Hot Best Seller

Midnight's Children

Availability: Ready to download

Saleem Sinai was born at midnight, the midnight of India's independence, and found himself mysteriously "handcuffed to history" by the coincidence. He is one of 1,001 children born at the midnight hour, each of them endowed with an extraordinary talent - and whose privilege and curse it is to be both master and victims of their times. Through Saleem's gifts - inner ear and Saleem Sinai was born at midnight, the midnight of India's independence, and found himself mysteriously "handcuffed to history" by the coincidence. He is one of 1,001 children born at the midnight hour, each of them endowed with an extraordinary talent - and whose privilege and curse it is to be both master and victims of their times. Through Saleem's gifts - inner ear and wildly sensitive sense of smell - we are drawn into a fascinating family saga set against the vast, colourful background of the India of the 20th century.


Compare

Saleem Sinai was born at midnight, the midnight of India's independence, and found himself mysteriously "handcuffed to history" by the coincidence. He is one of 1,001 children born at the midnight hour, each of them endowed with an extraordinary talent - and whose privilege and curse it is to be both master and victims of their times. Through Saleem's gifts - inner ear and Saleem Sinai was born at midnight, the midnight of India's independence, and found himself mysteriously "handcuffed to history" by the coincidence. He is one of 1,001 children born at the midnight hour, each of them endowed with an extraordinary talent - and whose privilege and curse it is to be both master and victims of their times. Through Saleem's gifts - inner ear and wildly sensitive sense of smell - we are drawn into a fascinating family saga set against the vast, colourful background of the India of the 20th century.

30 review for Midnight's Children

  1. 4 out of 5

    Turhan Sarwar

    Midnight's Children is not at all a fast read; it actually walks the line of being unpleasantly the opposite. The prose is dense and initially frustrating in a way that seems almost deliberate, with repeated instances of the narrator rambling ahead to a point that he feels is important--but then, before revealing anything of importance, deciding that things ought to come in their proper order. This use of digressions (or, better put, quarter-digressions) can either be attributed to a charmingly Midnight's Children is not at all a fast read; it actually walks the line of being unpleasantly the opposite. The prose is dense and initially frustrating in a way that seems almost deliberate, with repeated instances of the narrator rambling ahead to a point that he feels is important--but then, before revealing anything of importance, deciding that things ought to come in their proper order. This use of digressions (or, better put, quarter-digressions) can either be attributed to a charmingly distractable narrator or a vehicle for (perhaps cheaply) tantalizing the reader... or both. I'll admit that at first I didn't appreciate being so persistently manipulated. Many times in the first few chapters I found myself closing the book in anger, thinking to myself "If the story is worth it, this tactic is utterly unnecessary." The tactic, it turns out, is unnecessary. The book--the story--is stunning. It's stunning enough that the frustrating aspects of the telling are forgivable and actually retrospectively satisfying (which I suspect is what the author wanted). While the fractional digressions, on the one hand, can have you groping around for a lighter--they, on the other hand, work to accustom you to the novel's epically meandering pace. Also, they effectively allow you to feel a certain urgency near the end of the book, as the narrator "runs out of time." The imagery is lush; the characters are curiously, magically lopsided; the language is complicated and beautiful; the chapters are nicely portioned despite the initial plodding pace; the narrative is deliberately allegorical, which perhaps suggests an enhanced enjoyment of the work after studying a bit of Indian history. Elements of the story's frame (the narrator writing in a pickle factory with sweet Padma reading along) are particularly amusing, and the chapter entitled "In the Sundarbans" is nothing short of breathtaking. The book will go slow in the beginning; the book means to; give it patience--it's worth it, I think.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Sean Barrs the Bookdragon

    Midnight’s Children is an absolute masterful piece of writing. It is entertaining, intelligent, informative, progressive and even funny: it is an astoundingly well balanced epic that captures the birth of a new independent nation. I hold it in such high regard. The children are all fractured and divided; they are born into a new country that is yet to define itself in the wake of colonialism: it has no universal language, religion or culture. The children reflect this; they are spread out and u Midnight’s Children is an absolute masterful piece of writing. It is entertaining, intelligent, informative, progressive and even funny: it is an astoundingly well balanced epic that captures the birth of a new independent nation. I hold it in such high regard. The children are all fractured and divided; they are born into a new country that is yet to define itself in the wake of colonialism: it has no universal language, religion or culture. The children reflect this; they are spread out and unconnected to each other. As such Rushdie raises a critical question: does India even exist? These children are born on the night of India’s independence, but what exactly are they born into? The mass of land they occupy is yet to establish what it now is: it is something new, a place with an internal battle raging between modernisation and tradition. It’s not the India it was the day before, and it’s certainly not the India it was before the colonisers came. “What's real and what's true aren't necessarily the same.” Saleem, our narrator and protagonist, reflects this. He is a hybrid, born into two worlds. He has powers, powers that allow him to connect telepathically with the other children born into the new nation. They all have their own gifts and they all represent an infectious optimism, a powerful hope that things will start to get better. Their progress in the story, their successes and failures, reflect the development of the new India. As Saleem begins to fall apart, as he begins to lose himself, the optimism begins to shatter and things go terribly wrong: war approaches, death approaches. Rushdie plays around with reality, warping it and twisting it to the point where its very nature becomes an allegory for the failings of society. The India he has created is both removed and part of the real world. He has used human terms, and human emotions, to personify a country. Through this he demonstrates how it can waver and falter and how it can fail and become a victim to its own passions. It’s an exceedingly clever device. Saleem is egotistical and unreliable, but his life is a physical manifestation of post-independent India. On a character level he actually thinks he is altering events, though he only ever mirrors it. “Memory's truth, because memory has its own special kind. It selects, eliminates, alters, exaggerates, minimizes, glorifies, and vilifies also; but in the end it creates its own reality, its heterogeneous but usually coherent version of events; and no sane human being ever trusts someone else's version more than his own.” All great literature should be subjective. All great literature should have a multitude of ramifications. If we go away with one single clean cut meaning or interpretation then the author has failed to some degree. Literature needs to make us think; it needs to make us question the world and our place within it. And Rushdie certainly does that. You may disagree with my reading. I think Midnight’s Children can be seen in a number of different ways, and I’d love to hear what other people thought it all meant. There’s just so much going on in this book, I could literally write several essays on it. Rushdie draws heavily on Márquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude by recreating the long drawn out family saga told in the magical realist mode to represent reality in a more truthful way than standard story telling would allow; however, Rushdie transcends it in so many ways. I will be reading The Satanic Verses very soon I think, and I will definitely be writing on Rushdie for my university work. This is clearly one of the most important novels written in the last fifty years.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Michael Finocchiaro

    This is my absolute favourite Rushdie novel. Its background of the Partition of India and Pakistan after the disastrous and cowardly retreat of the British occupiers and the ensuing Emergency under Indira Ghandi provides a breathtaking tableau for Rushdie's narrative. His narrator is completely unreliable and that is what makes the story so fascinating. I lend this book out so many times after talking about it so much (and never got my paperback copy returned) that I had to buy a hardcover that This is my absolute favourite Rushdie novel. Its background of the Partition of India and Pakistan after the disastrous and cowardly retreat of the British occupiers and the ensuing Emergency under Indira Ghandi provides a breathtaking tableau for Rushdie's narrative. His narrator is completely unreliable and that is what makes the story so fascinating. I lend this book out so many times after talking about it so much (and never got my paperback copy returned) that I had to buy a hardcover that I would no longer lend out so as not to lose it anymore. It was the first time I read a book with this kind of narration (mostly having had the omniscient, distant 3rd party narrator or the interior dialog or stream-of-consciousness 1st person narrator) and this was a revelation for me which later led me to read DFW, Pynchon and other post-modern writers with relish. A fantastic 20th C masterpiece! I used to talk about it all the time and lend it out and folks liked it so much that I kept having to replace my paperback copy. At one point, I got fed up and bought a hardcover that I don't lend out anymore. The backdrop of the horrors of the partition of India and Pakistan, bungled so badly by the United Kingdom's cowardly retreat leaving a chaotic bloody vacuum in '48, is already compelling but what really makes this novel so fascinating for me is the unreliable narration. It was the first book I read where the first person narrator was a known liar and so you could not always believe what he said. In terms of writing and narration, this was quite a revelation to me (who was used to the omniscient and neutral 3rd person narrator or the deep stream-of-conscious first person narrator). I found it fast-paced and extremely well-written. If you have never read Rushdie before, this is where I would suggest you start!

  4. 4 out of 5

    Kevin Ansbro

    To understand just one life, you have to swallow the world." —Salman Rushdie, Midnight's Children. For me, one of the most important books of our modern age. I ADORE this playful, historical epic: Salman Rushdie is a literary god in my eyes, and can do little wrong - so I am biased. Rushdie is one of the authors who has influenced my own style of writing, even though his overly-descriptive approach is discouraged by publishing editors the world over. The 'midnight's children' of the story are thos To understand just one life, you have to swallow the world." —Salman Rushdie, Midnight's Children. For me, one of the most important books of our modern age. I ADORE this playful, historical epic: Salman Rushdie is a literary god in my eyes, and can do little wrong - so I am biased. Rushdie is one of the authors who has influenced my own style of writing, even though his overly-descriptive approach is discouraged by publishing editors the world over. The 'midnight's children' of the story are those born in the first hour of India's independence from British rule. It is true that the novel's digressive, meandering plot is as difficult to crack as the enigma code, but please do stick with it. Midnight's Children is picturesque and read-gasmic. Rushdie's rascally mischievousness tickles each paragraph from start to finish, and his human imagery is second to none. Herein is an India where streets abound with bicycle-repair shops and itinerant snake charmers. You could literally randomly poke a pin at any sentence in the book and witness flourishes of Rushdie's genius. For each new reader, an abundance of chaotic brilliance awaits. This is magical realism at its very best. Read it, please just read it! Update: Ben Blatt, in his recent book Nabokov's Favourite Word is Mauve, uses mathematical formulae to interpret literature. Through this process he has discovered that Rushdie's book is the most ejaculative British novel of all time, racking up 2,131 exclamation marks per 100,000 words. My reaction to that is, who cares???? Midnight's Children is one of the best books ever written - and Rushdie can add as many exclamation marks as he likes!!!!!!!!!!!!

