The Romantics

by Pankaj Mishra | Literature & Fiction |
ISBN: 0330396153 Global Overview for this book
Registered by Pixette of Sydney, New South Wales Australia on 2/12/2007
Buy from one of these Booksellers: | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon DE | Amazon FR | Amazon IT |
14 journalers for this copy...
Journal Entry 1 by Pixette from Sydney, New South Wales Australia on Monday, February 12, 2007
ISBN: 0330396153

Picked up at the Pyrmont Community Centre Book Exchange 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

A first novel set in contemporary India, this book describes how Samar, a young Brahmin, escapes a future of small-town jobs to live in Benares, losing himself in books and solitude. Here, he meets Catherine, a French woman who stands at the centre of the events which destroy his equanimity.

Released 12 yrs ago (4/10/2007 UTC) at Edinburgh Castle Hotel, Cnr Pitt & Bathurst in Sydney, New South Wales Australia



Journal Entry 3 by wingFlightwing from Sydney, New South Wales Australia on Wednesday, April 11, 2007
Caught at the Sydney April 2007 MeetUp.

Journal Entry 4 by wingFlightwing from Sydney, New South Wales Australia on Monday, June 11, 2007
Recommended to anyone who has travelled India.

To be released at the June Sydney MeetUp.

Journal Entry 5 by tqd from Sydney, New South Wales Australia on Tuesday, June 12, 2007
Picked this one up last night at the Sydney June 2007 meetup. It looks rather interesting, hopefully I'll be able to squeeze this one into my reading schedule!

Thanks Flight.

Journal Entry 6 by tqd from Sydney, New South Wales Australia on Wednesday, June 13, 2007
I actually discovered this is one of the books in that fabulous tome, 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die, so have offered it up as an international ray once I'm finished with it.

Participants are:

* DrCris (Australia)
* livrecache (Australia)
* taniazed (Australia)
* lakelady2282 (Australia)
* cat207 (Australia)
* jubby (Australia)
* Haugtussa (Norway)
* Jinglefish (UK)
* shnedwards (UK)
* wanderingstar8 (UK)
* GateGypsy (Canada)
* UnwrittenLibra (USA)
* FreePages (Australia)

Journal Entry 7 by tqd from Sydney, New South Wales Australia on Sunday, June 24, 2007
I was quite pleasantly surprised by this: most of the unknown (to me) books I've read from the 1001 Books... book have been a bit tough going. I was beginning to think the editors and I were never going to have anything in common!

This was very well written, and it was fascinating seeing the white spiritual tourist in India from an indian point of view. I don't think we came across as particularly nice people. At the very least, quite insular and non-understanding of different societies/cultures, while believing ourselves to be "in touch".

I found the way Miss West & Catherine used our narrator as just a blank canvas to project their own thoughts/desires onto quite interesting. Although I felt sorry for our narrator! (And did we get his name before page 210? Or did I just forget he was called Samar?) Interesting as well the way we hardly ever got any dialogue from him: he was a blank canvas to us as well sometimes! Maybe that's why I forgot his name...

Loved the descriptions of the Himalayas. I've never been to India, but if I ever do make it, I want to go there. Or star in a Bollywood movie, I'm not terribly fussy.

I must go and find copies of Hesse's Siddartha and Flaubert's A Sentimental Education now. And they're both 1001 Books too! ;)

This will be popped in the mail at the earliest opportunity as it starts its journey around the world! First stop: DrCris. Enjoy, everyone!

Journal Entry 8 by DrCris from Templestowe, Victoria Australia on Friday, June 29, 2007
Arrived today. I smile when I get a book in the mail with a post-it on the front with my name and address. Tehe. I find myself reading too many books at the moment, but this is the next unstarted book that I will pick up. Does that make sense?

Journal Entry 9 by DrCris from Templestowe, Victoria Australia on Friday, July 27, 2007
This book was lovely. It sort of floats along with lightly sketched portraits of these people. It felt so dreamy, like the books I have read set in the early 20th century. Samar's name was introduced sort of late, which emphasises how much of a blank canvas he was. I thought he was well-described, and a "real" person, but one of those people who float along and have trouble interacting with those around them as they seem to have no strong opinions about anything.

Because this book drifts so much, I think I would have preferred to read it in a big block - like by the pool on a holiday. As it was, I got distracted easily and found it difficult to pick up the thread when reading just a couple of pages. I really enjoyed it, but I needed to be a bit more distraction-free to get swept up in it.

I have livrecache's address, so I will send it on if she is ready for it.

Journal Entry 10 by livrecache from Hobart, Tasmania Australia on Wednesday, August 01, 2007
Thanks tqd and DrCris. I'm really looking forward to reading this but I have a scary number of rings to read first. I'll be as quick as I can.

Journal Entry 11 by livrecache from Hobart, Tasmania Australia on Wednesday, September 05, 2007
I'm falling behind with my rings, but this book is the next on my list. This is just an update to let you know that it hasn't slipped under the radar -- although I feel I might have.

