Mishra, Pankaj 1969–
Mishra, Pankaj 1969–
PERSONAL: Born 1969, in India. Education: Allahabad University, B.A.; Jawaharlal Nehru University, M.Phil.
CAREER: Writer. Former chief editor for HarperCollins, India Division, New Delhi.
Butter Chicken in Ludhiana: Travels in Small Town India (nonfiction), Penguin Books (New York, NY), 1995.
The Romantics (novel), Random House (New York, NY), 2000.
(Editor and author of introduction) V.S. Naipaul, The Writer and the World: Essays, Knopf (New York, NY), 2002.
(Editor and author of introduction) V.S. Naipaul, Literary Occasions: Essays, Knopf (New York, NY), 2003.
An End to Suffering: The Buddha in the World (nonfiction), Farrar, Straus & Giroux (New York, NY), 2004.
(Editor and author of introduction) India in Mind: An Anthology, Vintage Books (New York, NY), 2005.
Contributor of articles and reviews to periodicals, including the New York Review of Books, New Statesman, and Times Literary Supplement.
SIDELIGHTS: Pankaj Mishra, who has been called a leading figure in India's new generation of writers, made an auspicious, though anonymous, beginning in the publishing world. While he was an editor with HarperCollins in New Delhi, Mishra discovered the manuscript of what would become the highly acclaimed novel The God of Small Things and quickly signed its author, Arundhati Roy. Later Mishra began to make a name for himself with noteworthy articles and reviews published in the Times Literary Supplement and the New York Review of Books, critiquing both literature and politics on the Indian subcontinent.
In Mishra's first book, Butter Chicken in Ludhiana: Travels in Small Town India, the author compiled an unusual travelogue by foregoing the big cities. Journeying by train and bus, Mishra records his experiences in nineteen small towns across the country. Akash Kapur, writing in the New York Times Book Review, called the book "an excellent—and hilarious—account of lassitude and petty ambition in small-town India that evokes the world immortalized by R.K. Narayan."
Mishra's first novel is The Romantics. Samar, the novel's protagonist, leaves the solitude of his university for the social and political turmoil of Benares, the holiest of Hindu cities. Here he is drawn into two different worlds—one represented by a group of Western expatriates, and the other by Rajesh, a political radical. In the end, Samar discovers that he cannot wholly belong to either world and is left somewhere in the gap between them. The Romantics "establishes Mishra as the author of spare and reflective fiction," commented Kapur in the New York Times Book Review. Kapur further noted that Mishra has "a wonderful capacity for detail and psychological portraiture." In his assessment of the book for the New York Review of Books, John Bayley noted that Mishra has "the gift of writing about his country both from the inside and the outside … in a manner all his own, which has great readability and charm."
Further insights into life in India and the Indian perspective come with India in Mind: An Anthology, which Mishra edited, and An End to Suffering: The Buddha in the World, both an intellectual memoir and a reassessment of the Buddha. With India in Mind, Mishra gathers the writings of two dozen foreign observers of the country, from Paul Theroux to Paul Scott. Ravi Shenoy noted in a Library Journal review of the book: "What emerges from these myriad voices is the sense that India evokes complex reactions in the visitor." Daniel Sullivan, writing in the Weekly Standard, felt that such voices help readers "appreciate that there are mysteries at the bottom of this great civilization." In his memoir, An End to Suffering, Mishra not only introduces readers to the India of his youth and university and professional life, but he also pairs this with an account of the historical and mythical life of the Buddha. Vibhuti Patel, writing in Newsweek International, found this a "compelling new view of the Buddha," while James R. Kuhlman, in a Library Journal review, thought the same work was an "extremely well-written, almost crystalline narrative." Aravind Adiga, a Time International contributor, felt "it is a tribute to Mishra's ability to link India's past to its present that he has turned a book on the Buddha into a social commentary of immense urgency about contemporary India."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Mishra, Panjak, An End to Suffering: The Buddha in the World, Farrar, Straus & Giroux (New York, NY), 2005.
Booklist, February 1, 2000, Michele Leber, review of The Romantics, p. 1008.
Economist, March 18, 2000, review of The Romantics, p. 13.
Library Journal, January, 2000, Caroline M. Hallsworth, review of The Romantics, p. 161; January 1, 2005, Ravi Shenoy, review of India in Mind: An Anthology, p. 137; February 1, 2005, James R. Kuhlman, review of An End to Suffering: The Buddha in the World, p. 85.
Newsweek International, February 14, 2005, Vibhuti Patel, "Snap Judgment: Books," review of An End to Suffering, p. 55.
New York Review of Books, February 24, 2000, John Bayley, "The Heart of the Matter," pp. 8, 10.
New York Times, March 21, 2000, Michiko Kakutani, "Shedding Illusions of Youth by the Ganges," p. B7.
New York Times Book Review, February 27, 2000, Akash Kapur, "Sentimental Education," p. 12.
Publishers Weekly, January 3, 2000, review of The Romantics, p. 57.
Time International, January 10, 2005, Aravind Adiga, "In Search of Buddha," review of An End to Suffering, p. 54.
Times Literary Supplement, February 4, 2000, Shirley Chew, review of The Romantics, p. 21.
Weekly Standard, March 7, 2005, Daniel Sullivan, review of India in Mind, p. 43.
World Literature Today, summer, 2000, Paul Sharrad, review of The Romantics, p. 584.