  5. 4 out of 5

    Samadrita

    What's real and what's true aren't necessarily the same. Discard skepticism as you approach this epic. Suspend disbelief. Because myth and truth blend into each other imperfectly to spin a gossamer-fine web of reality on which the nation state is balanced precariously. And we, the legatees of this yarn, are caught up in a surrealist farce which plays out interminably in this land of heat and dust and many smells, our rational selves perennially clashing with our shallow beliefs but eventually s What's real and what's true aren't necessarily the same. Discard skepticism as you approach this epic. Suspend disbelief. Because myth and truth blend into each other imperfectly to spin a gossamer-fine web of reality on which the nation state is balanced precariously. And we, the legatees of this yarn, are caught up in a surrealist farce which plays out interminably in this land of heat and dust and many smells, our rational selves perennially clashing with our shallow beliefs but eventually succumbing to an incomprehensible love of the absurd. Illusion has more to offer than you think. Approach this panorama with a sense of wonder. This land of Sultunates of slave-kings and Empires wrought by alien invaders, of manic religious ritualism, of a civilization which had co-existed with Mesopotamia and Egypt, of most accomplished snake-charmers of the world, of crushing poverty and staggering riches. The peepshow-man with his dugdugee drum beckons you to behold the images of Meenakshi temple and the Taj Mahal and the Bodhgaya and the holy Ganges streaming down from Lord Shiva's tresses to quench our mortal thirst. And you cannot be a witness to the unfolding of a spectacle without awe. Approach this homage to the spirit of a time and place with joined palms, head dipping mildly in reverence. With palms bracing the earth, knees bent, forehead kissing the ground. With a hand raised to the forehead then the heart and each shoulder. With an erect palm, thumb and forefinger meeting in a circle. Our pantheon of divinities will look down on you with displeasure otherwise. But above all, approach this plenitude of tales within tales within tales with love. Without love for the shared fantasy of 'unity in diversity', this book would not have existed at all. If I seem a little bizarre, remember the wild profusion of my inheritance ... perhaps, if one wishes to remain an individual in the midst of teeming multitudes, one must make oneself grotesque. O Swallower of Multitudes! Bearer of Multiple Identities! Assimilator of a million and one traditions! Nation of dubious ancestry, born of imperialism and revolution, of three hundred and thirty million gods and goddesses, prophets and saviours and enlightened ones, fortune-tellers and clairvoyants, fantasies and dreams and nightmares, of self contradictions galore, this is a love letter to you from a besotted son if there ever was one. O people of fractured selves, you who have been scarred by the vicissitudes of history, traumatized by partitioned fates, absorbed by the currents of dynastic politics, afflicted by the optimism disease, gather up and listen to the saga of midnight's children, your very own: one a child of hardwon freedom, other a child of flesh and blood. Saleem and India. India and Saleem. Not-identical twins but twins bound to mirror each other's ambiguous trysts with destiny, twins doomed to share a love-hate relationship. Listen to vain, foolish, self-deluded, cuckolded Saleem and his self-aggrandizing story-telling. Awash in the glow of his 'Anglepoised pool of light' as he is, fallacious and chutneyfied as his 'history' is, I detect in his voice a quiver, a note of humble deference and endless love. Love of lapiz-lazuli encrusted silver spittoons, and perforated sheets, of the progress of a nation tied tragicomically with his own. Love of flap-eared Ganesh and a resolutely silent, flap-eared son, love of Sunderbans' phantasmal mangrove forests and Bombay's non-conformity. Love of the blue skies of Kashmir and the hubbub of old Delhi's slums and Amritsar's narrow, malodorous bylanes. Love of people and places beyond borders. There are as many versions of India as Indians.... Do you not make out the throbbing ache in his declamations, for historical compounds left bloodied by dastardly mustachioed brigadiers? For a subcontinent trifurcated meaninglessly and wars waged without rhyme or reason? Can you discern the tone of suppressed anguish and rage for the promise of midnight's children withering away under the harsh glare of an Emergency? The grief for a broken republic and a flickering hope for regeneration and renewal? Midnight has many children; the offspring of Independence were not all human. Violence, corruption, poverty, generals, chaos, greed and pepperpots ... I had to go into exile to learn that the children of midnight were more varied than I - even I - had dreamed. I can. In Saleem's contrived cornucopia of stories 'leaking' into each other, I sense his despondency and his joy, his pride and his guilt. And in his implicit avowals of filial love, I find an expression of my own. I had entered into the illusion of the artist, and thought of the multitudinous realities of the land as the raw unshaped material of my gift. 'Midnight's Children' might be an overblown, unsubtle metaphor for India but it is also a celebration of multiplicity in a universal context. Despite the narrative's flaws and the forced nature of the analogies in the latter half, I choose to honour Saleem Sinai's self-professed intentions. I choose to remember and cherish it as an act of love, as an act of faith.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Lisa

    The power of the storytelling left me speechless - all the words were in the novel, and there were none left for me! If there ever was a novel that changed the way I read, this is it. I must have read each sentence several times, just to follow the thread of the confusing story, and I still got lost in the labyrinth of individual and collective history that unfolds on the stroke of Midnight, on the night of India's independence. So completely taken in by the children who are born on that particu The power of the storytelling left me speechless - all the words were in the novel, and there were none left for me! If there ever was a novel that changed the way I read, this is it. I must have read each sentence several times, just to follow the thread of the confusing story, and I still got lost in the labyrinth of individual and collective history that unfolds on the stroke of Midnight, on the night of India's independence. So completely taken in by the children who are born on that particular stroke of midnight, thus beginning their lives together with the state, I must have bought at least ten more copies of it over the course of the years, to give to relatives and friends in different parts of the world. It was not always a welcome present, and some people looked at me strangely after giving up on reading it. They seemed to have come to the conclusion that my mind must be as confused as the novel if I was infatuated with it to the degree that I began to ramble when I talked about it. But it is just such a perfect example of how literature transcends reality and stays true at the same time. It is deeply connected to its roots in post-colonial India, and yet universal in its idea of humanity. Are we really who we think we are? Does it even matter if we are who we think we are, or is it more important that we are what we are meant to be? What decides what we are meant to be then? The sum total of what came before us and led to our being born constitutes the stage which we enter. Then we act out the play which is co-written by humanity, and it is definitely a tragedy, for we "all owe death a life", which is what tragedy is all about: life leading to death. Whatever happens to us has the effect of a "deus ex machina", and sometimes there are more gods in machines than we can handle, keep track of, or even describe in a novel. Sometimes the gods get stuck in their machines as well. Anything is possible on the stage of life. And it is always opening night, first performance, debut. We forget our lines, and we ramble. In life and in art. In this novel, we stumble over words spoken too fast, as if the characters are afraid that the curtain will fall before they have had their fair share of the show. How come it is so hopelessly funny then, this tragedy of India? How come each story line makes me smile through tears? In my memory, the novel grows to an explosion of the senses: I hear a cacophony of voices chatting incoherently in my head, I see colours merge into fireworks of lametta, I feel the heat and cold and humidity and dryness of an India I have never been to, I taste the foods whose names I cannot pronounce, I touch and I am touched by the story which contains a truth deeper than reality. It is funny in the exhilarating way a roller coaster is funny. You slowly move upwards, seeing where you are heading, feeling your stomach react to the fall before it comes, hoping for it to end and to go on forever. You feel dizzy and brave and alive, but confused. Do I remember the plot correctly? Well, memory itself is a tricky one: "Memory's truth, because memory has its own special kind. It selects, eliminates, alters, exaggerates, minimizes, glorifies, and vilifies also; but in the end it creates its own reality, its heterogeneous but usually coherent version of events; and no sane human being ever trusts someone else's version more than his own." So I trust my own memory, and declare that what I remember is true. This is a masterpiece! It was written in 1981. Where's that Nobel? Stuck in a broken god machine? Nothing to be surprised at there - the novel is about how such things happen.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Dolors

    “Who what am I? My answer: 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.” Living different ways of grasping the meaning of man and the world should offer a deeper perspective than the usual reductionism that we oftentimes subject cultures that diverge from our own “Who what am I? My answer: 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.” Living different ways of grasping the meaning of man and the world should offer a deeper perspective than the usual reductionism that we oftentimes subject cultures that diverge from our own, and “Midnight’s Children” is a book that I lived rather than I read. In deconstructing the concept of identity, Amin Maalouf tried to separate rootlessness from migration, the sense of belonging from nationalism, individual expression from collective duty, and it’s the Lebanese-born French journalist’s inferences that I hear as I turn the pages of Salman Rushdie’s masterpiece. In the same way, applying the label of “magic realism” to “Midnight’s Children” is a blatant simplification. Do not misunderstand me, the narration fits the postmodernist tendency of Western metafiction, which includes abrupt changes in the chronological sequences told by an unreliable narrator that uses the language and spirit of a fairy tale. Those are indeed undeniable elements that distinguish this novel from more realistic and traditional approaches. But Rushdie goes beyond the generalization and creates a sui generis style with harmonious dialogue and sumptuous lyricism that entices the mind and warms the heart, blending myth and fiction with grotesque reality, rising the resulting hotchpotch to the level of colossal epic. Likewise, this is not merely a novel on the turbulent historical events regarding the independence of India and its later partition from Pakistan, it’s the story of a man blessed or cursed with extraordinary gifts that is inexorably handcuffed to the making of a generation, descendant of a picturesque family lineage that paints an unorthodox portrait of the multifaceted culture of a certain era. Rushdie has a very honest stance toward history. In his own words: “History is always ambiguous. Facts are harsh to establish, and capable of being given many meanings. Reality is built on prejudices, misconceptions and ignorance as well as on our perceptiveness and knowledge.” The narrator, the Indian Muslim Saleem Sinai, doesn’t claim to possess the absolute truth of the events that shape the world he lives in, he doesn’t even claim to understand them and so he teases but never poses, he plays with his imagination but never lies about his erratic memory which, either real, inaccurate or both, ends up participating as another fictional character in the story. “Memory has its own special kind. It selects, eliminates, alters, exaggerates, minimizes, glorifies, and vilifies also; but in the end it creates its own reality, its heterogeneous but usually coherent version of events; and no sane human being ever trusts someone else's version more than his own.” With that warning in mind, the reader is in for an intertextual journey where everything is loaded with allegorical gist. Numbers and literary references; A Thousand and One children born at midnight on the day that India proclaims its independence? Symbolical characters; a super-snooted child of destiny that smells the future? A vivid tapestry of religions, Asian ancestry and folklore; a hit-the-spittoon heirloom as emblem of a vanishing era? A perforated sheet as a token of stolen glimpses and love? Salman Rushdie’s spicy prose is the result of twenty-six pickle-jars, namely chapters, of specially blended ingredients, of which sarcastic humor is not the least important. Fable, but never superstition, personal history, but never collective grievance, and a certain amount of magic realism create a multisensorial experience that weaves together the vanguardism of the Western literary tradition and the most distilled portrayal of the Indian tradition. Thus, Rushdie’s novel emerges not only as a colorful allegory for the birth of a “new India”, but also as an iconic text that signifies the birth of a “new world” where literature brings cultures closer across borders and allows people to hold on to the optimistic belief that what we have in common will finally overweight what drives us apart. Call me naive, but I think that’s a beautiful dream to have. Indeed.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Michael

    Fantastic, intelligent, hilarious, profound, and historically illuminating. And the narrator is deliciously unreliable too! Need I say more? I will. His sentences are the kind of energetic super-charged masterpieces that I could quote endlessly. Here's one plucked utterly at random: "Into this bog of muteness there came, one evening, a short man whose head was as flat as the cap upon it; whose legs were as bowed as reeds in the wind; whose nose nearly touched his up-curving chin; and whose voice, Fantastic, intelligent, hilarious, profound, and historically illuminating. And the narrator is deliciously unreliable too! Need I say more? I will. His sentences are the kind of energetic super-charged masterpieces that I could quote endlessly. Here's one plucked utterly at random: "Into this bog of muteness there came, one evening, a short man whose head was as flat as the cap upon it; whose legs were as bowed as reeds in the wind; whose nose nearly touched his up-curving chin; and whose voice, as a result, was thin and sharp--it had to be, to squeeze through the narrow gap between his breathing apparatus and his jaw...a man whose short sight obliged him to take life one step at a time, which gained him a reputation for thoroughness and dullness, and endeared him to his superiors by enabling them to feel well-served without feeling threatened; a man whose starched, pressed uniform reeked of Blanco and rectitude, and about whom, despite his appearance of a character out of a puppet-show, there hung the unmistakable scent of success: Major Zulfikar, a man with a future, came to call, as he had promised, to tie up a few loose ends."

