|Midnight's Children: A Novel
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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 G¨¹nter Grass and Gabriel Garc¨ªa M¨¢rquez. 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
Winner of the Booker of Bookers
Saleem Sinai is born at the stroke of midnight on August 15, 1947, the very moment of India’s independence. Greeted by fireworks displays, cheering crowds, and Prime Minister Nehru himself, Saleem grows up to learn the ominous consequences of this coincidence. His every act is mirrored and magnified in events that sway the course of national affairs; his health and well-being are inextricably bound to those of his nation; his life is inseparable, at times indistinguishable, from the history of his country. Perhaps most remarkable are the telepathic powers linking him with India’s 1,000 other “midnight’s children,” all born in that initial hour and endowed with magical gifts.
This novel is at once a fascinating family saga and an astonishing evocation of a vast land and its people–a brilliant incarnation of the universal human comedy. Twenty-five years after its publication, Midnight’s Children stands apart as both an epochal work of fiction and a brilliant performance by one of the great literary voices of our time.
- Magical, wonderful
This is the first and only Rushdie book that I have read, and I am very glad I picked it. The plot and narrative are large, that's for sure, but this is part of what makes the book so fine. The story focuses on the lives of the children in India who are born in the midnight hour of the day of the nation's independence. This special birth date and time convey to the children unique powers, in particular to the main character, Saleem. The book follows Saleem through his life as he interacts with his fellow midnight's children and his family. It is basically all flash-back as Saleem recounts the story as he nears the end of his life. While events in the novel are fantastical, the world is self-contained, believable, and thoroughly engaging. I am not well-versed in the history of India, and might have more to comment on in terms of how the book relates to it if I knew more. What I do know is that this is one of the most original books I have read, and ended up caring very much for the characters it contained. Exceptional....more info
- A bit of background makes a huge difference.
I hate fighting my food, and I similarly hate to fight what I'm reading. I've read too many rambling books that one is "supposed" to enjoy, only to put them down in disgust. However, this one came across to me as completely enjoyable and straightforward! Why? Because I've lived in India for two years, and had no problems following the characters or the march of history behind them. I only wish I had this kind of context with other such books. My very unconstructive advice? Move to India--wait for some time--and then read this....more info
- not a great novel
There's a lot of praise for this book, and I thought I'd put my two cents in. One important note: Rushdie PURPOSELY inserts historical innacuracies, so don't think you're getting an accurate historical account - that's done on purpose. Indeed, from a post-structuralist theoretical standpoint, Rushdie's project is clearly to deconstruct. But, he goes nowhere with it. His whole novel can be summed up in a few lines: The popular version of history is inherently corrupted by social mediating forces; so, in order to combat that force, I'm going to offer MY version of history to show that there is no ONE history. It's a pretty standard argument, but he doesn't develop it beyond that. I would suggest that you look to Faulkner (who focuses on history's lingering qualities) or Ellison's Invisible Man (in which he focuses on how to break through cycles of historical oppression). They handle the effects of history in a much more engaging and profound way....more info
- Tedious and boring
I wanted to read a Rushdie book and I've heard this book being called the "Booker of the Bookers" (referring to the prize). Rusdie's writing may be poetic and beautiful, but it is hard to trudge through this fairly long book. Furthermore, Midnight's Children is not particularly educational as far as Indian history and culture. The author may deserve his great reputation for his writing style but don't expect to be entertained.
Reading this book made me feel like I was back in highschool and reading a required book for English class. My apologies to literature lovers who may consider me a philistine....more info
- Midnight's Children
Midnight's Children is considered to be Rushdie's masterpiece; it won the Booker Prize, and then, in 1993, it won the 'Booker of Bookers', ie the best book to have won the Booker Prize in the first 25 years of the award. In addition to this, Rushdie's reputation is not built upon his literary merits so much as the surrounding controversy of another book, The Satanic Verses, which all but condemned him to years of hiding and constant moving about in an effort to escape fundamentalist Muslim assassination-attempts.
The premise for this novel is amazing. At the stroke of midnight on August 15th, 1947, India achieved independence and became a valid country, free from the shackles of Britain. One thousand and one children were born in the hour from midnight to 1am, one thousand and one children with magical powers, the potency of which increases the closer the child was born to midnight.
The narrator, Saleem Sinai, was one of two children born on the exact stroke of midnight, and throughout the novel various allusions to yin and yang, good and evil, up and down, et cetera are made between Saleem and Shiva, the other child, but unfortunately nothing really comes from this. Although mentioned often and with great vehemence on the part of the narrator, Shiva never really came across as a 'bad guy', or even someone that should be worried about at all.
The story meanders through thirty odd years of life before Saleem's birth, detailing the lives and idiosyncracies of his parent's and grandparent's adventures, which, admittedly, are described with great sweeping motions and tantalizing literary strokes. Sentences marvel, paragraphs sing with wit or beauty, but...what was the point? After Saleem is born, events take an incredibly epic turn, as the implications of the children of midnight are revealed, but then, the narrator just sort of forgets about it and rambles on about things that, given the immensely intruiging concept of the children, just doesn't spark any interest.
The narrator is an interesting writer. He repeats reiterates recapitulates words in threes, often, and that works. He used parentheses artfully, and well. But the narrator foreshadows everything and anything, so that we are always reading about events that will come to pass, soon or otherwise, and in cryptic ways, 'He kept himself in the background of our lives, always, except twice...once when he left us; once when he returned to destroy the world by accident'. It is an exceptionally annoying literary technique, serving only to make the reader wish that events would hurry up so that the portentous-sounding episodes will occur, but...even they are marred by fore-shadowing and never really live up to the promises, anyway.
The last one hundred and fifty pages drag, seemingly without cohesion, in an effort to combine the plot-threads, to actually make the children a part of the story - and, disappointingly, they really aren't very predominant - but it doesn't work. Then, in a whirlwind twenty pages, everything is tied up neatly, the children are dealt with, and the book ends. The fantastic premise never really lived up to its promise, and the book suffers.
Is Midnight's Children a failure? No. As a story, it is enjoyable, written well, and at times, beautiful. Certain passages are crafted with amazing skill, and the narrator is a pleasant enough fellow. But the concept of the midnight's children should have been ditched - the story would have worked well enough without them because they never really played a part - and the book would have been greater as the spectre of great things to come would not have existed....more info
- Post Modern features in Midnight's Children..
Midnight's Children has tried to shake the foundations of some power structures , which is the main aim of any postmodern work. Rushdie has mixed fantasy with facts in right proportion to picturise Post-Independent India. Children born during the night of Indian independence are called "Midnight's Children." They suffer from all the ailments of Independent India. They are made unproductive like the country. Declaration of Emergency by Indira Gandhi is compared to the labour pangs of Parvati, a witch. All the important historical events like The Jalianwala Bagh Massacre, Bangladesh War, and The Emergency are mixed with magical elements like Aziz's itching nose saving him from the bullets of English soldiers on the Jallianwala Bagh ground. Rushdie aptly uses terms like 'chutnification of history' and 'pickles of history' to explain his treatment of history. There is 'discontinuity' in narration. But we see 'permutation' in places where Saleem brings all the women of his life in an order to explain Parvati, the witch, about his marriage. Saleem lives a 'fragmented' life. He is split into 'fragments' by his grandfather's rationality, grandmother's credulity, father's numbness, mother's fragmented life, and sister's lovelessness. He has no constant identity. He gets lost in a jostling crowd of 'I's. Rushdie mixes all genres. He includes film trailors, gossips, advertisements, posters, and third rate similes, and jokes to break the distinction between high and low literature. This is called 'hybridity.' Rushdie seems to give his own comments through Saleem. Salman merges into Saleem in some places, and it is clear in the text. This is called 'short circuit'. Rushdie's 'Midnight's Children' shares many of the post modern techniques, and can be called a novel with post- modern features. ...more info
- I love Salman Rushdie.
