot of Hinglish slang like some modern authors which can make writing sound very tacky. The book was full of melancholy but wasn't downright depressing like Jhumpa Lahiri's stories. It was also a lot more open and accessible than Amitav Ghosh's writing.
The story ba
Claire McAlpine
Feb 25, 2013 Claire McAlpine rated it really liked it
Reached for this off the bookshelf while suffering a fever and cold and was just what I needed, remembering those rooftop guest houses and the tangled kites, the ghats, the river boats, the pilgrims of Varanasi (Benares). A wonderful look across and within cultures from the perspective of a young Indian man.
Sep 18, 2015 Vicky rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Most of the story revolves around Benares, the holiest of Hindu cities and about the self discovery of the narrator, Samar.

Samar, a young Brahmin intellectual, has come to the banks of the Ganges to ''read, and do as little as possible besides that.' . He meets Rajesh, a politically active student of humble origins, and a group of Westerners whose foreign ways mystify and entice him.

In his self discovery Samar is shocked by the poverty and cruelties of rural India, he falls in love with a frenc
May 04, 2015 Dani rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The first thing that struck me in this book was the clash between the east and the west, so well described through the eyes of the main character. Having a lot of "Eastern" acquaintances, I've been sometimes struggling when they didn't give me a satisfying answer to questions I considered not really difficult. But now I think I understand them better, after I had the chance to see through the eyes of Samar.

The whole emotional part, Catherine's seduction of Samar and the way they parted, his slo
May 27, 2014 Loren rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Best casual novel read I've had in a while. Subtly and artfully written; the prose is unobtrusive but occasionally reaches out with a beautiful phrasing or image as it builds characters and places that hold your attention. I found it a valuable meditation on the way the new colonists interact with a 'discovered' culture told, as a nice contrast, from the perspective of a member of the borrowed place. It brought up my own experiences as a guest/intruder and I found it a nice window to look at the ...more
Dec 28, 2015 Sirish rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have mixed feelings about this book. Pankaj Mishra is no great writer, his writing is sparse and ungainly, and he keeps overelaborating. But I must admit The Romantics has a certain charm, an earnest bildungsroman that probably well suits the modest gifts of its writer. The protagonist, Samar, who stands in for Pankaj, is the person the reader is least likely to know about at the end of the book probably because he knows so little of himself. He is a shallow, faux-intellectual who wants all t ...more
Jun 17, 2012 Brian rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Although it does meander a bit (particularly in the second half, once the narrator leaves Benares), the novel creates an atmospheric, fin-de-siècle sort of mood – which is particularly interesting for its dislocation in contemporary (or nearly) India. The narrator, Samar, finds himself enduring a long (long) cross-roads kind of experience during the course of the novel, and his meetings with various other characters (both Indian and European or American) lead him mostly to confused, speculative ...more
Aug 30, 2012 Marcy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Who are the “Romantics?” They are all of the characters in the book who have “memories, wounds, ambitions, and regrets,” no matter where in the world they come from. The Romantics takes place in India, where the main character in the book, Samar, attended school in one part of India, only to continue his studies for the Civil Exams in Benares. Samar was accustomed to his daily routines each day, eating breakfast each morning with the owners of the boarding house, studying at the library, and com ...more
Jun 08, 2013 Pat rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
One of the reviews at the front of my edition says, "Samar's story is the story of innumerable young, small-town men who, hungry for significance, and at odds with their new destiny, struggle to make sense of an alien comsmopolitan through borrowed intellectual tools (Outlook)." I would say this sums up this slight novel perfectly: a story of missed opportunities, betrayals, sell-outs, settling for second best--yet finding, at last, an inner peace and acceptance.

The constant references to "The
Jul 19, 2007 Raghu rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I believe this is Pankaj Mishra's first novel. In some ways, it is the stereotypical story of 'east meeting west' and most of the characters seem to have been created to fit a certain mould. It is the story of Samar, a young Indian who comes to the holy city of Benares and has hopes of making it to the elite Indian Civil service. He meets a bunch of westerners in the holy city and the rest follows. There is the beautiful French woman, Catherine, who is in love with Anand, an aspiring sitar playe ...more
Noah Enelow
Oct 01, 2011 Noah Enelow rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jul 06, 2014 Abhaga rated it liked it
Shelves: 2014-challenge
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Luther Obrock
The imagined identity of Benares (Varanasi) and the its reality often seem at complete odds: Its heritage as a holy site of pilgrimage and spirituality is often belied by its harsh grittiness. Against this backdrop, Pankaj Mishra beautifully describes the intellectual and romantic journey of a young brahmin student, who has come to Benares to lose himself in books and solitude. After falling in with a crowd of American and European expatriates, he soon falls in love with a French woman, with mil ...more
May 08, 2015 Amit rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, indian
Pankaj Mishra's first and only fiction, The Romantics, is an engaging read on many levels. The slow pace, the lack of any real story, could be a turn off for many, but it's rarely been an issue for me. Samar, Mishra's hero, seems to be be a reflection of author's young self, given that the narrator seems to be very much extension of the author's voice, if one has read Butter Chicken ...

Set in Banares, the writing is evocative, and sometimes that can be an problem because Mishra seems to be real
Himanshu Rajput
Well, it was my second book from Pankaj Mishra.The first one was Butter Chicken in Ludhiana and I liked it. I started The Romantics as my first read of the year with high expectations.But the book disappointed me. I found myself almost in depression mode while turning the pages. The story was slow and sometimes it bored me.
Jessica Larson-Wang
This book is more 3.5 stars for me but I'm rounding up. I wasn't incredibly impressed with it, but I enjoyed the portraits of the Westerners living in Benares, people mostly backpacking through who just ... stayed. I felt I knew these people somehow, as an expat myself who lived in a city that was a bit like Benares at one point, so I think for that reason alone I was more drawn to the book than I might have been. The portaits of these characters are well drawn, in particular Catherine and her s ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 82 83 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Small Remedies
  • An Obedient Father
  • Everything You Need
  • Schooling
  • Dining on Stones
  • Land
  • Spring Flowers, Spring Frost
  • Forever a Stranger and Other Stories
  • Adjunct: An Undigest
  • Celestial Harmonies
  • All Souls' Day
  • Love's Work: A Reckoning with Life
  • Gabriel's Gift
  • Islands
  • Thursbitch
  • The Heart of Redness
  • The Talk Of The Town
  • City Sister Silver
Pankaj Mishra (पंकज मिशरा) is a noted Indian essayist and novelist.

In 1992, Mishra moved to Mashobra, a Himalayan village, where he began to contribute literary essays and reviews to The Indian Review of Books, The India Magazine, and the newspaper The Pioneer. His first book, Butter Chicken in Ludhiana: Travels in Small Town India (1995), was a travelogue that described the social and cultural ch
More about Pankaj Mishra...

Share This Book

No trivia or quizzes yet. Add some now »