  9. 5 out of 5

    Whitaker

    Have you ever been to a Hindu temple? It’s a riotous mass of orange, blue, purple, red, and green. Its walls seethe with deities. In one corner, Ganesha--the god with a human body and elephant head--sits on his vehicle, a rat. In another, a blue Krishna sits on a cow wooing cow girls by playing his flute. Durgha wearing a necklace of skulls kills a demon in another corner. Jasmine-decorated devotees stand around chanting. The press of people, the incense and the noise all combine and you lose yo Have you ever been to a Hindu temple? It’s a riotous mass of orange, blue, purple, red, and green. Its walls seethe with deities. In one corner, Ganesha--the god with a human body and elephant head--sits on his vehicle, a rat. In another, a blue Krishna sits on a cow wooing cow girls by playing his flute. Durgha wearing a necklace of skulls kills a demon in another corner. Jasmine-decorated devotees stand around chanting. The press of people, the incense and the noise all combine and you lose your bearings. That’s what reading Midnight’s Children is like. In many ways, it’s apt that it’s like that. This is a country of 330 million deities and about as many languages and dialects. It’s large, messy, contradictory, and bursting with people. As with the country, so with the book. Like the nation whose birth it writes about, Midnight’s Children strains at the seams to hold its contents in one whole. Its language is as spicy and pungent as one of south India’s curries. Its plot packs a punch as potent at its toddies. And being set in a country where film stars are venerated as incarnations of Shiva and Brahma and Vishnu, reality often takes a rain check. Rushdie’s plot ends somewhere in the 70’s. A key theme in the novel is fragmentation: of our hero, and of the country. At time of writing, India’s Congress Party led by a scion of the Ghandi dynasty has won the national elections. Technological wiz-kids work in Bangalore while their cousins labour in rice fields. Modern Indian women dance in jeans in clubs while nationalist conservative Hindus plot to bash them for immodesty. The country is being forcibly pushed into a capitalist 21st century and the tensions show. And yet for all that it doesn't all fly apart. One wonders what a sequel to the novel would be like. Would we see a son of our hero fly off to study in the United States and return to start a technology company and engage in a tumultuous love-hate relationship with an American woman while keeping a Chinese lover on the side? And what would happen to the 1,001 children of midnight? India faces as many possibilities at this juncture of her history as at the time of her bastard incarnation (don’t flame me, it’s in the book). How can we even begin to grasp what she is about? One visit will not be enough. And as with the country, so with the book.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Garima

    Nothing but trouble outside my head; nothing but miracles inside it. Being a child is no child’s play. A long wait within the sheltered darkness of a womb subsides when rhythmic beats of the heart resume their role in blinding light and mind, an apparent clean slate hold the fading marks of previous lives. While the time patiently takes its course to reveal the silhouette of million existent enigmas, the colorblind vision gradually sheds its skin and an exhilarating display of a new world comes f Nothing but trouble outside my head; nothing but miracles inside it. Being a child is no child’s play. A long wait within the sheltered darkness of a womb subsides when rhythmic beats of the heart resume their role in blinding light and mind, an apparent clean slate hold the fading marks of previous lives. While the time patiently takes its course to reveal the silhouette of million existent enigmas, the colorblind vision gradually sheds its skin and an exhilarating display of a new world comes forth and almost everything is assimilated by the pair of bright curious eyes as the most natural happenings around them. Even the magic. Especially the magic. Midnight’s Children is a book where miracles signify a sort of divine comedy, troubles make for an allegorical tragedy and the inevitable meeting between the two crafts an engrossing narrative. Saleem and Salman, Salman and Saleem have staged a wistful and entertaining ventriloquist performance for their audience and the applause is a well-deserved one. Reading Rushdie’s magnum opus is no short of understanding the blueprint of a labyrinthine palace of fantasy. Behind the majestic walls lies a dark cellar of family secrets. The illumination from resplendent chandeliers doesn’t reach the impenetrable past of dungeons. What appears is far from reality and what is being told is a mere shroud for covering the bitter truth yet nothing remains hidden if one tries to follow the right track. Saleem Sinai’s life is one such palace with a single catch- he’s our guide and providing an easy-to-access path is not his specialty. He deals in similes and vernaculars, nostalgia and dreams, circles and triangles, fiction and illusions. May be the burden of a weighty memory is to be blamed which was required to accommodate several stories of peculiar characters but whatever appears along this convoluted road is worth travelling for. The children of midnight were also the children of the time: fathered, you understand, by history. It can happen. Especially in a country which is itself a sort of dream. Tracking down the temporal shifts that starts in Kashmir and ends in Bombay, tick tock in Pakistan and stop short in Delhi, the children of midnight takes the form of everything that India was and everything that India became. They are the irony of partition, the hope derived from independence, and their tryst with destiny is still going on. One can find their names etched in the pillars of Red Fort, their despair echo in the screaming cries of war victims and they stand for those relations which are bound to each other through everything except blood. They depict the ways in which every country is different and every country is similar. Midnight’s Children is one limitless metaphor that knows no border and speaks a universal language. What more could a reader ask from a book? To be honest, I did ask for a little more. This was the year when I read Mann’s Doctor Faustus and Marquez’s Choleric Love. I already devoured Mistry’s imperfect India perfectly captured with A Fine Balance and Rushdie’s ingenious use of language and imagination was more than visible in his controversial Verses. Because of so many great books in so little time, this book surprised me in fewer ways than expected, not to mention it was a folktale-cum-gothic version of a history I’m already familiar with but then I said to myself- So what? I’ll concede to the fact that probably Midnight’s Children won’t retain a timeless appeal for me in the distant future but for the time being, I think it was indeed amazing.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Lizzy

