... [a] warmhearted, clear-eyed account of the formative years of his life, a book that reaches from Myanmar to Berkeley and that is less about economic theories—or his own later achievements in the field—than about the contours of an early intellectual journey across multiple continents ... It’s lofty stuff, but there is a lightness with which all of this is recounted. Sen’s writing style in Home in the World is even-keeled and gently humorous. He writes poetically ... But there is also a noticeable reticence when it comes to love that isn’t primarily academic or professional ... That’s not to say he ignores the emotional ups and downs of his lived experience altogether. Sen’s fight with oral cancer, which he first diagnosed himself in 1952 using a few volumes from the Calcutta Medical College library, is told in moving detail. He doesn’t shy away from describing his early encounters with racism, either ... But through it all, Sen’s focus is less on hardship than on generative possibility, particularly as it might be applied to difficult problems.
Sen’s account of his childhood is more attuned to the ideas he imbibed and the times he lived through. The inner life is eschewed for the world outside. A remark on female classmates will trigger Sen to reflect on gender inequality in India, instead of, say, memories of playground pranks and crushes. The portraits of his parents and grandparents are persuasive about their accomplishments and political opinions, not so much about their private hopes and regrets...But then again, to expect the pleasures of a memoir from this early intellectual autobiography is perhaps misguided. Whatever Sen lacks in emotional intricacies, he more than makes up for with his scholarly reveries and social insights ... Is there another intellectual alive who can pull off the following sentence and make the reader believe in his excitement? ... Those familiar with Sen’s career will relish the foreshadowing of themes,
Mr. Sen’s gentle memoir is studded with recollections of this sort, little episodes that shed light on the distant nooks of a long life of distinction ... Stirred in with Mr. Sen’s memories, which are bright in their detail and freshness, are meditations of various sorts ... The most compelling chapters of Mr. Sen’s memoirs are, in truth, not the ones that focus on his professorial life but those that dwell lovingly—even languorously—on his childhood and schooling.