Midnight's Children is a very well thought out book; the whole narrative is obviously laid out from the beginning. The narrator, Saleem, is a rambling sort who is scrambling to write down his life story before he cracks and breaks away - "Now the crack, the cracks and always the cracks are narrowing my future towards its single inescapable fullpoint; and even Padma must take a back seat if I'm to finish my tales." The narration isn't rushed though, but it does tend to delve off into personal speculation at times. I wasn't bothered by this because I found it entertaining, but some people might be. Saleem was born on the stroke of midnight on the day of the birth of the nation of India, so his story is also the story of India as it transforms from a tender and weak country into an adult and dangerous one. The best part of the story is Salman Rushdie's writing, in my opinion. He tends to use what I call adjective or noun or verb strings - putting words together like in this one: "driven on by the imperatives of rip tear crack, I abandon reflections." Salman Rushdie has such a unique style of writing, one that forces the reader to completely focus on what is being said or else he/she will miss something vital. It's gorgeous, colored by Indian phrases and sentence-structuring. Midnight's Children is a very interesting story, and I'd recommend it to anyone, but especially lovers of unique prose....more info
- Not a quick read
Midnight's Children is in essence a history of Modern India told through the life of one boy/man. It is a dense read and throughout its 500 some pages, there are no pauses in the development of the magical realist plot. It's a great book that will be an enjoyable read for anyone intersted in international politics, religion, sociology, history, or simple human nature. ...more info
- The Magic of India
Rushdie employs magical realism to unveil the soul of India. An incredible fiction that tells the true story of India's birth as a nation. I read the book years ago, and then felt it come to life as I spent 6 months wandering around India. A work of art, and one of my favorite books ever....more info
- "Your life, which will be, in a sense, a mirror of our own..."
The children in question are those hundreds of infants born at midnight on August 15, 1947 - the precise moment at which the independent Indian nation state came into existence. They all have supernatural gifts, but few more so than the narrator, Saleem Sinai, blessed (or cursed) with the enormous nose of his presumed ancestors which gives him the gift of telepathy, the ability to "sniff out" what others are thinking. But he is not his father's son. Switched at birth with another baby, Saleem is a Hindu child raised by wealthy Muslims. This book is his written record of Indian national history from 1910 to 1978, through its concordances with his own family life - an expression of what Rushdie calls "the national longing for form", the obsession with correspondences and similarities. We follow Saleem and his riotous extended family through the partition of India and Pakistan, the ascendancy of "The Widow" Indira Gandhi, war, and, eventually, the imposition of martial law. As Saleem discovers, "midnight has many children; the offspring of Independence were not all human. Violence, corruption, poverty, generals, chaos, greed and pepperpots ..." Readers familiar with the history of twentieth-century India will find this more enjoyable than most, as much of the pleasure here lies in the way Rushdie folds national-political events into Saleem's experiences using four modes of connection which Saleem helpfully describes midway through - active-literal, passive-metaphorical, passive-literal, and active-metaphorical. The other pleasure is Rushdie's language, which is rich and complex (however there were times when I found his rhetorical style almost tedious). Fortunately, this is a very funny book, taking many of its cues from Bollywood cinema, and it's also quite acidic: part comedy, part angry polemic, it's a an odd combination but the result is a wonderful piece of literature. This is a book you will probably read several times in your life and enjoy in new ways with each encounter....more info
- Midnight's Children by Salman Rushdie
Midnight's Children centers around the protagonist, Saleem Sinai, recounting the story of his life to his lover one night. In his life is the entirety of Indian post-independent history; in and on his body are the markings and symbols that relate to his country. He is a member of a group of people born the evening that Indian was freed from British rule, each person born with special powers elevating them from the rest of the population. This story at its core is of the parallels that Saleem (and his friends) shares with India, and what a most unusual story it is. This book is 560 pages of complete storytelling mastery. It is an epic of magical realism, fully deserving its comparisons with "The Tin Drum" and "One Hundred Years of Solitude." Rushdie writes to the edges of the page and beyond, filling every sentence with originality and crazy invention that (wildly) has the control never to veer off into complete farce, which is indeed a gift. It is highly intellectual and complex, but written with deep humor and pathos, told by a narrator that continually holds the reader's hand to get them through the tough spots. The places that this book goes and the experiences it offers the reader could not be properly encapsulated in any review, so just note that it is worthy of all its praise and is easily one of the best books of the last century....more info
- The best book I have read in years!
This piece of artwork was simply astonishing. Rushdie's voice is poetic and clear; there is no other work like this.
Throughout the book, you can almost see Rushdie's writing style change. This may usually be a weakness in other pieces, but in this book it is perfect, strengthening the power of the novel, changing along with the people in the story- it takes my breath away!
All the characters are human; they become your friends and enemies. Just as everyone in the story leaves their mark on the main character, Saleem, Rushdie leaves his mark on you....more info
- Once is definitely enough
The ideas behind this novel are very creative and promising however the actual story drags more than once. The last third of the book is slow and boring then rushed at the very end as if Rushdie lost interest himself. I was enraptured for the first half and yawning for the second. I'll pass on seconds....more info
- I get it now!
The first time I tred to read this book I got about one third of the way through. It didn't hold my interest. I liked the writing style sometimes, but it didn't seem to be going anywhere. Then I tried again. This time I found it much easier, but I was still sometimes bored, and I was not sure why this was such a great book. Finally, I started nearing the end, and I began to figure out what this book actually was. It wasn't so much some particular thing in the book at that point as the entire narrative starting to cumulatively come together.
This book is a masterpiece, entirely deserving of the Booker Prize it won. It gives one a sense of Indian history--not the country as a whole, which would be boring and impersonal, but as lived by the protagonist, Saleem. (And presumably by Rushdie, who is almost the same age--though the novel as a whole is certainly not autobiographical.) The humor, joy, tragedy, and anger all work. This was the first book of Rushdie's I read. It will not be the last....more info
- Impressive story-telling
Midnight's Children is perhaps strange in that it is an immensely popular novel but is also very intellectual and even esoteric. The story is narrated by Saleem Sinai, who was born at the exact moment of India's Independence. He is a very self-reflective narrator, who lets us in on his own perspective on his story-telling, as well as telling us the reaction of his servant Padma who is also listening to the story and who affects it as well. There are many twists and turns regarding the relationships between characters; there are name changes, nick-names, false-starts. This is of course what Salman Rushdie is interested in.
Rushdie has said that he thought this novel is about excess. You can see what he means as so much is packed into this novel and it is a credit to the author that he keeps this up all the way through (it took 5 years to write, apparently). But it also feels like it has been worked at, and requires a fair bit of working on the part of the reader. There are touching moments, and comic moments. These are genuine, but must be won by the reader who has to pay attention and keep up with the complexity of the novel.
There is so much in this book that you notice new things about it each time you read it. Rushdie has said that he quite likes it when he comes across words from different cultures in books (e.g. Jewish phrases in Roth). It would be best if readers share Rushdie's view when reading Rushdie himself as there are all sorts of words and phrases here that are not all explained....more info
- A ...Trip into History
This is a book to take on vacation... or a book to read at home if you cannot afford a vacation! If you allow it, this book will completely pull you into it's pages and have you eating, sleeping, and dreaming it's story. Besides being an amazing book with a plot that twists more than Chubby Checker, it's to some extent a pocket history of India. Sadly, I wish I had read it as part of a literature, history or culture class to know and appreciate more of the story BEHIND the story....more info
- Well-constructed framework bloated with anecdotes and words
Clever idea. Politically correct book. Historical fiction. An educational book for the uninformed western observer. Despite all these positives, there is little that drives the narrative, and much like the magical realism of Love in the Time of Cholera, the story is overly weighted by anecdote after anecdote and by the seeming inevitability of a trite conclusion. Rushdie's language is at times inventive and rich, and at moment's stirring. But overall the story is bogged down by inconsequential details, overly repetitive motifs and structure, and the lack of a really compelling and immediate story. As a middle-aged man, in general I no longer find novels highly engaging, so you can take that with a grain of salt as well. ...more info
- innovate structuring of the characters
He (salman rushide) displays a unique style of writing in his Midnight's children, besides being very playful with his words and sentences. His work is not structured like a typical novel - list of characters, a plot/suspense and a climax..