Journal Entry 12 by livrecache from Hobart, Tasmania Australia on Saturday, September 15, 2007
I'm too tired to say anything inteligent about this book, other than I really enjoyed its soft, dreamy qualities. It took me a long time to read as, like DrCris, I didn't get a chance to sit down and read it for any extended periods, which I think it deserved. Nonetheless, I thought it was a lovely, lyrical book, and it is very interesting to see how Westerners look to the people of India.

The following is abridged from a review I read.

Did you know that Mishra played a key role in his country's flourishing literary movement? He is most famous for signing up Arundhati Roy The God of Small Things . According to Indian publishing lore, he jumped off a train after reading her manuscript so he could telephone her to say she was a genius.

The Romantics establishes Mishra as the author of spare and reflective fiction that is a welcome antidote to the riotous magic realism so common in contemporary Indian writing (a stylistic indulgence Mishra has disparaged as 'Rushdie-itis'.

Mishra has been compared to E. M. Forster. The Romantics, like A Passage to India, is a subtle and often contradictory story of cross-cultural encounter. Rajesh, who borrows Samar's copy of Flaubert's Sentimental Education,, tells his friend that the French author's portrayal of a small, middle-class existence 'is the story of my world". Yet Samar's own failed relationship with Catherine -- and her unsuccessful affair with another Indian, Anand -- suggest all that is untranslatable across worlds. Although there are moments of hope in The Romantics, moments when the characters find meaning in lives from other continents, that hopefulness is always tempered by an awareness of what Rabindranath Tagore (himself a great champion of cross-cultural understanding) called the 'thorny hedges of exclusion' that spring up between East and West.

Journal Entry 13 by livrecache at By post in Melbourne, a controlled release -- Controlled Releases on Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Released 12 yrs ago (9/25/2007 UTC) at By post in Melbourne, a controlled release -- Controlled Releases



Off to the next participant in the ring . . .

Journal Entry 14 by taniazed on Tuesday, September 25, 2007
Just got this one today! Will get started on it asap!

Journal Entry 15 by taniazed on Thursday, November 01, 2007
Sending off today! Thanks tqd. Will write my thoughts about the book when I have more time!

Journal Entry 16 by lakelady2282 from Lake Macquarie, New South Wales Australia on Tuesday, November 06, 2007
Received today along with an interlibrary loan and The Inheritance of Loss in the mail looming large. This always seems to happen! Three or four bookrings at once. Hopefully I won't be too long. Glanced through the comments which make me feel I'm going to like this book.

Journal Entry 17 by lakelady2282 from Lake Macquarie, New South Wales Australia on Monday, November 19, 2007
Like Tania, I loved the descriptions of the Himalayas. In fact the author does write beautifully about all the places Samar visits. But what I was struck with most forcibily is how English this novel is. I was expecting some essential difference, maybe in underlying themes, maybe in construction to mark this novel as written by someone from a completely different culture to our own. But the difference just wasn't there. However, this is only a minor complaint as it meant a lyrical and pleasant read. I really enjoyed this book. Thanks everyone and now it's off to Cat.

Journal Entry 18 by cat207 from Gladstone, Queensland Australia on Thursday, November 22, 2007
Passed on by lakelady2282 when we met for a late coffee / early dinner this evening. Thanks Deb, and thanks tqd for squeezing me in. I promise I won't be long.

Journal Entry 19 by cat207 from Gladstone, Queensland Australia on Saturday, November 24, 2007
Lots of description - not much action. I, too, thought it read very English. That's two in a row that don't read as you may expect. Maybe I need to change my expectations!

Off to jubby - thanks again tqd. X

Journal Entry 20 by jubby from Sydney, New South Wales Australia on Monday, November 26, 2007
Thank you very much everyone (especially Cat207) for passing this one onto me.

But, unlike Cat207 it is going to take me more then two days to read!

Adding to the ever growing pile beside my bed.

Journal Entry 21 by jubby at Bookring in Bookring, A Bookring -- Controlled Releases on Sunday, December 09, 2007

Released 12 yrs ago (12/9/2007 UTC) at Bookring in Bookring, A Bookring -- Controlled Releases



Posted off to Haugtussa in Norway.

Journal Entry 22 by jubby from Sydney, New South Wales Australia on Sunday, December 09, 2007
Okay, I am a little tired, and ready for bed, with a big day tomorrow. So, I will return later on and edit this journal entry to say why I enjoyed reading this book so much.

But, did want to say thank you to TQD for making this a bookring.

Journal Entry 23 by wingHaugtussawing from Stavanger, Rogaland fylke Norway on Monday, December 17, 2007
The book arrived today, and I've only got one ring book ahead of it!

Journal Entry 24 by wingHaugtussawing from Stavanger, Rogaland fylke Norway on Thursday, December 27, 2007
I really liked this book, the gentle flow of the story.
Have to admit that I'm not to familiar with the Indian caste system and being a Brahim does not really tell me that much. But I managed to not let that influence my reading.