    The children of midnight were also the children of the time: fathered, you understand, by history. It can happen. Especially in a country which is itself a sort of dream. Midnight's Children was an unexpected pleasure for me. Maybe that is the reason it took me so long to write down my thoughts on it. Yes, I read some reviews before starting it, but could never have imagined Salman Rushdie’s symphony that is no short of a magnificent blueprint of a labyrinthine palace of fantasy. Let me just sa The children of midnight were also the children of the time: fathered, you understand, by history. It can happen. Especially in a country which is itself a sort of dream. Midnight's Children was an unexpected pleasure for me. Maybe that is the reason it took me so long to write down my thoughts on it. Yes, I read some reviews before starting it, but could never have imagined Salman Rushdie’s symphony that is no short of a magnificent blueprint of a labyrinthine palace of fantasy. Let me just say simply that my mind was smitten and my heart crumbled at its every page. What did I read through the days that I was taken by it? Was it magic or history? A family saga? Was it a coming of age story not only of Saleem but of India as a nation with all its subtleties? Rushdie’s sublime prose is all that and much more. It is rich in its allegories, in its unimaginable creativity. Who / What am I? My answer: 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. Nor am I particularly exceptional in this matter; each "I", every one of the now-six-hundred-million-plus of us, contains a similar multitude. I repeat for the last time: to understand me, you'll have to swallow a world. I am not Indian and have to confess ignorant about its history. Nevertheless, exactly the little I knew about it before opening Midnight Children's first page could have allowed me to dream along with Salman and Saleem as I learned some of what happened. I am not completely sure what more to say, but through all its pages I amazed by its beauty and some of the ugliness and suffering it contains. Yes, independence never comes easy to any country and the case of India seems to be one more example of the price that has to be paid. Besides all the pitfalls of politics that have been revealed through history. When the Constitution was altered to give the Prime Minister well-nigh--absolute powers, I smelled the ghosts of ancient empires in the air ... in that city which was littered with the phantoms of Slave Kings and Mughals, or Aurangzeb the merciless and the last, pink conquerors, I inhaled once again the sharp aroma of despotism. It smelled like burning oily rags. And: Such things happen. Statistics may set my arrest in context; 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. The Widow said: "It is only a small percentage of the population of India." From the creative perspective of the world of children born at midnight of India’s independence, through Rushdie’s magic and digressions enters a world where destiny rules over reason, where truth is twisted, and history transforms itself, contorting into a reality that is burdened with pain, love, and miracles. His stories and narratives bent and entwine around each other: Memory has its own special kind. It selects, eliminates, alters, exaggerates, minimizes, glorifies, and vilifies also; but in the end, it creates its own reality, its heterogeneous but usually coherent version of events; and no sane human being ever trusts someone else's version more than his own. Our memory is our past, can it be that what we do not remember didn't happen? That what happened, can be understood? Perhaps this are merely nonsensical rambling but it is all I can come up with. So different from Salman’s and Saleem’s reality, I was not born in at a time of magic and I am free of special gifts bestowed upon me upon my birth. Given all that, can I understand Salman’s magic? Maybe not, but I can imagine or dream about it, an all encompassing aura that hints and glimpses and leads me on endlessly. And I have to say once more that I was fascinated by it all. Nothing but trouble outside my head; nothing but miracles inside it. _______ Other quotes: [email protected]~ ...to understand me, you'll have to swallow a world. [email protected]~ History is always ambiguous. Facts are harsh to establish, and capable of being given many meanings. Reality is built on prejudices, misconceptions and ignorance as well as on our perceptiveness and knowledge. [email protected]~ Memory has its own special kind. It selects, eliminates, alters, exaggerates, minimizes, glorifies, and vilifies also; but in the end it creates its own reality, its heterogeneous but usually coherent version of events; and no sane human being ever trusts someone else's version more than his own. [email protected]~ ... and still so much remains to be told ... Uncle Mustapha is growing inside me, and the pout of Parvati-the-witch; a certain lock of a hero's hair is waiting in the wings; and also a labor of thirteen days, and history as an analogue of a prime minister's hair-style; there is to be treason, and fare-dodging, and the scent (wafting on breezes heavy with the ululations of widows) of something frying in an iron skillet) ... . [email protected]~ One day, perhaps, the world may taste the pickles of history. They may be too strong for some palates, their smell may be overpowering, tears may rise to eyes; I hope nevertheless that it will be possible to say of them that they possess the authentic taste of truth ... that they are, despite everything, acts of love. [email protected]~ When the Bombay edition of the Times of India, searching for a catchy human-interest angle to the forthcoming Independence celebrations, announced that it would award a prize to any Bombay mother who could arrange to give birth to a child at the precise instant of the birth of the new nation, Amina Sinai, who had just awoken from a mysterious dream of flypaper, became glued to the newsprint. [email protected]~ ...; and this year--fourteen hours to go, thirteen, twelve--there was an extra festival on the calendar, a new myth to celebrate, because a nation which had never previously existed was about to win its freedom, catapulting us into a world which, although it had five thousand years of history, although it had invented the game of chess and traded with Middle Kingdom Egypt, was nevertheless quiet imaginary; ... [email protected]~ So: there were knees and a nose, a nose and knees. In fact, all over the new India, the dream we all shared, children were being born who were only partially the offspring of their parents--the children of midnight were also the children of the time: fathered, you understand, by history. It can happen. Especially in a country which is itself a sort of dream. [email protected]~ In those days, my aunt Alia had begun to send us an unending stream of children's clothes, into whose seams she had sewn her old maid's bile; the Brass Monkey and I were clothed in her gifts, wearing at first the baby-things of bitterness, then the rompers of resentment; I grew up in white shorts starched with the starch of jealousy, while the Monkey wore the pretty flowered frocks of Alia's undimmed envy ... [email protected]~ So among the midnight children were infants with powers of transmutation, flight, prophecy and wizardry ... but two of us were born on the stroke of midnight, Saleem and Shiva, Shiva and Saleem, nose and knees and knees and nose ... to Shiva the hour had given the gifts of war (...) ... and to me, the greatest talent of all-the ability to look the hearts and minds of men. [email protected]~ So, from the earliest days of my Pakistani adolescence, I began to learn the secret aromas of the world, the heady but quick-fading perfume of new love, and also the deeper, longer-lasting pungency of hate. [email protected]~ ...; in a country where the truth is what it is instructed to be, reality quite ceases to exist ...; and maybe this was the difference between my Indian childhood and Pakistani adolescence-that in the first I was beset by an infinity of alternative realities, while in the second I was adrift, disoriented, amid an equally infinite number of falsenesses, unrealities and lies. [email protected]~ In the basket of invisibility, a sense of unfairness turned into anger; and something else besides--transformed by rage, I had also been overwhelmed by an agonizing feeling of sympathy for the country which was not only my twin-in-birth but also joined to me (so to speak) at the hip, so that what to either of us, happened to us both. [email protected]~ ... something was ending, something was being born, and at the precise instant of the birth of the new India and the beginning of a continuous midnight which would not end for two long years. My son, the child of the renewed ticktock, came out into the world. [email protected]~ Test and hysterectomized, the children of midnight were denied the possibility of reproducing themselves ... but that was only a side-effect, because they were truly extraordinary doctors, and they drained us of more than that: hope, too, was excised, and I don't know how it was done ... [email protected]~ Today I gave myself the day off and visited Mary. A long hot dusty bus-ride through streets beginning to bubble with the excitement of the coming Independence Day, although I can smell other, more tarnished perfumes: disillusion, venality, cynicism ... the nearly-thirty-one-year-old myth of freedom is no longer what it was. New myths are needed; but that's none of my business. [email protected]~ Sometimes, in the life's version of history, Saleem appears to have known too little; at others times, too much ... yes, I should revise and revise, improve and improve, but there is neither the time nor the energy. I am obliged to offer no more than this stubborn sentence: It happened that way because that's how it happened.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Steve

    I truly am sorry, Salman. It’s trite to say, I know, but it really wasn’t you, it was me. I take all the blame for not connecting, ignorant as I am about the Indian subcontinent’s history, culture, and customs. I’m sure your allegories were brilliant and your symbolism sublime, but it was in large part lost on me. At least I could appreciate your fine writing. You were very creative in the way you advanced the story, too — nonlinearly, and tied to actual events. Your device that allowed narrator I truly am sorry, Salman. It’s trite to say, I know, but it really wasn’t you, it was me. I take all the blame for not connecting, ignorant as I am about the Indian subcontinent’s history, culture, and customs. I’m sure your allegories were brilliant and your symbolism sublime, but it was in large part lost on me. At least I could appreciate your fine writing. You were very creative in the way you advanced the story, too — nonlinearly, and tied to actual events. Your device that allowed narrator Saleem to get inside people’s heads, and later to literally sniff out their emotions was clever as well. These abilities may have been the stuff of fantasy, but your insights into characters (and the abstractions about India they were meant to represent) were completely plausible. In the context of the story, we’re willing to suspend disbelief and buy into the omniscience of the first person account. In your skilled hands, it never seemed forced or hokey. Coming from me, that’s saying something. I don’t usually go for writers plying magic. But in the end, I have to say, your work left me a little disappointed. It might have had something to do with its extensive acclaim; you know, Booker to beat all Bookers and all that. Such weight of expectations was always going to be hard to overcome. The bigger part of the problem, though, was trying to go it alone. Had I taken the guided tour instead, I’m guessing I’d have gotten more out of it. I noticed there’s a reader’s guide that does exactly that, so maybe someday I’ll take the time to plug the gaps in my appreciation. Please note that I’m giving your book a very respectable 4 stars. I liked the language. Someone described it as “Babu” English which I took to mean stylized for effect. I also liked the epic story of Indian archetypes, and the pertinent, sometimes elliptical lessons in history. Still, we both were hoping I could give it a 5, I’m sure.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca

    Reading Rushdie's Midnight's Children is like listening to someone else's long-winded, rambling re-telling of a dream they had. And like all people who describe their dreams -- especially those who do so long past the point where their listeners can believably fake interest or patience -- Rushdie is inherently selfish in the way he chose to write this book. Midnight's Children is one of those novels that are reader-neutral or even reader-antagonistic -- they seem to have been written for the sol Reading Rushdie's Midnight's Children is like listening to someone else's long-winded, rambling re-telling of a dream they had. And like all people who describe their dreams -- especially those who do so long past the point where their listeners can believably fake interest or patience -- Rushdie is inherently selfish in the way he chose to write this book. Midnight's Children is one of those novels that are reader-neutral or even reader-antagonistic -- they seem to have been written for the sole purpose of letting a writer wallow in their own history, their own problems, their own pet concerns, desires, and childhood hangups. Books like this are not mirrors of the world, or even mirrors of the author, but mirrors of how the author wants to be seen by the world. There are patches of writing in this book that startle, amuse, and tantalize the reader, but the story is not as interesting as the narrator or the author seem to think it is; in fact, the narrator's constant references to the depth/difficulty/complex interconnectedness of his story all rang false to me. The narrator constantly tried to impress the reader with the gravity, absurdity, necessity, etc. of the story he was telling: there were lots of annoying, melodramatic asides to the reader along the lines of "O, this!" "O, that" "If only--" "But I must wait to get to that later!", which only served to distract from a story that should have just been left to stand on its own. I'm not necessarily the type of reader who wants concrete, literal, plot-driven stories, but I'm also not the type of reader who has infinite patience for postmodern, self-inflated authors who either have a degree in literature and waste no time bludgeoning you with that fact, or don't have a degree in literature and waste no time in showing you just how good they are despite it all. And, lastly, above and beyond the annoying narrator, the rambling story that went on for about 200 too many pages, and the author's disrespect (or at least disregard) for the reader, the last and crushing blow I can deliver to this book is that it was boring. The narrator – who, by the way, is a fairly flat character despite having over 500 pages to develop himself -- went to great pains to convince us otherwise, with constant reminders of how "epic" and "interconnected" his life was and how it resonated with the history of modern India, but in my opinion, a truly interesting story wouldn't need an obsequious narrator to constantly remind us how interesting it was. I realize I'm in a minority in my dislike of this book; after all, it won the Booker Prize and is widely regarded to be one of the most important novels in English-language literature. I also realize I haven't said anything about what the book is actually about (in a nutshell: a coming-of-age story with a heavy dollop of magical realism and self-pity, with doses of Indian life scattered throughout) -- but all I felt when turning the last page of this book was relief.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Cecily