In his view, after all this is a memoir, he describes how he has organized it. Each chapter is a jar of pickle. Has a raw material (character) and he adds the right amount of spices (characteristics) to make them irresistible.
His characters die before they are born, he has no interest in suspense. While each jar focuses on one character, bits and pieces of other characters are added to enhance/enrich taste of the pickle in making, exhibiting different characteristics. After tasking all the jars, one is only left with awe of characters. they are seasoned so well that one can't be judgemental about them and this applies to both the major and minor. There is no good or bad. They are just there!
Content however is common sense. He captures the pulse of South Asian families. (Indian/Pakistan/Bangladesh) across different economic statures and how they are affected by personal and political views of the day. He is exhaustive with the content (without being boring) that it is hard to notice anything missing from the book. (Of course there will be something missing, because it is a fixed edition and he acknowledges and convinces the reader that it is not his fault...)
What exhaustive book, can be complete without asking the basic question...
"Who what am I?". (Thats right, he plays with the words, makes his own sentences.)
Now who can conjure a new answer to that, and yet has anyone answered this question yet? here he goes...
"My answer (he says) : I am the sum total of everything that went before me, of all I have been seen done, of everything done-to-me. I am everyone everything whose being-in-the-world affected was affected by mine. I am anything that happens after I've gone which would not have happened if I had not come."...more info
- A rare imaginative gem!
Complex, interesting characters and plot. Best I have encountered. Imaginative. Brilliant. Plus a nice historical fiction backdrop. ...more info
- Destiny Works In Mysterious Ways
Saleem Sinai, the narrator, was born when the clock struck twelve on the day when India became free of Britain at last (1947). Through some strange effect of physics, each of the children born at that time has something wrong with him-or right, some special spooky power they cannot figure out. Some have extra special sensitivity, others super strength. Some of the superpowers are funny, some quite poignant. Like the X Men, Midnight's Children are (mostly) ashamed of their special gifts; and this becomes a metaphor for the admixture of Hindu and Muslim that made up India until the partition a year or so later and the birth of Pakistan. And still the races and religions cavort in an eternal spectacle of high and low. Saleem's own power is the ability to experience smells with more punch than ordinary citizens, and you can imagine in the pungent provinces of India he visits this is as much a curse as a blessing.
The two babies, switched at birth, become each other's opposite number. A Hindu boy, raised as a Muslim; a Muslim, raised Hindu. As Shakespeare said, in ALL'S WELL THAT ENDS WELL: "For I the ballad will repeat/ Which men full true shall find:/ Your marriage comes by destiny,/ Your cuckoo sings by kind." As the servant Padma listens to this modern Scheherezade, the relations of master and servant also dissolve from within, a dark allegory of the postcolonial nexus of modern writing. Rushdie seems to be hinting that we're none of us where we're meant to be, and that at this late date there's not much we can do but lump it.
After 25 years MIDNIGHT'S CHILDREN continues to sell happy numbers of copies for its author, the controversial and limelight-dwelling Salman Rushdie. He lives comfortably off the many editions his masterpiece has gone through. Every now and then you hear an imaginative screenwriter announce that he's "conquered" MIDNIGHT'S CHILDREN, but in truth the pleasure of the book is very much in its intratextual details, and I can't imagine a successful movie version, though I said the same about MYSTERIOUS SKIN and look how wrong I was there....more info
- 3? what?
yes, i give it 3 stars. this is odd because it's the lowest i've ever rated a book. i think. the book was wonderful but it just took Rushdie so darn long to bring it together. and even when this was accomplished (in the last 150 pages of 520), it was a bit anticlimactic. very vivid ending to the story but i just think that you might pick up 'the moors last sigh' before you pick this one up....more info
- it doesn't get better than this
This book is as close to perfect as you can get. I personally like magical realism and also wanted to learn more about the recent history of India.
Worth noting, the Mistry book, A Fine Balance, while good, is basically a full on rip off of this book. If you want the original, read Rushdie. Mistry should be ashamed. His is not even a different take, it is just another take of the same image and not as good....more info
- Top of my list
This book ranks as my all-time favorite read. I haven't read anything else by Rushdie yet, so I can't comment on his other work. But I can't even imagine another book knocking this one off the top of my list. From a story-telling standpoint, it is thoroughly entertaining and unpredictable throughout. The characters are truly interesting and well-developed. And the way in which Rushdie manages to weave the narrator's story into the modern history of India and Pakistan on many levels is masterful. I think that this book will hold up for the ages as a prime example of the effective use of allegory, symbolism, poetic prose, and other literary techniques. I am completely awed by Rushdie's sheer creativity, intelligence and skill. After reading this book, I now have new additions to my responses to the age old questions: "What five people would you most like to have dinner with?" and "What five books would you want to have with you on a deserted island?"...more info
- A Beautiful Story of a Character and His Country
Salman Rushdie's Midnight's Children is an incredible achievement. Mr. Rushdie is able to relate the complex story of twentieth century India through a personal narrative that is entertaining, magical and beautiful. The novel is presented as the autobiography of Saleem Sinai, who was born at the exact moment of India's independence. This gives him supernatural powers, namely the ability to communicate telepathically with 420 other "midnight children." These children, all born in the first hour of India's independence, all have some supernatural ability. Saleem's account goes beyond his own experience, including stories from the lives of his grandparents, parents, neighbors, and many others. Using him as a symbol, Rushdie explains the multifaceted and somewhat confused identity of India as a whole, a theme that surfaces in many ways throughout the novel. Rushdie's story combines fact and fantasy to create a magnificent picture of the modern history of India.
From his birth, Saleem's life is tied to his country. Due to the incredible situation of his birth, Prime Minister Nehru writes to him, "We shall be watching over your life with the closest attention; it will be, in a sense, the mirror of our own" (139). Parallels between Saleem's life and the life of India are found throughout the novel. In addition to his mother and father, he names many people as "parents," including his nurse, a neighbor, his friend, and a number of others. This parallels the numerous "parents" of India's culture, including British, Hindu, Muslim, and other influences. Saleem's childhood sees issues with identity and purpose. Similarly, he witnesses many events that show identity issues for the new nation, including language marches and the Indo-Pakistan war. Additionally, Saleem is fragmented and falling apart. He describes a physical ailment that he has, "I have begun to crack all over like an old jug ...I am literally disintegrating" (36). This resembles the fragmented culture of India. In numerous ways, the history of modern India is echoed in Saleem's life.
Rushdie's unique style is as magical as the story itself. The novel constantly uses vivid images to convey meaning. Saleem states that he is able to smell history, referring to "the vinegary force of Adam Aziz's determination" (14) and "the acrid stench of his mother's embarrassment" (14). Rushdie combines symbols, rich images, and expressive prose in a way that adds to the dream-like aspect of the novel. When writing about a moment of insecurity, Saleem says, "green shards lacerated my hands as I entered that swirling universe in which I was doomed, until it was far too late, to be plagued by constant doubts about what I was for" (187). This picturesque style greatly contributes to the surreal character of the story.
If one goal of Midnight's Children was to convey the history and culture of twentieth century India, this novel is very effective. Rushdie covers the wide range of people that make up this nation by including countless diverse individuals and scenes. Saleem writes, "I have been a shallower of lives; and to know me, just the one of me, you'll have to swallow the lot as well" (4) symbolically saying that to understand India, one must understand all of these stories. Considering the sheer amount of characters and plot developments, the book is amazingly smooth and easy to read. The author is able to tie the whole range of these varied accounts into one coherent picture. Yet this novel goes far beyond that goal. It historically documents a culture and simultaneously composes a magical personal story. Rushdie does all of this with a brilliant, unique style that makes the entire novel a remarkable work of art.
