Brian's Reviews > The Romantics

The Romantics by Pankaj Mishra
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's review
Jun 17, 2012

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Read from June 14 to 17, 2012

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 anxiety about the uncertainly of his own path in life. The narrative is at its best in presenting the sounds, smells, and submerged culture of Benares and other smaller Indian locales; plotting isn’t its strong point, though, and neither is character development. Too often – especially in the latter portions – Samar receives some postcard or meets briefly with some character he (briefly, usually) encountered in Benares earlier, only to realize how their paths have now diverged. He feels a lot of regret, especially about the young Frenchwoman he (briefly) slept with. I think perhaps Pankaj Mishra is a bit too indebted to Flaubert’s Sentimental Education; his novel does leave me feeling much as I did when I finished that work many years ago: feeling a strong sense of jaded ennui, a loss of clear perspective about what a young man needs to do in this life. Still, I quite enjoyed the novel’s portrayal of an Indian consciousness that deviates in important ways from many other, less compelling voices.

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