    “Nose and knees and knees and nose” – part of a prophecy about the unborn narrator. A few days after reading this, I was fortunate to be in the Acropolis Museum, and was struck by a collection of three bas-reliefs that were just of knees. Coupled with the relative lack of whole noses on some of the statues, I was transported back to this book. This was my first adult Rushdie, following soon after his gorgeous children’s/YA novel, Haroun and the Sea of Stories. My initial reaction to this was “The “Nose and knees and knees and nose” – part of a prophecy about the unborn narrator. A few days after reading this, I was fortunate to be in the Acropolis Museum, and was struck by a collection of three bas-reliefs that were just of knees. Coupled with the relative lack of whole noses on some of the statues, I was transported back to this book. This was my first adult Rushdie, following soon after his gorgeous children’s/YA novel, Haroun and the Sea of Stories. My initial reaction to this was “The language is lush and sensuous, seasoned with a little wit. But I feel hampered by my vague knowledge of Indian history, culture and mythology”. I thought much same at the end, although I also realised it’s a powerful and entrancing book at any level. “I am the sum total of everything that went before me… To understand me you’ll have to swallow the world.” But not just him, “To understand just one life, you have to swallow the world.” WHAT AND FOR WHO(M)? A knowledge of 20th century Indian history is clearly an advantage but, given the complexity and length of the story, it might be a slight distraction as well. Perhaps a timeline of key events would be a useful appendix. In the preface, Rushdie observes that Indians treat it as historical fiction and westerners as fantasy. I think it’s a hybrid, with the mystical, magical, surreal aspects increasing towards the end. He also explains that many of the characters are based on family and childhood friends. He doesn't mention that the adult bedwetter shares a name with his own son! His son was an infant at the time of writing, so it may have reflected the frustrations of early parenthood, but I can't believe his son thanked him for it later. On the other hand, Haroun and the Sea of Stories, written a few years later, has a beautiful and heart-breaking to the same son. It’s a curious, disorienting book that has passages of conventional narrative interspersed with rambling passages of history, allegory, philosophical reverie, and recaps and foreshadowing of plot. It’s worth keeping a few notes, as many characters change name and/or turn out not to be who you were first told they were. Reading it was a strange sensation: it was so far removed from anything familiar to me that it could almost have been sci-fi (I know that sounds weird). I loved some of the language, and appreciated the craft of the author, but I could not quite love it in the way I wanted and expected to. Straight after this, I turned to Atwood’s The Blind Assassin, which is another long and multi-layered novel, but where the desire to read just a little bit more was a deeper compulsion, with no parallel sense of… worthiness (not the right word, but I’m not sure what is). Rushdie delivered, but I fell short. The book deserves all its awards and a full 5*, but my own experience was 4*. PLOT The plot is both simple and complex (duality and opposites are recurring themes). Saleem (the narrator)’s mother visits a soothsayer when pregnant, and his bizarre and seemingly contradictory conundrums sum up events, including: the knees and nose (above), “two heads – but you shall see only one… cobra will creep… Washing will hide him – voices will guide him… Blood will betray him” mentions of doctors, spittoons, jungle, wizards and soldiers, ending “He will have sons without having sons! He will be old before he is old! And he will die. . . before he is dead!” Saleem is born at midnight on the day India becomes independent, and raised in a wealthy Indian family. As a child, he becomes aware of a telepathic link to other Indian children born that night: Midnight’s Children, each of whom has at least one special power. “Thanks to the occult tyrannies of those blandly saluting clocks, I had been mystically handcuffed to history”. The events he tells, from his grandparent’s meeting onwards, are many and varied, but with common themes, woven in to a kaleidoscopic story that stays just short of confusing. THEMES Early on, the idea of something being revealed in fragments is introduced, and later, Saleem says “the ghostly echo of that perforated sheet… condemned me to see my own life – its meanings, its structures – in fragments also.” Midnight’s Children are fragmented across the country; Saleem is their only connection. Hence, it seems appropriate to conjure impressions of the book from its many disparate, but intertwined, themes. As for assembling all these fragments…? That’s where I feel I failed slightly. • Fragments and holes, versus wholeness When Dr Aadam Aziz (Saleem’s grandfather) found himself “unable to worship a god in whose existence he could not wholly disbelieve”, it “made a hole in him… leaving him vulnerable to women and history.” There are many mentions of that hole (and others): “Sometimes, through a trick of the light, Amina thought she saw, in the centre of her father’s body, a dark shadow like a hole.” The original perforated sheet is used to examine a young female patient, seeing only what he needs to see. After many different ailments, he had a “badly-fitting collage of her severally-inspected parts” that filled up the hole inside him, even though he had never seen her face. It is sensitively and sensuously written. Loving in fragments is harder, especially when the subject is “now unified and transmuted into a formidable figure”, but more than one character attempts it. A descendant uses a different piece of perforated fabric to maintain modesty and anonymity while pursuing a singing career. • Duality, pairs and opposites There are so many instances and aspects of these concepts, that there is no need to list or expand on them. Perhaps the most significant are Saleem and his “destructive, violent alter-ego”, leading opposite lives, and The Widow (Mrs Gandhi) with her centre parting giving her a white side and black side. • Snakes (and ladders), hence reversal As prophesised, snakes are important, both real and imaginary. Cobra venom cures typhoid, and from Snakes and Ladders (“perfect balance of rewards and penalties”), Saleem has “an early awareness of the ambiguity of snakes” and encounters plenty of ups and downs. This is an area where knowledge of Indian mythology would help. • Impotence Biological and metaphorical impotence, permanent and temporary, affects several characters (quite apart from mention of high-pressure sterilisation campaigns), including the nation of India itself. • Confused parentage, gaining parents “Once again a child was to be born to a father who was not his father, although by a terrible irony the child would be the true grandchild of his father’s parents.” Not everyone is the biological child of who they are thought to be, not just from illicit relationships, but also, in incident at the heart of the book, by the deliberate act of a third party. Furthermore, Saleem develops a habit of acquiring a string of fathers and father figures. • Name-changing Some characters are known by nicknames (Saleem’s grandmother is Reverend Mother and his sister The Brass Monkey), and others change their name – especially women, to have children (his grandmother, mother and wife). This probably resonates with Indian mythology and culture in ways I don’t know. • Storytelling, truth, memory, reality, and free speech “What’s real and what’s true are not necessarily the same.” “Reality is a question of perspective; the further you get from the past, the more concrete and plausible it seems.” Just as a cinema screen looks real until you’re so close you can see the pixels. “Memory’s truth… in the end it creates its own reality.” “What actually happens is less important than what the author can manage to persuade his audience to believe.” This was written years before the fatwa that sent Rushdie into hiding (and which is reflected in Haroun; see my review, linked at the top). However, a punishment in this is to “seal our lips”, like the "Sign of the Zipped Lips" in Haroun. One character here is voluntarily mute for three years, as a protest, and another is very late learning to speak. • Magic All the Midnight’s Children have a power. Saleem considers his telepathic and telegraphic skills to be the most powerful (“the ability to look into the hearts and minds of men”), with those born less close to midnight having progressively weaker skills. But others can become invisible, step in and out of mirrors, multiply fish, change sex at will, inflict physical pain with words, have perfect memory, heal, do alchemy, time travel, speak all languages, prophesy and more. Appropriately, the child of two Midnight’s Children is mute for three years, then his first word is Abracadabra. There is also a little numerology: 420 = fraud, 1001 = magic, 555 = evil. • Vanishing Several characters disappear for a time, or permanently: oblivion via the Djinn bottle, magical invisibility, running away, death, and two who apparently have vitiligo. • Time and preservation The time of birth is key to Saleem’s life and self-appointed mission to rescue his country. He ends up (no spoiler – he says this early on) as a pickle-maker and a writer: “I spend my time at the great work of preserving. Memory, as well as fruit, is being saved from the corruption of the clocks.” This reminded me of one of the few other Indian books I’ve read, The God of Small Things, in which the family has a pickle factory. • Smell and other senses Saleem has a huge nose, and at different times has no sense of smell and a very powerful, magical one that can detect safety, danger, the “glutinous reek of hypocrisy” and “the fatalistic hopelessness of the slum dwellers and the smug defensiveness of the rich”. “The perfume of her sad hopefulness permeates her.” Emotions can be transferred via sewing and cooking: “the curries and meatballs of intransigence… fish salans of stubbornness and the birianis of determination” and clothes “into whose seams she had sewn her old maid’s bile… the baby-things of bitterness, then the rompers of resentment… the starch of jealousy… our wardrobe was binding us into the webs of her revenge.” • Blood Blood was in the prophecy in a specific way, but it crops up in many other ways and there are a couple of paragraphs where Saleem rattles them off. • Spittoon and Anglepoise A silver spittoon inlaid with lapis lazuli is important, as are spittoons in general. I felt the cultural gap here. Trivial (or maybe not), but within the first hundred pages, I’d noted at least three variants of “Anglepoised pool of light”. Having spotted it, it was almost more distracting to find only two more in the remaining 500+ pages. I'm not the only person to have noticed: Salman Rushdie and Translation: "the Anglepoise lamp, a uniquely individualistic type of lighting which lights up only the small, restricted area of desk or writing materials in its scope. The phrase also seems to imply Anglophone or Anglophile literary writing alongside the notion of writing by lamplight." Salman Rushdie: Critical Essays volume 1: "The trope of the Anglepoise light... suggests the divided sensibility in Saleem, a child born in post-colonial India, not post-Independence India." AND THE MORAL IS? I’m not sure there is one. The subject is raised obliquely a few times, but somehow feels lacking. I’m puzzled that I wrote that: I don’t seek out morality tales, but as I compile this review, I realise this felt like the sort of book that had, or ought to have, such a thread, and yet I lost it in the rich tapestry. The Midnight Children “found it easy to be brilliant, [but] we were always confused about being good”, just as Saleem used his powers to cheat in class in an attempt to gain parental approval. Another gap was precisely WHY Mary Pereira does the thing she does. A reason is given, but it doesn’t really make sense to me, and the implications and effects are so huge, I wanted to understand. Related to that, why did those who found out, not try to investigate and find? “For what reason you’re rich and I’m poor?” OTHER QUOTES • “His face was a sculpture of wind and water: ripples made of hide.” • “Most of what happens in our lives happens in our absence.” • “Even in his moments of triumph, there hung the stink of future failure.” • “Poverty eats away at the tarmac like a drought, where people live their invisible lives.” • “He had eyes like road-drills, hard and full of ratatat.” • “An apartment of such supernatural untidiness.” • “Blurred the edges of himself by drink.” • "I have become, it seems to me, the apex of an isosceles triangle, supported equally by twin deities, the wild god of memory and the lotus-goddess of the present... but must I now be reconciled to the narrow one-dimensionality of a straight line?" • “Uncreated lives rotting in her womb.” • “We could hear the creaks and groans of a rustling, decayed imagination.” • Army recruits “were so young, and had not had time to acquire the type of memories which give men a firm hold on reality.” • When invisible, “I hung in a sphere of absence”. • “A girl who followed him with eyes moistened with accusation.” • “The widow’s finest, most delicate joke: instead of torturing us, she gave us hope. Which meant she had something… to take away.” • “Soft, amorous susurrations, like the couplings of velvet mice.” • “The quinquesyllabic monotony of the wheels.” • Apparently, Lady Mountbatten “ate chicken breasts secretly behind a locked lavatory door.” It is strange if true, and even stranger to mention it. There were also a few multi-tense strings, which were quite effective in context: “we were are shall be the gods you never had” and he ”will be is already more cautious.”