Salman Rushdie's Midnight Children conveys the multifaceted history of India with the incredible story of one person's life using symbolism and metaphor. The dream-like quality of Rushdie's style adds greatly to the magical aspects of the story. The novel effectively achieves its goal, and is both fascinating and beautiful....more info
- A good book with some problems
Discount the 3 stars, because what I really mean is 3.5 stars. Althought not the great work of literature that many believe it to be, it is still a good book that is well worth reading. It has a compelling narrative and Rushdie is talented storyteller. The story is what is really worth getting into here, but the main problem is with its style, and that is what makes it not great literature. Quite frankly, Rushdie just doesn't seem as talented at getting his story into written form as he is at having the story itself. Rushdie seems to be trying to do for India what Marquez did so well for Colombia with "One Hundred Years of Solitude" but heproves hampered by numerous stylistic mistkaes. The most glaring and overarching problem with this book is how Rushdie tries to incorporate magical realism. "Midnight's Children" attempts to utilize magical realism in a looser, less fable-like tone than that used by Marquez. While noble in intention, the style that Rushdie uses simply proves to not be as conducive to this type of story-telling as the folkloric style of Marquez and various others. My other problems with the prose are most likely personal preferences, but there are many gimmicks that are used that I found to fall flat or to kill narrative tension (especially how the majority of the events are told many times before they happen so that by the time the book ends, I felt like I had read an additional 100 page epilogue summarizing what I'd read before). All of this can be tied the fact that prose seemed unduly messy. Not in a get-inside-the-narrating-character's-style messy, but a messy that cries out for a better editor. However, these complaints are easily overshadowed by the greatness of the story itself and in the compelling characters, as well as Rushdie's skill in weaving the story into the greater story of the book, that of Postcolonial India. Looking back over this, I think that three stars might be a tad too harsh, but I feel that the complaints about the prose and its inflated status as in the last twenty-four years warrant it as a warning of sorts. However, don't let the rating drive you away from the book, but also don't fall into the trap of overvaluing this "Booker of the Bookers" (as it was awarded) and take the book for what it is: a good story wrapped in poor wrapping. ...more info
- Wicked Sense of Humor
Oh, my goodness. What do I say about this? It's such a rich, excellently written story with lots of interesting action and characters. Bonus: Rushdie has a wicked wicked WICKED sense of humor. And, did I say that the writing is to die for? Envy the size of an elephant inhabited my body as I was reading this ... however, it didn't take any pleasure away from the reading of it. Okay, I'm gonna get bossy now: Put it on your to-do list.
- it's an important book but he sure does ramble
Yes it's a very important momentous book but it's also incredibly undisciplined and selfindulgent ie unexplained non-universally understood in-jokes and references.
I got the sense that if there were a hundred layers and levels of meaning, I got only 25 to 33 layers, and the rest was above my head (I am Asian American raised in New York and living in Los Angeles without a deep knowledge of history but who reads the New York Times).
I felt the same way about Call It Sleep by Henry Roth....more info
- Ambitious, but too long
I had never read any of Salman Rusdie's work until this novel. (I was told this was a good place to start with Rushdie.) I admired very much the ambition of MIDNIGHT'S CHILDREN. Rushdie is to be commended for trying to write a great book. He almost did it. The first half is really vivid and enthralling. Rushdie's prose is truly winged. However, somewhere about halfway through the novel (about the time the narrator leaves Pakistan), I lost interest and the rest of the book became a chore to finish. There really wasn't much of a payoff either, considering all the time invested in reading such a thick book. I think MIDNIGHT'S CHILDREN would have been a much stronger book had it been pruned by at least a third. There were also too many loose ends for my taste. I'm glad I read the book though, and I think I have a pretty good idea of Rushdie's strengths and weaknesses as a writer now. It's not a bad book, but it's far from being a masterpiece....more info
- Love the writing style
Rushdie's writing style is magic to read, and his words pull you into the stories he weaves. At some points in the book, you do start to notice how long it is, but for the most part, it's very enjoyable! I will read another of his books!...more info
- A cleverly-written genius of a novel
Saleem, the protagonist of Midnight's Children, repeatedly says that to understand him, his readers will have to "swallow a world"--that is, to understand his story, they will have to understand every single detail that influences it in any way. And here is the genius of Rushdie's novel: in its epic attempt to document the myriad seemingly insignificant details that make up a life, Midnight's Children creates something much more than autobiography, much larger than personal intrigue, and ultimately much more important than the simple story the back of the book makes it out to be. Midnight's Children, the fictional autobiography of Saleem Sinai, is the best novelistic testament to memory--both personal and national--that I have ever read. Asking what it means to remember, what it means to forget, what it means when the most character-shaping memories you have are factually inaccurate, it leads to one huge question: is it the way things actually happened or the way you remember them happening that is important?
In the 500 or so pages of this novel, Rushdie weaves a clever and fantastical story about Saleem Sinai, born exactly as India becomes independent, and his perceived influence on the fate of the nation. Because his birth links him so intimately to his country, Saleem believes that he is the center of every historical event of note, causing wars, international incidents, and interpersonal fiascos by what he calls his "rearranging of history." To the reader, of course, his influence is absurd, as is the idea that one relatively insignificant person could have so much effect on so large a scale. But the genius of Rushdie's writing is that Saleem's position is simply a relatively common one writ large: don't we all feel that we are somehow the center of all that happens around us? Saleem's story strikes any of us who would like to feel that we are significant beyond the borders of our own selves.
A word of warning: if you're expecting to learn factual Indian history from this book, beware. Though it is loosely based on actual events, Rushdie is clear that this is a story of memory--memory which necessarily distorts and rechronologizes according to its whims. In fact, if you read Imaginary Homelands, a collection of essays also by Rushdie, he's explicitly clear that some of the details are blatantly wrong, and he means them to be so. Don't read this book as the end-all truth about Indian post-colonial history. But if you're looking for a compelling read combining personal and national identity, factual past and remembered past, individuality and its war against communal insiginificance, by all means, this book is for you. ...more info
- What I Would Bring With Me on a Deserted Island
If ever the world ends, and it was left to me to repopulate the planet, my progeny will all be required to read Salman Rushdie's Midnight's Children. This is the work of a true genius, an uncompromising original creative mind. A true gem. The new order of the human race brought up in Midnight's Children will be a breed of creative, intelligent and humane genuises, tolerant and accepting of the uniqueness each of us posses....more info
- Midnight's Children
The subject matter and vocabulary in Midnight's Children are unfamiliar to American readers, and Salman Rushdie loves his flashbacks and digressions. So this book is tough going for much of the way. Somewhere near halfway through the book, you begin to recognize the different threads of the plot and the book begins to make more sense. At this point, you want to begin marking up every page with cross-references and notes, to keep track of what is going on. I would say that this book is a good subject for study but I'm not sure that it's a good read. In fact, I'm not even sure it can be read, in the usual sense of the word, by most people outside India.
But it's worth the effort to try. Midnight's Children is an intense and revealing exploration of India's culture and politics, mixing factual information (" . . . although there is considerable disagreement about the number of 'political' prisoners taken during the Emergency, either thirty thousand or a quarter of a million persons certainly lost their freedom."), humorous observations (" . . . the water shortage had reached the point where milkmen could no longer find clean water with which to adulterate the milk . . ."), and wildly imagined events (a communist snake charmer induces a pair of cobras to act out a rich man refusing to give alms to a beggar, police harassment, hunger, disease, and illiteracy). The narrator is Saleem Sinai, a man born at midnight on the day of India's independence. His destiny, of course, is closely bound up with that of his country. He and one thousand other "midnight's children," alternately influence the course of history and are influenced by it in all sorts of improbable ways. In tracing Sinai's life, Rushdie finds occasion to comment on scores of important developments in India's history....more info
- Too literary for me
This book won the Booker of Bookers, so when I saw it sitting on the shelf, it said, "I must be good, take me home!" After all, I've adored some other Booker winners.
