27 October, 2020

Missing A Small Beat

A delicate, subtle debut that belies the hype which heralded it

Missing A Small Beat
Pankaj Mishra's book The Romantics comes bearing a burden of anticipation. And on that count, it disappoints. It doesn't have the kind of inspired explosive moments and emotional combustion its Rs 2 crore advance led one to expect. Rather, it is a quiet but compassionate book in which Mishra's triumph lies in fleshing out the trembling inner life, imprecise longings and inchoate ambitions of Samar-an archetypal small town boy, intellectually precocious, but emotionally naive, who struggles to make his way in the world through books.

At the heart of The Romantics lies Samar's crippling infatuation for a Frenchwoman, Catherine-a beautiful, but shallow narcissist, the daughter of a leading banker in Paris, who's basically camping in Benares in a show of defiance against her "bourgeois" parents, and who lives rather incongruously with Anand, a down-and-out wannabe sitarist (her pet project for the time being).

Newly arrived in Benares from provincial Allahabad, full of intimations of a larger, richer world, Samar is brimful with vague, undefined hopes and...



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