  15. 4 out of 5

    Kimber Silver

    "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'm gone which would not have happened if I had not come." ― Salman Rushdie, Midnight's Children I pull up a chair and ready myself. I had, after all, been promised a fantastical story of the children of midnight. The air crackles with electricity as the story unfolds wh "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'm gone which would not have happened if I had not come." ― Salman Rushdie, Midnight's Children I pull up a chair and ready myself. I had, after all, been promised a fantastical story of the children of midnight. The air crackles with electricity as the story unfolds where it all began, in the dreamlike land of Kashmir where a fledgling doctor falls in love seven inches at a time. Saleem Sinai, the narrator, weaves a wondrous tale, and I ‘listen’ with rapt attention as I’m drawn into the winding history of the Aziz family: an account of supreme importance because without it the destiny of Saleem could never be fully realized. Saleem’s grandfather, Aadam Aziz, is a starry-eyed youth aching to make a name for himself as a physician. The fates have plans beyond imagining for this newly-qualified medic. Mix together a landowner's ill daughter, a poorly-lit bedroom, and a giant sheet held as a modesty curtain between doctor and patient. On this sheet is a hole, seven inches in diameter, cut into its center through which he must examine the young lady. Sprinkle liberally with a magical realism so delicious that I was left light-headed. Stir well and let the concoction simmer over the low heat of mystery and the table is laid for generations to come. Midnight's Children is a tale of love, betrayal and lust on every conceivable level. Humor, interspersed with tragedy, fashions the perfect bite. Within these pages, we find a poetic, long-haired husband hidden in a crawlspace, a movie starlet with a suicidal spouse, and a man with a hair part so crisp that women can’t control their desire for him. (I mean, who doesn’t go wild over a great hair part, right?) Then there are the children born in the midnight hour ― those mystic beings filled with the disease of optimism; the dreamers of dreams, made of knees and noses, noses and knees. It feels as if Rushdie writes down the story just as he thinks of it, leaving it there in all its naked glory. Like a recording of a conversation with a friend that includes any unforeseen interruptions. As Rushdie’s skittish mind conjures the narrative, he imagines other visitors stopping by the house and so they too become part of the yarn. I absolutely loved the narrator’s companion, Padma, prodding him to quit veering off course and get back to the task at hand because we both want to know what is going to happen. (I cheered her for keeping him on track several times!) The conversational writing style is an enchanting part of what makes this author a cut above, in addition to his rich lyrical prose. The man is an artist with words, painting pictures so vivid that they became burned into my memory for all time. "I was, however, powerless to protest; we were swept into her Datsun of vengeance…" "…nevertheless, while we lived in her Guru Mandir mansion, she fed us the birianis of dissension and the nargisi koftas of discord;" I cracked the cover expecting greatness and, by the time I turned the final page, felt a part of the Aziz family. If you’ve not read Rushdie, please start with this chaotically brilliant book. Midnight’s Children captured my imagination and left me breathless. A big thank you to Kevin Ansbro for his recommendation!

  16. 5 out of 5

    Taylor

    Back in 2000, lit critic James Wood wrote a huge manifesto on the problem of "the 'big' novel" for the New Atlantic (disguised as a review of Zadie Smith). He basically attacked quirky novels like Underworld, Infinite Jest & White Teeth. There were a lot of things about it that I agreed with - particularly his point that a lot of cutesy things some writers tend towards are in place of good structure. One major thing I didn't agree with was his inclusion of Rushdie in this lot of wacky writer Back in 2000, lit critic James Wood wrote a huge manifesto on the problem of "the 'big' novel" for the New Atlantic (disguised as a review of Zadie Smith). He basically attacked quirky novels like Underworld, Infinite Jest & White Teeth. There were a lot of things about it that I agreed with - particularly his point that a lot of cutesy things some writers tend towards are in place of good structure. One major thing I didn't agree with was his inclusion of Rushdie in this lot of wacky writers. He used Ground Beneath Her Feet as his case in point, but Midnight's Children makes a solid argument that a) Rushdie can create intricate, intelligent plots and characters, and any amusing characteristics are more of an aside, and b) everything Rushdie does is deliberate, even anything quirky. Intricately connected by their time of birth, Midnight's Children follows Saleem Sinai, born at the exact time India gained its independence. It traces Saleem's life and family history - as well as India's - starting with his grandparents on down (much like Middlesex, for example, and, yes, yes, I know, also that Gunter Grass novel, the Tin Drum which was apparently the first novel to trace a character's lineage that way. Unlike Middlesex, Rushdie gets through it a lot more quickly, which I rather appreciated, so for those who couldn't get through Middlesex, don't be turned off). Because I'm no Indian History scholar, I'm sure the subtler points of the satire were lost on me. Rushdie has no problem spelling things out, as he likely anticipated that, but beyond Saleem/India, there were only a few things I could connect from his statements and clues. It did help that some of the names in politics he used were real, in particular Ms. Indira Ghandi. At the same time, as someone who doesn't know much about it, I was interested in what I was learning. It's amazing how much dissent there was - and still is - both in terms of conflicts with/about neighboring countries (Pakistan, Kashmir), but also within, in terms of politics. I suppose it's no different than any other young independent country, but there's something very outwardly aggressive about their conflicts in comparison to ours, for example, which are a little more covert or passive aggressive. Since this is so intricately linked with India's history, it feels almost unfair to call this fiction. It'd probably be more fair to call it historical fiction, since most of the larger events are true. Although I know that label turns a lot of people off, too. As one of Rushdie's earlier works, he experiments a lot with words and language. In the introduction, he says he was trying to exemplify "Hinglish" and "Bambiyya," the Bombay street slang, which, as far as my knowledge extends, he pulls off pretty accurately. It goes beyond that, though. He outright laughs in the face of "rules" of writing and grammar, occasionally ignoring punctuation, breaking out of linear structures, telling us what's coming before he gets there. This isn't a disregard for grammar like, say, Cormac McCarthy, or a random fucking with the timeline, like a Quentin Tarantino (I know, he's not literary, but whatever! Oh and this so isn't a Tarantino diss, because I love him). It's only at certain times, and each time he "breaks" a "rule," it serves a distinct purpose that, if not revealed immediately, is explained in due time. This is something I love about Rushdie. He's a very deliberate writer, and of the works of his that I've read, Midnight's Children seems the most deliberate. There are few things he mentions that don't come into play at some point, and to help us sort out the most important, he doesn't have a problem telling us. Originally, I was going to say that this is a good place to start for people who are daunted by his works, Satanic Verses in particular, then I changed my mind, but now I've changed it back to what I originally thought. Because Rushdie is such a deliberate, careful, organized writer, Midnight's Children probably is a great place to start, because he gives the reader more of a field guide. In some of his later works you're kind of set free on your own, and this is kind of a hand-holder, in a way. Which isn't to say it's any less complex, dense, or interesting, or that he makes the reader feel like an idiot. To put it another way: I did a lot less going back to check who was who or what happened when in compared to how much I did with SV. I still feel like I need to read it again and take notes, but I've never felt any other way after reading a Rushdie novel, which is, again, something I like about him. His novels are the kind that unfurl. Like a good city, you can walk it for ages and discover new things every time. In comparing it to Satanic Verses - my other fave Rushdie, if you haven't deciphered that at this point - I connected with this in a different way. While reading SV, I connected to specific characters (especially the female Mt. Everest climber, Alleluia Cone). With Midnight's Children, I didn't connect to any specific character, though I certainly did care about and was interested in many of them. Instead, I connected through emotions and mental states. For example, when the troop is lost and going crazy in the Sundarbans, I felt like I was going a little insane, myself. Everything I felt, the way I reacted, I think, was very deliberate on the part of Rushdie. There wasn't any emotion I experienced that wasn't part of what he was trying to evoke. Or so it seemed, at least. Because of that, I'm relaxing on him a bit for Saleem's extensive self-pitying. I do agree with those on here who have said that it's a bit much. However, I think he's supposed to be a bit juvenile and irritating - he says as much in his introduction to the 25th Anniversary Edition (which, by the way, I recommend reading before as well as after the novel). There were times when I was thinking, "Okay, get on with it, stop doing this whole 'No, I can't talk about it, it's too tragic,' shtick," because it did get redundant. But, then again, the character is incredibly redundant in many matters, and I don't think it's a shortcoming where writing is concerned so much as Rushdie succeeding - maybe even too much - at building Saleem's character. (He even refers to Saleem as though he's a real person in his intro, so that says something about his mindset when he was writing this.) I don't know if I'd classify this as my favorite Rushdie work over Satanic Verses, only because personally, I'm generally more of a wanderer. Now that I think about it, the two novels take on almost exactly opposite themes. SV is about feeling like an outsider, MC is about being deeply connected to your place of birth. Of those two, I'm definitely more in the former than the latter, which is probably why I identify with SV a little more strongly. That said, with repeat readings and more time to gel, who knows. It's pretty neck and neck.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Elyse Walters

    WOW!!! It took me 140 pages to really get 'hooked'. Do you know there is a 32 page vocabulary list (I printed it out)--online for "Midnight's Children? Its worth reading this book! lol UPDATE: In spirit of Sharyl's review which I read today... I'm going to RAISE my my 3 stars to 5 stars! I read this a long time ago ---(I had to work it) --looking up tons of words. However --I thought the story was TERRIFIC!!! I still think about this book... so...5 stars it is!!!!!

  18. 5 out of 5

    Erwin

    Do not know what to say.......... I am speechless...unlike the main character of this book: Saleem. What to compare this to? Not another book. Impossible! Perhaps it is best to compare this reading experience to a feeling, an image from my past: A young boy listening in awe to his father (his greatest hero) telling one of his most wonderful stories at a campfire, hoping that the night and dad's story will never end. Saleem's story and his narrative made me feel like that young boy again: an awest Do not know what to say.......... I am speechless...unlike the main character of this book: Saleem. What to compare this to? Not another book. Impossible! Perhaps it is best to compare this reading experience to a feeling, an image from my past: A young boy listening in awe to his father (his greatest hero) telling one of his most wonderful stories at a campfire, hoping that the night and dad's story will never end. Saleem's story and his narrative made me feel like that young boy again: an awestruck admirer. I didn't read this book... I was, like Padma, part of Saleem's audience. I listened... A remarkable novel! A favourite.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Edward

    Midnight’s Children did not quite live up to my expectations, which were set very high by the book’s reputation. It’s a complex, messy novel; colourful, filled with a blend of fantasy and possibility, and a mood that is at once hopeful and resigned. It presents history as memory and story rather than settled fact, and beautifully weaves the human with the epic and the mythic. I did appreciate the central metaphor and structure: the expression of the birth and growth of a nation through that of it Midnight’s Children did not quite live up to my expectations, which were set very high by the book’s reputation. It’s a complex, messy novel; colourful, filled with a blend of fantasy and possibility, and a mood that is at once hopeful and resigned. It presents history as memory and story rather than settled fact, and beautifully weaves the human with the epic and the mythic. I did appreciate the central metaphor and structure: the expression of the birth and growth of a nation through that of its children; the promise of greatness, and the eventual decline of its potential through human failings – these work on the personal and national scale (and in a third mystical, metaphysical dimension at which the novel hints), and what the novel does well - though perhaps a little too heavy-handedly at times - is draw together these parallel lines and overlapping themes. But I often got a sense of the author losing himself within the novel’s framework, desperately seeking something tangible to point to among the random happenings and loose connections - the final section itself seems entirely a uncertain search for a meaningful resolution. The result is a novel that is too much concerned with the frenzied antics of its array of fantastical characters, each with his own peculiar quirk – a strange physical feature (nose, ears, knees, breasts), a recurring phrase ("whatsitsname") – though some of these characters and events are memorable, many seem shallow and superfluous, and I found the repetition of this formula less and less compelling as the novel wore on. Rushdie is an accomplished writer: he writes elegantly and with great energy. However I was not drawn to the voice of Saleem Sinai, or generally captivated by his characters. I found the whimsical tone a little overbearing at times. Too often there were little tricks and tropes that stood out to me, such as the aforementioned inexhaustible cast of quirky characters, and repeated abuse of minor cliff-hangers, which often made promises that were never suitably fulfilled. I did enjoy the many forays into Indian history, but I think that is interesting in itself, not necessarily made more so by the novel.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Marieke