Not this one.
Saleem Sinai is born at the stroke of midnight, August 15th, 1947, at the same moment that India becomes an independent nation. He knows that he must be special - he even receives a letter from the Prime Minister for such a fortuitious birth time. This book isn't just about him, though, it is about several generations of his family and the history of his country, all of which makes it into a lengthy literary saga.
I didn't like Saleem. He drove me crazy with his dodging of topics and endless diversions. I wasn't interested in his relationship with Padma and I got completely fed up with his self-important attitude. I understand that his condition is reflected by India throughout the novel, but that didn't mean I enjoyed reading about it just because it had literary value. His connection with the other midnight children was interesting, but once again his arrogance ruined it. He's an unreliable narrator to an extent, but not in the way that I like, if that makes any sense at all. He's just trying to make himself sound good. Maybe because he is, apparently, not very attractive.
India, as a country, was by far the most compelling character throughout the book. I loved reading about the different regions, about Bombay and Delhi, about how rapidly India was changing. I'd certainly recommend this book for insight into the culture and that is easily the best part of it. I wouldn't mind seeing the Kashmir region for myself, now, after reading about it so many times.
So, in the end? I think Midnight's Children was too literary for me. I can tell that I'd get more enjoyment out of it if I went through in a class and then had to write a paper on it to pick it apart. As I was going through, I actually picked out paper topics that would illuminate the subject matter better. I'm not quite crazy enough to go out and write a paper just now, though. If I ever have fewer TBRs waiting for me, I might pick it up again and see if I can catch some of the threads that I missed this time, but I don't anticipate that happening for a long time....more info
- Not a fan of Rushdie, however...
Midnight's Children is certainly an interesting read, and I admire Rushdie's attempt at writing a very different type of novel. I will spare you the novel synopsis, as others have probably gone to great lengths to recap the story. Keep in mind, that the story does flip back and forth in the memories of the writer (which is different from Rusdie).
I didn't particularly like the Satanic Verses and I read this novel for a class on Expatriate Literature. As Expatriate Literature goes, this was a great exploration of the theme.
Well worth reading....more info
- challanging but worth it
This book took me a while to read. It is very wordy and a bit of a challenge, but if you are up for a challenge this book is definitely worth reading. The story is so different from anything I had ever read before, and it gives such a detailed depiction of India and her history....more info
- dumdum 25 dollar toiletpaper
had fair expectations. rushdie spends too much time being cutesy and obnoxiously witty. read a book on indian history instead. ...more info
- Truly a masterpiece
A beautiful book of epic proportions. Some compare his work to Gabriel Garcia Marquez and I wholeheartedly agree. His mastery of fantasy is unparalleled, yet unique in it's simultaneous portrayal of reality. In addition to learning about spectacular writing and enjoying the construct of each sentence, I also found my knowledge of the regional history greatly expanded. One of the top ten books I've ever read. Truly a masterpiece!...more info
If I wasn't completely convinced before that Salman Rushdie has a claim to be the most gifted writer on the planet, I am after reading this book.
This novel is a generational saga along the lines of Gabriel Garcia-Marquez's "One Hundred Years of Solitude" and Jeffrey Eugenides's "Middlesex". As those two novels reflect the history of their own respective nations, so does "Midnight's Children." It is the story of one family, and one person in particular, Saleem, who is born on the stroke of midnight on the exact day and time India achieved its independence from Britain. From that propitious birth onward, Saleem's life becomes a reflection and representation of the young Indian nation itself.
The title refers to the 400 odd children who were born at or near this same midnight. Each one of them have magical skills which vary in strength and importance in direct relation to their birth's proximity to midnight. Since Saleem was born exactly at midnight, he has the most valuable skill, the skill to look into people's hearts, minds, and souls, and to commune with the other midnight children mentally. In this vein, he forms the Midnight Children's Conference, a meeting of these 400+ children who communicate through Saleem's telepathic mind and have the stated goal of reforming India. If this sounds unbelievable, it is not. It is the same sort of magical realism fans of Latin American authors will be familiar with, and adds to the strength, beauty, and ultimate brutality of the story without making the reader roll his eyes in incredulity.
As is India, so is Saleem. He hears the multitudinous voices of India in his head, a mess of contradictions: peace and violence, forgiveness and revenge, progress and tradition. His family also reflects the indefinable character of India. They are by turns real and fantastical, living and dying, perservering and escaping. The amalgam of these voices and Saleem's family is an India that Rushdie seems to understand no better than anyone else, but his affection for and frustration with India could only come from a native.
The reader also follows Saleem's physical life. His face mirrors a map of India, and his enormous nose is gifted at sensing emotions. From the life of a rich boy in Bombay, to a fighter in the India-Pakistan War, to a broken carnival traveller, and finally to an owner of a pickle company, Saleem's journey through life is expansive, human, and always entertaining. The side characters are just as engrossing, and all have a part to play in the tumolt of Indian history.
To keep the earlier analogy going, I found this to be a slightly more difficult read than "One Hundred Years of Solitude" but just as entertaining as "Middlesex". Rushdie writes with wit, style, anger, and absolute brilliance. He is generous with allusions, but I felt they were also extremely accessible. I recommend this book not only to India-philes, but also to fans of literature in general. This is a master in peak and rare form, and this is one of the finest novels written in a generation. Most highly recommended....more info
- One of My Top Ten Favorite Books
Expertly woven, startlingly unique, refreshingly honest, Midnight's Children won me over completely. It took a while to get the hang of Rushdie's style of writing--he requests that you pay attention--but once I got used to being challenged now and then, the pages began to turn faster and faster, and I became more and more intrigued with his story and with South Asia.
Saleem Sinai is born at the very moment of India's independence, and his life is like that of his country's: ever-changing, tumultuous, loveable, corrupt, mysterious, confusing, rich, poor, at peace, at war, on and on. Plus, he and everybody else born on that same midnight have magic powers. Saleem's power, super smell, doesn't seem like much at first, but it gives him a keen telepathy and it propels him along one hell of a series of adventures. The spirit of India is everywhere in the book. Saleem is both one in a billion and one of a billion. He shows you everybody completely, and one person even more completely, and that makes for a very enlightening and enjoyable read....more info
- I don't know .... black or green ???
Difficult for someone who doesn't even get the symbolism of black and green. I looked up the colors of the flag and they are red and green (Paksitan is white and green). So don't expect much from me.
Set in India during the independence movement and told by a Muslim. Won the Booker Prize for Best Book in 25 Years. Concept is that the guy (and others) born at exactly midnight on the day of independence have some special powers. The author is able to read peoples' thoughts and to communicate with the other 1000 children born at midnight. It is fantasy told in context as historical novel.
This novel is difficult to read and therefore not for the average reader; the style is Faukneresque in grammar and punctuation, virtually every sentence is filled with metaphore and symbolism. If the reader had a good knowledge of India-Pakistan history, the story would be more interesting as there is a good deal of hidden (or not so hidden) political analysis. These are the reasons I didn't rate the novel higher so probably a little unfair.
