I built up the conviction to read novels a few days ago. After Khushwantnama, I picked up ‘The Romantics’ by Pankaj Mishra with much trepidation. I usually am very critical of Indian authors especially with the typical IIT-IIM combo flooding the market with their lacklustre work. Though I enjoyed Adiga and Amish Tripathi, I have always felt an aversion to the kinds of Chetan Bhagat (His articles for the papers are very good though).
The Romantics is a typical story of a naïve youth who decides to rid himself of prosaic ways. Set against a primitive background of the 90’s Benares (Varanasi), the story revolves around the life of young Samar who wants to read all he can about everything. Benares, he thought shall provide him with the necessary quiet and direction. However through his journey in the city he meets a variety of strange characters who would later define his life and thought process.
The characterisation, although orthodox, is made fresh by the element of foreigners living in India. The writing uses very complex and futile structures especially during the start but later on settles quite well (first novel). The story ends in a thoughtful lull, befitting the tone of the entire novel.
Hailing from JNU, my mother (MA JNU) tells me that Pankaj Mishra was a voracious reader and never left the library. It showed brilliantly in his very apt quotations of literature. Also the story seemed to be inspired by his own stories (reiterated by mother and the fact that he stayed in Benaras). All in all a refreshing read- 3.5/5