    PART 1 I finished the book yesterday--but before I describe my overall response I have to start with this entry I wrote in my notebook while I was partway through. I last opened this book ten years ago. This was the book that destroyed our little book club in college, my first year. A small group of avid readers, aspiring to read high and mighty works of literature. We made it through Snow Falling on Cedars successfully--I don't remember any discussion we had about it, but I liked the book. Midnig PART 1 I finished the book yesterday--but before I describe my overall response I have to start with this entry I wrote in my notebook while I was partway through. I last opened this book ten years ago. This was the book that destroyed our little book club in college, my first year. A small group of avid readers, aspiring to read high and mighty works of literature. We made it through Snow Falling on Cedars successfully--I don't remember any discussion we had about it, but I liked the book. Midnight's Children absolutely destroyed us. Partly because we were newly in college, overwhelmed with so many things. Heavy reading loads in all our classes, especially the English classes I was taking. College isn't a great time to be in a book club, I found. After four years there plus three more in grad school studying literature, I almost completely lost the ability to read books of my own choosing. Slowly I'm rediscovering the desire to read... but I am still unable to read anything without thinking about it to death. These many years ago, I had made it about a third of the way through Midnight's Children before I was overcome by its nearly impenetrable density. If I had owned the book, I gave it away; if I had borrowed it, I returned it to its owner. I never went back to the book club meetings--if there were any more. I forgot all about it. Now I am a little over a third of the way through Midnight's Children again. I suddenly felt myself in a familiar landscape--on the edge of a murky bog in which I could see myself walking forever in circles until I sank in the muck. There was no way out. Ten years ago, I had put the book down--I had run away, escaped. Now here I was again. Dread and revulsion filled me. Rushdie put me up to this! I had to go through it. He is relentless, but I could not give up a second time. When the reader (me) gets bored and impatient, Rushdie inserts a character to make fun of you for being bored and impatient. When you've heard those particular details three times already he tells them to you a fourth. He pours words like water droplets onto your head, wearing away a bald spot until eventually you go mad. And all the while he makes you feel that you're an idiot not to worship him and his amazing story. Salman Rushdie--big famous author. Midnight's Children, acclaimed prizewinning book. I am not worthy. I keep reading, I splash through the bog, in circles, I curse the author. I pick my nails and wish it were over so I could return it to the library. I'm not going to let him win--I will fight to the end. And now, for all that, I've started to enjoy the book again! The bog wasn't endless, nor was I hopelessly lost forever. He brought me out as sure as he sent me in. Suddenly the story picks up again, something is happening, time is moving forward, secrets are being revealed. I always wonder whether authors drag on purposefully or whether they don't realize how boring they are being. Rushdie knows--he made his impatient-reader character actually walk out of the story in frustration! But--she came back. I don't know why she loves the narrator (he's completely repulsive), but he does have a good story to tell, I'll give him that. PART 2 I'm impressed--really. This was a difficult book to get through. But it gripped me more and more strongly as I read. The halfway point was a shock--to stop and think, I've come so far, I'm only halfway there?! But forging on... then the book picked me up and carried me along in its floodwaters. I'm talking about this book like it was a journey, and it was. It was definitely epic; it deserves all the praise it has received. I can't personally add much to the heaps of praise Midnight's Children has stockpiled, but I can add my own experience to the mix. How this book could be so popular with such an unlikeable narrator, I'll never know. The narrator (Saleem) finally stopped interrupting his own story with annoying bursts of self-consciousness, and I could continue to read without being reminded every few pages of how much I hated him. He was repulsive, annoying, hypocritical, arrogant, and a scumbag. All the same, he wasn't completely unsympathetic as a character. His experience of life, of living, sometimes struck a chord. In this strangely emotionless story, Saleem's pitiful life does evoke some feeling in a reader. I despise him. This book beats the reader over the head with its flamboyant mysticism--maddeningly repetitive, sickeningly self-conscious, pompous and insistent. It's a smack-you-upside-the-head and shout-in-your-ear allegory. There's no doubt Rushdie is brilliant. This book is a work of genius, and I'm not just saying that. I'm sure a lot of it was over my head and I won't pretend to get all the references and metaphors. This book just screams to be interpreted, analyzed, discussed, taken apart and put back together. If only I had a book club to discuss it with me, I could rant about it some more. As it is, I'll just say this is an utterly amazing book that I can't even begin to get my mind around--and if you like a challenge with some history, magic, and chutney thrown in, pick this book up. Don't worry if you feel like strangling someone halfway through--it gets better. When you get to the end you might not know exactly where you've been but it will have been an unforgettable trip.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Ritwik

    The most courageous writer I have come across lately and my first venture into the genre of magic realism. I confess I had a different opinion of magical realism before I started reading this book. I had the opinion that magic realism would in general have a lot of similarities to fantasy fiction with an exception that the allusions made would be realistic and the exaggerations would just make the effects to the plot more pronounced. According to my findings, 'Midnight's Children' is considered The most courageous writer I have come across lately and my first venture into the genre of magic realism. I confess I had a different opinion of magical realism before I started reading this book. I had the opinion that magic realism would in general have a lot of similarities to fantasy fiction with an exception that the allusions made would be realistic and the exaggerations would just make the effects to the plot more pronounced. According to my findings, 'Midnight's Children' is considered to be one of defining works of magical realism and ergo I grossly miscalculated the parameters that define the genre in consideration. Speaking of the book- The first person narrative is playful, discombobulated, verbose, long-winded and teeming with distasteful opinions on Pakistan and the questionable Gandhi dynasty in the ever-scandalous history of Indian politics. Speaking of the story the summary at the back is misleading to a certain extent, and the plot, it is medium-paced with lots of digressions which frustratingly increases as the story proceeds. The novel also impudently speaks of ribald concepts like incest, scandalous relationships, extra-marital affairs, conspiracies involving some of the most respected Indian politicians. It even goes as far as inducing evocative imagery into the minds of the readers. I could go on and actually write a review consisting of all the complains I can muster but I would really like to write about the things that made me adore the book and gladly embrace it as one-of-my-favourites-of-all-time. Interestingly, Salman Rushdie himself was born in the year 1947 but two months apart from the date of independence. He wrote this book reminiscing his childhood and turning the scenarios into events of exaggerating magnitudes that he made clear in the preface of this edition. -His sister Sameen was actually called 'the brass monkey' as a girl. -His childhood friends actually inspired the characters of Sonny, Eyeslice and Hairoil. -Evie Burns was inspired by Beverly Burns. and so on. The allusions, duality and the symbolisms used in the story are quite enchanting. The statements made by Saleem Sinai are thought provoking although convoluted at times. Here is an example taken directly from the book- 'Who what am I? My answer: 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.' In retrospect I could write so little about the good things as compared to the bad things that I have listed in this review which leaves me conflicted but I guess that is the beauty and the enormity of the magic of the book that renders me unable to write about them and still love the book. This is magic realism. To sum up, the beatitude of Salman Rushdie's writing, the enticing hullabaloo of events in the book, the melodrama of scenarios and the luxuriant flow of words in the book is simply rapturous and it 'maddens my heart with delight'.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Andrea Schweiger Bregman

    It doesn’t happen often, but from time to time after I finish a work of literature, I wonder, “What just happened?” In an effort to answer that question, my brain attempts to turn itself inside out to make sense of it all. This time that torture came from Rushdie’s Midnight Children. This novel is my first experience reading Rushdie’s work, so I am not sure if the writing style of this book is typical of the author, but I am not in any hurry to find out. Being an English Literature student and an It doesn’t happen often, but from time to time after I finish a work of literature, I wonder, “What just happened?” In an effort to answer that question, my brain attempts to turn itself inside out to make sense of it all. This time that torture came from Rushdie’s Midnight Children. This novel is my first experience reading Rushdie’s work, so I am not sure if the writing style of this book is typical of the author, but I am not in any hurry to find out. Being an English Literature student and an avid reader, I felt a certain expectation of myself to admire Rushdie and his work. After all, he is a very celebrated author, and his books appear on many “must read” lists compiled by authors I respect. After the first 250 pages of Midnight’s Children I felt self-conscious that I that I didn’t like the book, in fact, I was beginning to despise it. I consider Midnight’s Children a triple dog dare from Rushdie to read his book to the very end. As with most dares, it was daunting to face, and to test my resolve, he made every attempt to make me put down the book for good. The fact that I see all dares through, from eating worms to kissing a friend’s younger brother, and that Midnight’s Children was a class assigned book, were the only motivations that I had not to. Within the more than six-hundred pages of text, there are about one hundred pages of straight forward biography written by the protagonist Saleem Sinai, and Rushdie makes you work very hard to find them hidden among the overwhelming quantity of details, a task I found tedious, frustrating and at times mind numbingly boring. I simultaneously pitied and despised Saleem. Like the other 1,000 children born at the stroke of midnight of India’s independence, Saleem has special powers, the telepathic ability to communicate with all of these children. Despite his gift, he is not particularly respected among the children for very long. His average life is also not spectacular. He is not handsome or physically co-coordinated. He is bullied by children and adults, often betrayed and physically mutilated, and so emotionally sensitive he seeks comfort by surrounding himself with dirty laundry. However, this same Saleem that my heart went out to was the one writing the story that was torturing me page after page after page. Rushdie does provide the reader with a representative in the plot, Padma. She is the novel’s saving grace, the one person who is able to stop Saleem’s self important dialogue. She is frustrated with the slow moving pace of the narrative and gives voice to the like minded reader when she urges Saleem to write more concisely and get to the point faster. At first I found Padma’s sudden entries into the plot distracting, but after awhile I found myself peeking ahead in order to see when she would appear again to gauge exactly how much longer I had to continue reading before respite. I confess I am very ignorant of the events surrounding the formation of Pakistan, the independence of India, and the decades of war and political maneuvering between them. I didn’t even make it through the entire movie “Gandhi”. At first I welcomed the history lesson Rushdie provides of those times. However, by the middle of Book II, I found the sheer volume of details confusing and obtuse, and was skimming over these parts. By the end of Book II, I was skipping them altogether. In the chapter “How Saleem Achieved Purity”, I felt vindicated of my behavior. Saleem’s description of the events that led to the demise of his family in the Indo-Pakistani war of 1965 starts with, “Which facts to present?” and continues with pages of questions and conjecture, “Did it happen this way or didn’t it?” The seemingly endless expansion on his proposed questions finally raised my own: “I don’t know exactly how it happened, I don’t care, and can you please get to the point?!” Rushdie misses, or maybe ignores the perfect opportunity to end his story. With the final dispersal of Midnight’s Children after their captivity by the government, most of the loose ends are tied up, or the reader has learned enough essential plot elements to forgive Rushdie if he ended Saleem’s story this way. To me, I felt the last forty pages were Rushdie’s last challenge to me to complete his dare: would I or could I read through these superfluous pages of obvious revelations or would I finally quit. The sense of power and freedom I felt after reading the very last sentence was made sweeter by my accomplishment. To be fair to Rushdie, objectively, his writing skills are incredible. His ability to tie Saleem’s life to history and his ability to overlap events, religions, and mysticism is something for some to aspire to. His overwhelming details created vivid images: beautiful Kashmirian landscapes, putrid slums and titillating, (almost) love scenes. His skills in these areas might be enough for some people to excuse the tedium of Midnight’s Children, but for me it didn’t. By the end of the novel, I didn’t even feel bad that I didn’t like Rushdie’s writing, or this novel.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Paul Bryant