Here is an example (ok, this is an extreme example):
Hint: The Widow is Indira Ghandi; Monkey is the sister
From the chapter "At the Pioneer Caf¨¦" --
No colours except green and black the walls are green the sky is black (there is no roof) the stars are green the Widow is green abut her hair is black as black. The Widow sits on a high high chair the chair is green the seat is black the Widow's hair has a centre-parting it is green on the left and on the right black. High as the sky the chair is green the seat is black the Widow's arm is long as death its skin is green the fingernails are long and sharp and black. Between the walls the children green the walls are green the Widow's arm comes snaking down the snake is green the children scream the fingernails are black the scratch the Widow's arm is hunting see the children run and scream the Widow's hand curls round them green and black. Now one by one the children mmff are stifled quiet the blood is black unlooosed by cutting fingernails it splashes black on walls (of green) as one by one the curling hand lifts children high as sky the sky is black there are no stars the Widow laughs her tongue is green but see her teeth are black. And children torn in two in Widow hands which rolling rolling halves of children roll them into little balls the balls are green the night is black. And little balls fly into night between the walls the children shriek as one by one the Widow's hand. And in a corner the Monkey and I (the walls are green the shadows black) cowering crawling wide high walls green fading into black there is no roof and Widow's hand comes onebyone the children scream and mmff and little balls and hand and scream and no more screams the Widow's hand comes hunting hunting the skin is green the nails are black towards the corner hunting hunting while we shrink closer into the corner our skin is green our fear is black and now the Hand comes reaching reaching and she my sister pushes me out out of the corner while she stays cowering staring the hand the nails are curling scream and mmff and splash of black and up into the high as sky and laughing Widow tearing I am rolling into little balls the balls are green and out into the night the night is black.......more info
- Classic Prose, Great Allegory [T]
Dipping into controversial and expansive review of India's nouveau independence, Rushdie's autobiographical recitation (in fiction) of protagonist nasal-telepathic Saleem Sinai bestows lessons and conjures imagination.
Some novelists have received acclaim for making allegory through adventure - Coello for "The Alchemist" or Kosinski for "The Painted Bird." As great as those novels are, neither has the depth of review that this novel has. And, much to Rushdie's credit, this adventure intertwines with real events of the recent histories of India and Pakistan - thereby making it more relevant to those who lived or have heard about the many historical references contained throughout this book.
Being an American usually means reading little about the history or culture of India. We are ignorant of their struggles - and this book enlivens us to a certain degree - such that the reader can conclude from reading this book that this country has struggled as greatly since its independence from Britain, than it did under British rule. Forster's portrait of British degradation of India in "A Passage to India" made westerners believe that Gandhi's plight was both necessary and inevitable. This book tells us that freedom from British rule did not necessarily deliver better karma or even sounder ruling. The "Emergency" of Indira Gandhi delivers an appalling caricature of Indians being cruel to Indians - as Saleem must be emasculated by the ruling party's dictate - for reasons no more discernable than the German holocaust or any other genocide.
This book travels chronologically from Saleem's grandparents' romance to his 31st birthday. Saleem lives an incredible life -worthy of this book's size. His life - or really his son's life - is encapsulated in one sentence: "He was the child of a father who was not his father; but also the child of a time which damaged reality so badly that no one managed to put it together again; He was the true great-grandson of his great-grandfather. . ." It makes nonsense until you read the book - then this statement is both valid and true.
Amid this adventure we meet snake charmers, a succubus wet nurse, a witch, a 512-year old prostitute - as well as typical western literature characters, e.g. a man who shoots his wife and her lover, a corrupt general, and a son who kills his father out of pure hatred.
This is a thoroughly drawn portrait of a literary character. Amassing 445 pages in my hardback edition - each page having approximately 550 words - it is a long read. And, Rushdie's swirling writing style, where he touches upon a topic and a few paragraphs or pages later descends upon that same topic with more resonance or more detail, can leave readers feeling half empty at times as the complete description will not come to light until a later time. This is not a quick read. This is not easy reading. But, this is worthwhile reading.
Rushdie writes with great literary style. Full of metaphors and complete with magical insight, this book is understandably incorporated by many universities' English departments...more info
- Book Club Bail Out
The length and density of Midnight's Children was too much for 50% of my family and friends book club. Non-finishers included both 30-somethings and 60-somethings. Those of us who persevered found the book enriching and enlightening. The writing style and vocabulary were discouraging to the more concrete readers in the group. I will read another of his books someday, but I will not recommend it for book club!...more info
- Rushdie's best
Under a less skilled pen, this book would be a chaotic,jumbled, unreadable mess, with so many characters and subplots floating in and out. However, I am happy to report it works! It does have a consistent theme, mostly about one character's life, the "leader" of midnight's children, set against the backdrop of one of the most dramatic political real life dramas of the last hundred years. While this story also borders on "magical realism" at points, it never wanders so far off the map that you get lost, but you will have to pay attention.
A classic!...more info
- India in one man
This novel is Rushdie's most highly regarded. It is certainly the novel in which he unleashes what he terms 'mad prose pyrotechnics' to their utmost capabilities, telling a multitude of fantastical stories involving witches, noses, sheets with holes in, finger mutilation, washing-chests, pickles... the list is as perpetual and complex almost as the history of Modern India itself. A prose style that makes the magic realism of Gabriel Garcia Marquez seem almost muted and restrained.
This novel then, is a seemingly endless parade of storytelling -and not a simple, linear narrative either. Saleem's story swoops and loops and dives and frequently circles. It is a highly post modern novel that frequently stalls while the narrator forgets (dates such as the assasination of Ghandi and the 1957 elections) summarizes what has gone before and fortells what is yet to come. Why such a curious, strange style? Because Saleem is a character who, in his words is 'the sum total of everything that went before me, of all that I have seen done, of everything done-to-me...To understand me, you'll have to swallow the world'. Yes, Saleem is, in a sense, India itself, coming into being at exactly the same moment - 15th August 1947 and blessed with magical powers that allow him to see into the minds of other people and hear their voices in his head. Saleem's life is inextricably linked to Indian history since 1947 - so it's not surprising that the poor fellow can't tell his story straight.
Inside this narrative is a multitude of political commentary, allegory, leifmoteif symbolism- humble objects such as a spitoon frequently recur in the stories, satirical riffs, ruminations on the nature of history, enchanting descriptions of Indian scenes, parody and digression. In this last aspect it reminded me somewhat of a much older post modern novel - Lawrence Sterne's 'Tristram Shandy'.
Saleem's experience as a 'swallower of lives' ultimately overwhelms him, and the complex richness of this novel has overwhelmed and will overwhelm many readers. Those familiar with the complex heterogeneity of Indian culture will find much to inspire and challenge them here. And for readers prepared to hunker down and engage with the prose will find a great Indian novel from a highly exuberent and talented writer.
- fantastic Fantastic Realism!
Salmon Rushdie may be most famous for "Satanic Verses" and the subsequent death warrant it earned him from Muslim fundamentalists. However, his previous book, "Midnight's Children," is a genuine reason for fame.
Simply put, the book is outstanding in almost every way - well written, plotted and characterized, it contains a whole kaleidoscopic world. However, it is Rushdie's gift for metaphor (especially in a political context) that sets him apart. Not since Nietzsche in "Thus Spoke Zarathustra" has metaphor been so sharp and multifaceted. It truly takes on a level that few other authors can reach.
The plot certainly does owe something to the Bombay movie industry, however the final result is much more than a Bollywood musical. In fact, it made me (whose knowledge of India admittedly was mostly limited to movie portrayals) rethink my happy-go-lucky view of that country as a place where everyone ate well, sang about love and occasionally rode an elephant. What a fascinating introduction to an equally fascinating culture and uniquely Asian melting pot!
Perhaps the most lasting concept to come out of the work is the illusive need for personal centrality. We all want to be the center of not just our own individual worlds or lives but the entire world. It's the subjective striving for universality that truly leads to tyranny and despotism. Fascinating!
This connects the text with Derrida's post modern theory of the unsustainability of centers, too. Why is it that only America ignores these themes preferring instead to concentrate on titillation and culture alone?
In any case, "Midnight's Children" is an exceptional work of fantastic realism that keeps you thinking as well as guessing about another culture as well as human nature, itself.
- The one that made Rushdie...
