The extraordinary early life in India and England of one of the world's leading public intellectuals
Where is 'home'? For Amartya Sen home has been many places - Dhaka in modern Bangladesh where he grew up, the village of Santiniketan where he was raised by his grandparents as much as by his parents, Calcutta where he first studied economics and was active in student movements, and Trinity College, Cambridge, to which he came aged nineteen.
Sen brilliantly recreates the atmosphere in each of these. Central to his formation was the intellectually liberating school in Santiniketan founded by Rabindranath Tagore (who gave him his name Amartya) and enticing conversations in the famous Coffee House on College Street in Calcutta. As an undergraduate at Cambridge, he engaged with many of the leading figures of the day. This is a book of ideas - especially Marx, Keynes and Arrow - as much as of people and places.
In one memorable chapter, Sen evokes 'the rivers of Bengal' along which he travelled with his parents between Dhaka and their ancestral villages. The historic culture of Bengal is wonderfully explored, as is the political inflaming of Hindu-Muslim hostility and the resistance to it. In 1943, Sen witnessed the Bengal famine and its disastrous development. Some of Sen's family were imprisoned for their opposition to British rule: not surprisingly, the relationship between Britain and India is another main theme of the book. Forty-five years after he first arrived at 'the Gates of Trinity', one of Britain's greatest intellectual foundations, Sen became its Master.
Sen is so engaging, so full of charm and has such a clear gift for the graceful sentence. It's a wonderful book, the portrait of a citizen of the world ... full of its author's beguiling personality, elegance and wit of presentation, and joyous in its celebration of the life of the mind.
Sen's sensibility still seems Tagorean. There is the same affinity for freedom and imagination, a similar commitment to the vulnerable and the downtrodden, but most of all a shared sense that we don't yet know all there is to know about the world.
The clarity of Sen's thought and the lucidity of his prose are delightful and entertaining but the lightness of his touch can often be deceptive because it sometimes conceals the depth and range of Sen's erudition, the intensity and the passion of his commitment to certain values and ideas and his relentless quest to bring together the home and the world.
a charming, immensely readable, and very enjoyable voyage through the making of a great mind ... we are just led with rare good humour and gentle wit through the formative years of his life ... This is a very accessible book, "fun" to use one of Sen's favourite words, written in beautifully constructed short sentences that explain the most profound observations with commendable brevity ... It is Sen's capacity to maintain a simple style while telling amusing stories or explaining complex issues (as he does occasionally) that is both unique and captivating ... This memoir is an unforgettable story of the evolution of a thinking and enquiring and all too human a mind, as also a tribute to one who has harnessed his abundant academic talent to the needs of the humblest and poorest
Amartya Sen's Home in the World is really three books in one. A sensitively written memoir of the first thirty years of his life, it is interspersed with sharp commentaries on history and politics as well as intellectual disquisitions on economic theory and philosophy.
hypnotic ... Amartya Sen's exemplary life is a lesson in engagement with the world in which he is so at home; he is a real advertisement for someone who is happy being "a citizen of nowhere", or everywhere.
it strikes me that Sen is more than an economist, a moral philosopher or even an academic. He is a life-long campaigner, through scholarship and activism, via friendships and the occasional enemy, for a more noble idea of home - and therefore of the world.
This charming and absorbing book ... has the flavour of a relaxed conversation with a gifted raconteur ... Sen's memoir traces the experiences, encounters, and relationships that determined his conceptual concerns and intellectual evolution. It is also a deeply humane appreciation of what life can offer, filled with respect and empathy for other humans.
captivating ... This is not, though, just a book of ideas. Home in the World can't help but be the work of an intellectual. But, as its title implies, it is the work of an intellectual who acknowledges that ideas grow out of - are imbricated with - phenomena external to the self.
[full of] raconteurial energy ... Sen writes with an elegance and wit ... His accounts of his own work are characteristically succinct and fluent ... His evocation of post-war Cambridge and the towering figures of 20th-century economics are affectionate but just. Even more vivid is the picture of his undergraduate days in Calcutta, with its student revolutionaries and generous booksellers. ... It is striking just how much of Sen's own large-hearted liberalism turn out to have been prefigured in the freedoms of his unusual childhood.