Midnight's Children Paperback – Apr 8 1982
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Anyone who has spent time in the developing world will know that one of Bombay's claims to fame is the enormous film industry that churns out hundreds of musical fantasies each year. The other, of course, is native son Salman Rushdie--less prolific, perhaps than Bollywood, but in his own way just as fantastical. Though Rushdie's novels lack the requisite six musical numbers that punctuate every Bombay talkie, they often share basic plot points with their cinematic counterparts. Take, for example, his 1980 Booker Prize-winning Midnight's Children: two children born at the stroke of midnight on August 15, 1947--the moment at which India became an independent nation--are switched in the hospital. The infant scion of a wealthy Muslim family is sent to be raised in a Hindu tenement, while the legitimate heir to such squalor ends up establishing squatters' rights to his unlucky hospital mate's luxurious bassinet. Switched babies are standard fare for a Hindi film, and one can't help but feel that Rushdie's world-view--and certainly his sense of the fantastical--has been shaped by the films of his childhood. But whereas the movies, while entertaining, are markedly mediocre, Midnight's Children is a masterpiece, brilliant written, wildly unpredictable, hilarious and heartbreaking in equal measure.
Rushdie's narrator, Saleem Sinai, is the Hindu child raised by wealthy Muslims. Near the beginning of the novel, he informs us that he is falling apart--literally:
I mean quite simply that I have begun to crack all over like an old jug--that my poor body, singular, unlovely, buffeted by too much history, subjected to drainage above and drainage below, mutilated by doors, brained by spittoons, has started coming apart at the seams. In short, I am literally disintegrating, slowly for the moment, although there are signs of an acceleration.In light of this unfortunate physical degeneration, Saleem has decided to write his life story, and, incidentally, that of India's, before he crumbles into "(approximately) six hundred and thirty million particles of anonymous, and necessarily oblivious, dust." It seems that within one hour of midnight on India's independence day, 1,001 children were born. All of those children were endowed with special powers: some can travel through time, for example; one can change gender. Saleem's gift is telepathy, and it is via this power that he discovers the truth of his birth: that he is, in fact, the product of the illicit coupling of an Indian mother and an English father, and has usurped another's place. His gift also reveals the identities of all the other children and the fact that it is in his power to gather them for a "midnight parliament" to save the nation. To do so, however, would lay him open to that other child, christened Shiva, who has grown up to be a brutish killer. Saleem's dilemma plays out against the backdrop of the first years of independence: the partition of India and Pakistan, the ascendancy of "The Widow" Indira Gandhi, war, and, eventually, the imposition of martial law.
We've seen this mix of magical thinking and political reality before in the works of Günter Grass and Gabriel García Márquez. What sets Rushdie apart is his mad prose pyrotechnics, the exuberant acrobatics of rhyme and alliteration, pun, wordplay, proper and "Babu" English chasing each other across the page in a dizzying, exhilarating cataract of words. Rushdie can be laugh-out-loud funny, but make no mistake--this is an angry book, and its author's outrage lends his language wings. Midnight's Children is Salman Rushdie's irate, affectionate love song to his native land--not so different from a Bombay talkie, after all. --Alix Wilber --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
"One of the most important books to come out of the English-speaking world in this generation" The New York Review of Books --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.See all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
Rushdie creates a wonderful panorama and guides us through post-1947 nehru's india toward indira's new india as his characters move across the length and breadth of india, associating themselves with history, witnessing its events, and occasionally being a part of them. From the old Kashmir with the silent dal lake to the massacre at Jallianwalbagh, From the Streets and Forts of Delhi to the language riots of Bombay, From the military coups in pakistan, along the mysterious rann of kutch to the Mangroves of the Sunderbans, the story keeps turning while showing you all the nuances, sentiments, and personalities of the indian subcontinent. The characters are brilliantly depicted in rich variety and grab the readers attention immediately. It's not a history book but it presents history with stunning images in rushdie's wonderful hinglish. A wonderful read!
"Midnight's Children" are those born within the first hour of the newly independent India. The story of Saleem's life is intended to parallel the events in India at the same time. It may be my own lack of historical knowledge of India and Pakistan during the 1960s/70s that made this a more difficult read than I'd anticipated.
I found that I had a hard time connecting with any of the main characters. The ones I was most sympathetic to were only around for a chapter at a time. The use of Padma as a means of addressing the reader got very tiresome after a while and didn't seem to be necessary. The whole novel seemed to be leading up to some sort of payoff that, in the end, never materialized. After a month of slogging through this novel, it was disappointing and unsatisfying.
Salman Rushdie, also fortuitously born in 1947, took to heart the classic advice to budding authors: write what you know. The result is beyond history, beyond testimony; it is art. He identifies the truth in the storytelling, or as he puts it: he liberates the truth from history.
The book is tightly interwoven although at times it seems loose and meandering. Saleem's faithful companion Padma speaks for the reader and urges Saleem to get back on track. My favorite aspect of the writing was the sensual quality: it is tremendously atmospheric, and permeated with considerable wry humor. The imagery is rich and resonating. Nothing is gratuitous. Every detail, every description, has either symbolic or historical relevance. This is what sets Salman Rushdie apart from writers who can spin a good yarn and keep the reader engaged, but who have no sense of literary construction, not to mention history.
History is the main theme of the book; personal history, the nation's history, and the need to create one's own history. History has cracks, it comes together and disintegrates, memory is faulty.Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
This book was a gift and he cannot take his eyes off of it, it came in perfect shape and it's a great book ! Worth the purchase !Published 7 months ago by Jasmine Maynard
bought as a gift, so i have nothing good or bad to say about it.Published 8 months ago by Flaaava Daaave
This book is a new favourite entrancing vivid brilliant. There aren't many books that I can't put down but this was one of them.Published 11 months ago by Himmatpreet Kaur
Great book, I really enjoyed reading it. It was my first by Rushdie and I am happy I started with this one. Read morePublished 16 months ago by c b
This was a very stimulating read. I found myself very energized while reading it , and thoroughly enjoyed reading my first Salman Rushie novel!Published 17 months ago by greeneyes
I read this over an extended period of time and enjoyed every word and tale written. Rushdie's descriptions are brilliant and his stories are very funny.Published on Jan. 4 2013 by Therongold