Claims of "Masterpiece! Bravo! C'est manifique!" and multitudes of roses gloriously wafting down from the expensive seats in the balcony are justified. This book made Rushdie a star. Rushdie who? Isn't he the guy who wrote that bizarre quasi-sci-fi novel about some birdguy? Yes, he is. And five years following that dabble (entitled "Grimus" which, to steal Hume's thunder, "fell deadborn from the press") Rushdie sprung some new fantastic oil reserve of novel writing and produced this utter gem. What a difference a mere five years can make!
This is a thick book. It's a very thick book. Thick with meaning. Thick with stories. Is it about time? Sure. Is it about family? Yup. Is it a political book? Well, sorta. Is it about the vicissitudes of memory and history? Probably, yes, that sounds good. Is it about India? Oh, yup. A lot of India in it, sure sure. Its bulk is impossible to summarize to any degree of fairness. Its bulk in meaning is nearly incomprehensible. Still, it all comes down to the narrator: Saleem Sinai, who, equipped with numerous nicknames and adoptive parents, is pummelled and dragged and drained through India's independence. Having been born at the very stroke of midnight (or was that his rival, born in the same room, who was the real son of Saleem's unsuspecting first set of "parents") on the cusp and lip of India's independence, Saleem later finds himself, and 1001 other children (you guessed it, the "Children of Midnight"), imbued with magical powers beyond belief. The magic of India's independence from Britain shoots forth wonders. Of course the government under Indira Gandhi isn't too happy about this, and Saleem finds himself in a very bad sort of pickle later on. These scenes make up some of the more disturbing and violent chapters (and Rushdie was accused by some of being too hard on the Indira r¨¦gime). Cover your eyes! Plug your ears!
This is historical fiction at its best. There's much to learn about the history of India in these pages of pulp. Some familiar names will pounce out from the ink: Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi (no blood relation to the Mahatma; she was assassinated in 1984, four years after this book was published), Morarji Desai, Lord Viceroy Mountbatten, etc., etc., the names and history they encompass pile up page after page. Saleem and his family are also victims (very unfortunate ones) of the partition of India (into India, Pakistan, and soon after Bangladesh). This event still holds the record for most people moved from one place to another at one time: 14 million people (with about 1 million dead). Then war war war, more war war, and a state of Emergency, war war. Saleem is buffetted through it all, as countless millions were. The novel brings out the complexity and bulk of modern independent India through the voice of Saleem. Make some room in your brain for Rushdie's "many headed monsters".
One of the best scenes is "the perforated sheet" in which a doctor, Saleem's Grandfather, is only allowed to examine a Muslim woman through a hole in a large sheet. One part at a time, no more, no less. One day he looks through the hole and sees a...
Book three is a wild ride which will likely evoke the response "how did Saleem get here?" This book is Saleem's "rebirth" ending with the "Abracadabra" that changes everything; as book two is about Saleem's birth and childhood, and book one attempts to sum up the events leading up to Saleem's birth (the perforated sheet will haunt).
Is Saleem an honest narrator, though? Or does he lie through his big teeth (and much bigger and talented nose)? This is one of the many tensions that rips through the novel, and questions and examines biography as well as history. Saleem only admits to lying once.
The novel has some debts also. It owes a big one to "Tristram Shandy" written by Lawrence Sterne in the 18th century, in which an autobiographer attempts to write his life and keeps getting mired in digressions. Rushdie takes the best elements of this brilliantly bizarre book and meshes it into his own story of Saleem. Rushdie himself has acknowledged the influence of Sterne. Also, some have called this novel "India's 'Tim Drum'" with its parallel stories of nations with growing pains siphoned through single characters. Regardless of influence, "Midnight's Children" is an amazing novel rich with meaning, detail, humor, love, tragedy, childhood, family, philosophy, religion, sibling rivarly, and people people people people people people burgeoning out through the lines of text like on a crowded Mumbai street. There are, in short, people everywhere.
This book is worth the effort. It may take a little more effort than expected. It's huge, it's complex, it's part history part fantasy. What it attempts to do, in a very human way, is posit meaning to events and lives and their very multifarious interpretations. It can all be found in cleverly labeled pickle jars. C'est manifique!...more info
- Oh, spell it out, spell it out.
There's a good 200-250 page novel in here; the question is whether or not you're willing to slog through nearly 600 pages to find it. The biggest problem I had with this book is that Rushdie apparently thinks his reader is an absolute idiot who must be led by the hand across even the most obvious metaphorical thresholds. It speaks volumes, I think, that the reader surrogate here is the lumpen, dim-witted Padma, seated fawningly at the narrator's feet while he writes. Yes, I know we shouldn't conflate the author and the narrator, but it's hard not to think that Rushdie shares more than a little of Saleem's condescension toward his reader. At least Rushdie has the courtesy to warn you on the first page -- "Oh, spell it out, spell it out." That he does. It's an interesting story, but the tedium of the overbearing narrator just sunk it for me....more info
- Intersting, But Nearly Un-Wieldy Novel
This novel is very interesting, sometimes funny, sometimes very satisfying. But Rushdie's style can be described as broad, the novel wanders all over the place and I soemtimes found myself wondering what a particular portion had to do with the rest of the story line. Getting through this novel requires some work and dedication, but I still think it's worth it. ...more info
- Terrible Book
Rushdie's book Midnight's Children is unbearable. The book is extremely repetitive and boring. Rushdie attempts to avoid this criticism by being "unique" and using a stream of consciousness technique that infuriated me consistently during the reading. The book is filled with supposedly "deep" metaphors, which are actually incredibly superficial and annoying. Rushdie's arrogance and narcissism is reflected by the main character of the book, Saleem, who spends the majority of a 500 page novel complaining about how life hasn't treated him fairly. Prior to reading the novel I was disgusted by what I knew of Indian tradition in general, particularly the caste system and pervasive racism in the country. This novel did little to enlighten western readers to some redeeming quality in their society, and left me, a staunch liberal, reconsidering how bad colonialism actually was. Since I realize that colonialism was one of the most immoral actions perpetrated by any group of people in history, it only goes to show you how negatively Rushdie portrays what should be a vibrant culture. Since this seems to be the only reason to market this novel towards western readers, I am forced to conclude that this novel is a complete failure. ...more info
- Masterpiece. This book will survive.
Rushdie lectured the motto in this tome: the life story of anyone can be the result of the whole world, and the whole world can be nothing but triggered by or explicited on someone. This is a historic fiction with fantasy, and a great fiction in its own.
Rushdie is so ambitious that he tried to depict the history of India in a book, in a very gorgeous language and style, while simaltaneously ruthlessly burdening our poor good protagonist, Saleem, and his morbid family.
I am so dazzled by the ambition and the language of the book, and am deeply moved not only by the book itself but also Rushdie. I can feel the ardent love and eager struggle for India in Rushdie. It is definitely not for the faint-hearted. And I am so happy that I finally finished this book. Its a deeply true-heartedly wow....more info
- A dance for the hands
This book is a tome, and for its kaleidescope of impressions, one to be savored. There are some books where after a point, the length is wearying, and the last hundred pages are half read, half skimmed, the right hand fingers feeling the slimming of the pages in anticipation. Not this book.
The story is justifiably grand, the partitioning of India and Pakistan in the aftermath of the second world war and the emotional analog in the minds of the two countries' citizens. But what keeps ones interest is not the heavy politics, which for the most part remain the background as in most great historical fiction (Tolstoy notwithstanding).
Rather, it is the bridging of individuals and events with achingly tender descriptions that are burned in the reader's mind. Take, for example, two lovers who communicate only with their hands, like moths that hover over a flame--impelled by some force toward the fire, just close enough to stay warm but always in danger of being consumed. The symbolism, like self-immolation, that India is represented to outsiders and in some ways it disingenuously is to itself, that surprises and rewards the reader.