As some of the previous readers I liked the desciptions of the Himalayas and it's officially added on my list of places to go.
Hesse's Siddartha is one of my favourite books all time - so I'd fit nicely into these Western people that try to find the quality of life in Indid (lol). But I'll have to dig out Flaubert's A Sentimental Education.

I already have the address of the next participant so I'll get the book sent off asap.

Journal Entry 25 by Jinglefish from Woking, Surrey United Kingdom on Saturday, January 05, 2008
This arrived safely today - many thanks Haugtussa.

I'm looking forward to reading this asap and hopefully, having lived in India for 8 years, will be able to bring in a few extra observations/comments into my review.

Journal Entry 26 by Jinglefish from Woking, Surrey United Kingdom on Wednesday, January 09, 2008
I too thoroughly loved this book being transported back to, in particular, my first time in India (20 years ago now!) The descriptions were spot on although I think the level of constant street noise and stench were remarkably skimmed over - the oppressive, energy sapping heat also.

I actually thought this booked reflected Indian society at that time (it has moved on considerably since then re becoming Westernised!) For instance there were several parts in the story that struck me as contrasting with Western thinking:

"Anand was often beaten up by his father...... this was when he was already eighteen years old." - A contrast in perceptions re parental authority that can be hard to grasp.

"You can't expect people like Anand's parents to change: they'll always disapprove of her {Catherine} and in some sense that disapproval is important to them. It is part of their identity; they can't let go of it." - My observation is that in Indian society generally no wife is good enough for a son - this comment would probably apply just as much if Anand took an Indian girl of the same caste home. Anand's parents would expect him to marry within his own caste because as that is the way it has always been. The whole workings of society would crumble if inter caste marriages were the norm. Whoever he took home would have probably been given a hard time by the mother-in-law!

But times were changing back then and the scenarios Samar describes brought it all back to me. I was fortunate to marry and move out there to live in my husband's extended family. I was accepted and taken in and very spoilt! But this was a rare exception.

Another thought here concerned money. In a way we in the West, tend to help our children get started and give them money whilst on the flip Indian sons are expected to provide some financial help to their parents and family. It's a huge burden and the pressure to achieve good qualifications and secure a good job is immense.

In general this book flowed along nicely and painted a very evocative picture of everying I love about India and sadly hate about Westerners who go there and often lord their materialism over the locals whilst "finding themselves". You can never fully be at one with everything Indian when you have in the back of your mind the option to escape back to a more materially comfortable life.

Sorry to ramble on - I have PM'd shnedwards for her address and will move along as soon as I receive it. Many thanks for including me in this ring.

Journal Entry 27 by Jinglefish from Woking, Surrey United Kingdom on Saturday, January 12, 2008
Posted to shnedwards today 1st class.

Journal Entry 28 by wingshnedwardswing from Birmingham, West Midlands United Kingdom on Monday, January 14, 2008
Arrived today! I've got another couple of bookrings ahead of this but will get to it as soon as I can. Thanks very much Jinglefish for sending this on and tqd for sharing!

Journal Entry 29 by wingshnedwardswing from Birmingham, West Midlands United Kingdom on Saturday, March 15, 2008
Mm, lovely descriptions. (I must swot up on my Hindi, though, as I lot of the time I had no idea what the objects he mentioned were. The only one I recognised was chana, which is chick peas.)

Have Pmed the next participant. Will get this book moving again soon. Sorry for keeping it for so long!

On its way 18/03/2008

Journal Entry 30 by wanderingstar8 from London, Greater London United Kingdom on Monday, March 24, 2008
just arrived in a bookring. I'm very excited about reading it...

Journal Entry 31 by wanderingstar8 from London, Greater London United Kingdom on Tuesday, April 29, 2008
I really enjoyed this book - especially the descriptions of India, which are simple, but very evocative - whether Mishra is talking about the cities, the countryside or the mountains. Try this description of a rickshaw ride in the rain: "The rain flowed down the windscreen, which the driver kept wiping with a rag that lay on the dashboard. Gleamingly vivid for one moment, the streets dissolved into smudgy fluorescent colours the next. Passing scooters and autorickshaws kept spraying thick jets of muddy water from the waterlogged road into the back seat".

The descriptions, and Samar's drifting, introspective nature, make this a book that you need to read slowly and savour. I did have one problem with it, though, which is that there were a lot of incidents which seemed as if they ought to be significant, and yet I couldn't figure out what that significance was. Take the title, for example - which of the characters are the romantics? (I'd be interested to hear what everyone else who's read this thinks).

Still, I would certainly like to read the book again, and maybe next time I will have more answers.

I'll send it on to GateGypsy next.

Journal Entry 32 by GateGypsy from Ladysmith, British Columbia Canada on Thursday, July 10, 2008
This showed up while I was on Vacation. Lovely that it has arrived, I'd forgotten all about it! **lol** I'll get to this as quickly as I can, and if I do not finish it before September, then I will pass it on to the last ring member.

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