You probably won't be able to finish the novel in one sitting, but that is a blessing, in that with each sitting and turn of the page, you are refreshed with the power of language and how the unforgettable images appear vividly in the mind....more info
One of Rushdie's best works and far more accessible to those without knowledge of Southasian history and Islam. The plot is one of the most unique and interesting I've come across in a long time. It is a fairly easy read and a book I think everyone should read!...more info
- Delightful read
After recently finishing Mistry's 'A Fine Balance' I planned to give myself a break from Indian lit for a while, but finding myself without a book on the other side of the country, the only books in the shop that called out to me were Indian - so I bought three!
Midnight's children is regarded as a classic, and deservingly so. I cannot help but contrast it with 'A Fine Balance' which I so recently read. Both are brilliantly written, inspiring books that intricately intertwine with India's tumultuous history. Yet they are as different as night and day. Midnight's children, although similarly passing through some quite dark hours of history, does not have the deflating, depression quality that the other book has. If anything Rushdie's writing shows symptoms of the 'disease of optimism' that his characters and his country so often succumb to in the novel. Despite the flawed narrator Saleem's neverending series of mishaps and his sense of inevitable doom, I couldn't help but feeling upbeat throughout this novel.
Part of what makes this book so interesting is that it combines history with fantasy. Not just in the usual sense of historical fiction, but in a more magical, mystical sense. I won't go into detail but this makes this book a delight to read. The first person narration is quirky, racing forwards and backwards and admittedly suffering from errors of memory and chronology but never too off-beat so as to get confusing (or rarely so).
Yet another book I highly recommend. Look forward to reading more of Salman Rusdhie's work in the future....more info
- A Magic Carpet Ride of Indian History
Just finished reading this book and wrote this to my children.
.. finally, finished reading 'Midnight's Children'. Am totally dumbfounded at how great this book is. Being more familiar with Indian History (and having lived through it), I am amazed at Rushdie's powers of imagination to merge real events with a magic carpet ride to make his point; many people like me lived through these historic events and were kind of oblivious to them....
I am amazed at how well he touches upon the culture, social habits, religion. ........
I don't want to elaborate on the contents, because it is important for one to read this book without any preconceived notions. If you are a MATURE reader(am not talking about age) , you will not regret it.
This is a heavy weight book; you will need to constantly ponder on what you read. People familiar with Indian History, social habits, religions will be able to grasp it easier than others.
***** DO NOT READ IF YOU HAVE NOT READ THE BOOK ****************
***** DO NOT READ IF YOU HAVE NOT READ THE BOOK ****************
***** DO NOT READ IF YOU HAVE NOT READ THE BOOK ****************
***** DO NOT READ IF YOU HAVE NOT READ THE BOOK ****************
a few ramblings from me:
Being more familiar with the Indian History (and having lived through it), I am amazed at Rushdie's powers of imagination to merge real events with a magic carpet ride to make his point; many people like me (even though I can excuse myself partly because I was in the U.S. at that time) took Indira's Emergency declaration lightly and some even felt good about it, looking at the temporary results (trains running on time; a hiatus on bribery, government officials actually doing work....); Nehru (Indira's father) was one of the leaders of the freedom movement. The irony ..
It is a well known fact that Sanjay Gandhi (Indira's son) led the mass forced sterilization of mostly poor people. There was very little opposition; many even welcomed it (why should the poor have some many children, when they cannot afford them). Add the religious angle to it (Hindus vs Moslems)...
.. yes everyone knows that Morarji drank his own urine. Maybe, that's why he lived to a ripe old age..
.. how wonderful to have so many mothers and fathers.
.. my son who is NOT my son, but is the real grandson of my father ....
.. and Padma, the dung lotus ....
everyone will form their own impressions of the book. The metaphors, symbolism and irony cannot be missed. For me, the sprinkling of all the familiar things (Kolynos toothpaste., pan, spittoons,chutneys, pickles..) provided the relief in the form of nostalgia. Personally, I don't think of this as a political book, more of a glimpse of how times change with a twist of irony. Hey, life goes on.......more info
- WHAT A RUSH(DIE)!
If this book was described by 1001 readers, I think you'd get 10,001 different views of what they experienced. Some knowledge of the history of India & Pakistan before and after independence and the partition will be helpful. Perhaps some "-ism" (magical real(ism), coming-of-age(ism); post-modern(ism); stream of .....) reading would prepare you for this. But neither is required to enjoy it. Having read many of the less than stellar reviews, it seems that many had preconceived notions that weren't met or they tried to make it a fast read.
This is not a "page turner" suspense novel; nor is it Joycean (or any other author's). It is Rushdie. This is what he writes and how he writes. Read it for its own style rather than trying to compare it with someone else.
I think too much effort is made by publishers and reviewers to put authors into groups. I'm sure the publishers do it to capture buyers with "if you like A, then you'll like B". Reviewers too often do it to show how many authors they have read rather than making valid comparisons.
Base your judgment of Rushdie (or any of his books) on what you like or dislike about his work rather than by "someone says he is like Marquez and he isn't, so I didn't like it"....more info
- a ferociously charming tour of india
Midnight's Children is a long and sometimes arduous exercise in fantastical realism, a would-be folk tale about the history of India since its independence from Britain. The narrator's birth occurs at the exact moment of national independence, and from then on his life is something of an anthropomorphic mirror of the development of his nation.
This book is neither a fictional autobiography nor a literary history of modern India. Well, actually it's both, but really it's about the dangers of being ancient in a modern world, and the pitfalls of trying to bring tradition into a rational, contemporary framework.
Rushdie is one of the most eloquent writers of his generation, and inherits from Nabakov the role of linguistic perfectionist - every sentence is rolled up in allegory, wordplay, and, most importantly, meaningfullness....more info
- Trust me, this book is worth reading!
This is, in every way, a perfect novel. Both humorous and heartbreaking. I found myself deeply moved and very suprised that I enjoyed this novel as much as I did. I have never been very interested in Indian history, and knew close to nothing about it. But upon reading this novel, I found myself drawn into the rich fictional history of the Aziz family, as well as the equally rich history of India. Rushdie may have ruined reading for me, as every book I read will now have much higher standards! Not for light reading, though. I imagine this is a book that you could read over and over and still find something new each time. This is a tough novel, and it takes a lot of work to truly "get it". The only reason I stuck with it is because I had to for class. But it was very rewarding in the end. The novel reveals itself in layers, with recurring themes and motifs that grow in extremely deep and powerful meanings. The character of Saleem, self-described savior of India, is one of the most memorable characters to have graced the pages of a novel. I have heard some people say that this book is a let down in the end, as though it never comes to a full climax. In answer to that: I felt that was the whole point. Saleems dreams are always dreams, they are never completely realized. The language is beautiful and lyrical, and the plot is highly detailed, as though each sentence was carefully planned. Rushdie may be the ultimate architect of this century when it comes to plot building. As a writer myself, I was both green with envy and speechless with awe over this novel. I have never read anything else by Rushdie, but now I definitly plan to!
A couple of tips:
1. There are many different characters, so you may want to make a family tree to keep track.
2. Pay close attention to Rushdie's use of color in the novel, particularly green, saffron and blue, as well as numbers.
3. The narrator, Saleem, breaks away from linear storytelling in a big way. Often, the story jumps around and he gives a lot of foreshadowing. It helps to let go of our western idea of time (i.e. events happening in a timeline) and just let the story unfold. Trust me, once you can let go of your confusion and just let it be, the reading becomes much easier! Also, it's interesting to consider what he chooses to tell us ahead of time, and what he doesn't.
And finally, you will definitly want to brush up on your Indian history! I'm not talking a whole lot, just an Encarta article or something so you know what's going on. Also, when historical figures are mentioned in the book, you should do a little research and find out more about them. This is especially true for the political figures, such as Indira Ghandi.
Like I said, this book is A LOT of work, but worth all the effort....more info
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