    Update: Just back from watching the movie and.... well... it kind of highlights the less great parts of the book, just because it's a movie. You notice the non-plot, you notice that the characters get dragged around from India to Pakistan to Bangladesh depending which big political event or war is happening as we make our way from 1947 to 1977; and we really notice how gushingly sentimental it all turns out in the end. All of these problems are there in the book but are melted, dissolved, and ble Update: Just back from watching the movie and.... well... it kind of highlights the less great parts of the book, just because it's a movie. You notice the non-plot, you notice that the characters get dragged around from India to Pakistan to Bangladesh depending which big political event or war is happening as we make our way from 1947 to 1977; and we really notice how gushingly sentimental it all turns out in the end. All of these problems are there in the book but are melted, dissolved, and blended like tasty spices in a piquant dish. All is made good by Rushdie's fantastic prose style which is utterly stunning and makes the book a MUST READ. And the prose, even the bits read by the narrator, who is Mr Rushdie himself, is not in the movie. Because it's a movie not a book. SUMMARY Book : 10! Film : 5.5 ************ An earlier non-review: Everyone knows Salman was once a humble copywriter for an ad agency. And he came up with a couple of good ones – famously, one for the National Dairy Council, when they were advertising cream cakes. The slogan was “Naughty … but nice” and the ads were televised around 1980. I was listening to a lot of American pop stuff from the 50s the other day and what came up but Frankie Avalon, singing a daft song called “Gingerbread” REFRAIN Ginger bread ginger bread ginger bread ginger bread Ginger bread ginger bread ginger bread ginger bread You're full of sugar you're full of spice You're kinda naughty but you're naughty and nice Salman Rushdie – you’re busted. And you're outed as a Frankie Avalon fan.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Ahmad Sharabiani

    Midnight’s Children, Salman Rushdie Midnight's Children is a 1980 novel by Salman Rushdie that deals with India's transition from British colonialism to independence and the partition of British India. It is considered an example of postcolonial, postmodern, and magical realist literature. The story is told by its chief protagonist, Saleem Sinai, and is set in the context of actual historical events. The style of preserving history with fictional accounts is self-reflexive. تاریخ نخستین خوانش: هشتم Midnight’s Children, Salman Rushdie Midnight's Children is a 1980 novel by Salman Rushdie that deals with India's transition from British colonialism to independence and the partition of British India. It is considered an example of postcolonial, postmodern, and magical realist literature. The story is told by its chief protagonist, Saleem Sinai, and is set in the context of actual historical events. The style of preserving history with fictional accounts is self-reflexive. تاریخ نخستین خوانش: هشتم ماه سپتامبر سال 1988 میلادی عنوان: بچه‌ های نیمه‌ شب؛ نویسنده: سلمان رشدی؛ مترجم: مهدی سحابی؛ تهران، تندر، 1363؛ در 687 ص؛ موضوع: داستانهای نویسندگان انگلیسی - قرن 20 م بچه‌ های نیمه‌ شب رمانی است نوشته سلمان رشدی، در سال 1980 میلادی. سلمان رشدی در این رمان به دوران گذار از استعمار انگلیس به استقلال هند می‌پردازد. این رمان را می‌توان نمونه‌ ای از ادبیات پسااستعماری و رئالیسم جادویی دانست. رویدادهای این رمان در بستر رخدادهای تاریخی رخ می‌دهد و از اینرو می‌توان آن را رمانی تاریخی هم قلمداد کرد. بچه‌ های نیمه‌ شب جایزه بوکر سال 1981 میلادی و جایزه جیمز تیت بلک مموریال را در همان سال از آن خود کرد. در جشن سالگرد بیست و پنجمین و چهلمین سال برگزاری جایزه بوکر، در سال 1993 میلادی و در سال 2008 میلادی، بچه‌ های نیمه‌ شب جایزه بوکر بوکرها و جایزه بهترین برگزیدگان بوکر در همه زمان‌ها را برنده شد. همچنین این رمان تنها رمان هندی است که در لیست یکصد رمان برتر انگلیسی زبان مجله تایم از زمان انتشار در سال 1923 میلادی آن تاکنون قرار گرفته است. جناب مهدی سحابی بچه‌ های نیمه‌ شب را به فارسی برگردانده و در سال 1364 هجری خورشیدی برنده جایزهٔ بهترین رمان خارجی کتاب سال جمهوری اسلامی ایران شد. ا. شربیانی

  25. 5 out of 5

    Adina

    Finally got the courage to start this praised Booker winner. It will be my 2nd Rushdie, 1st is one of my favourites but I've fallen out of love with magical realism recently. That's why I am worried I will not be able to appreciate the novel as I should.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Ankit Garg

    Sensational. Lively. Lovely. Yet-pretty-guessable at times. The above words sum up what I think about Salman Rushdie's Midnight's Children. The storyline is brilliantly correlated with India and its history as a nation. Time-and-again, the author points out all the possible correlations among the two, which makes the prose lengthy and repetitive. But is repetition a bad thing always? No sir, it is not. It can be deployed as a powerful tool to make your point, and that is exactly how the author ha Sensational. Lively. Lovely. Yet-pretty-guessable at times. The above words sum up what I think about Salman Rushdie's Midnight's Children. The storyline is brilliantly correlated with India and its history as a nation. Time-and-again, the author points out all the possible correlations among the two, which makes the prose lengthy and repetitive. But is repetition a bad thing always? No sir, it is not. It can be deployed as a powerful tool to make your point, and that is exactly how the author has used it here in my opinion. There are elements of history, which are combined with (un)related magical events occurring in the life of the protagonist. The result is a gripping, unputdownable story. My only concern is with the fact that the plot is not strong enough to keep the reader guessing at all times. As mentioned, it is a long read. But at no moment did I feel like it was too much. No sir. I still want more of it. Verdict: Highly recommended.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Bradley

    Chutnification: the immortalization of a cucumber, or rather, a nose, into something indelibly Indian. Just... wow. This story of an inner-ear and nose follows through India's independence through the Emergency during Indra Ghandi, taking on mythological proportions. It is, first and foremost, a delightful, sensual, funny, detailed portrayal of a family saga that pretty much mirrors the trials and tribulations of India itself. Between the partition, Pakistan, the wars, the religions, the profundi Chutnification: the immortalization of a cucumber, or rather, a nose, into something indelibly Indian. Just... wow. This story of an inner-ear and nose follows through India's independence through the Emergency during Indra Ghandi, taking on mythological proportions. It is, first and foremost, a delightful, sensual, funny, detailed portrayal of a family saga that pretty much mirrors the trials and tribulations of India itself. Between the partition, Pakistan, the wars, the religions, the profundity of an India that cannot know itself. To know one person in India, you must eat the world. You must eat it every time for every person. But as if this wasn't enough to make a brilliant novel, and it certainly is deserving all the awards it ever got, it ALSO happens to be science fiction. Or is it? The thing is, all these Midnight Children born on the hour of India's rebirth (even if political), are all gifted with extraordinary powers. Our main character, Saleem, when really young, had an ever-snotty nose, and while it was blocked, he could read minds. He was able to contact all the Midnight Children and connect them all. When he could breathe right, he had a preternaturally supreme sense of smell. Others could enter mirrors, change their sex at will, become werewolves. 512 children. All of them modern Hindu Gods. :) But this book is full of tragedies as well as humor, full of profundity and silliness, anger and optimism, memory and forgetfulness. Just like India, the family is all things at all times and can never be pigeonholed. I could easily write a few books on this book. It's just that rich. And delightful. I know enough of this part of the world that I didn't flounder that much, but more than that, I was struck by the smells this book evoked. :) I rather fell into the book and couldn't breathe until I finished. Ah, it deserves all the praise. :)

  28. 4 out of 5

    Algernon (Darth Anyan)

    I tried tackling this "sacred monster" of a book twenty years ago, and I was defeated - neither my English skills, nor my cultural background were up to the task, and I had to return it to the library only a third of the way in. In a way I'm glad I've waited so long to come back, because Midnight's Children is still a difficult book, but worth all the effort on my part and all the critical praise it received from the Booker Prize crowd. It was from the start a most ambitious project - the Indian I tried tackling this "sacred monster" of a book twenty years ago, and I was defeated - neither my English skills, nor my cultural background were up to the task, and I had to return it to the library only a third of the way in. In a way I'm glad I've waited so long to come back, because Midnight's Children is still a difficult book, but worth all the effort on my part and all the critical praise it received from the Booker Prize crowd. It was from the start a most ambitious project - the Indian epic to rival War and Peace, Les Miserables, Gone With the Wind and One Hundred Years of Solitude - the big canvas that captures and preserves for posterity the birth of a nation and all of its spirituality: And there are so many stories to tell, too many, such an excess of intertwined lives / events / miracles / places / rumors, so dense an commingling of the improbable and the mundane! I have been a swallower of lives; and to know me, just the one of me, you'll have to swallow the lot as well. Despite the Gordian Knot puzzle of the narrative line (Rushdie has an inborn aversion to the straight line from event A to event B), I have the feeling that every chapter in the story of Saleem Sinai, later variously called Snotnose, Stainface, Baldy, Sniffer, Buddha and even Piece-of-the-Moon, was carefully planned and integrated in the larger story of the subcontinent. The metaphor is not difficult to discern, as the book starts with Saleem being born at the stroke of midnight, August 15, 1947, the exact time of India Indepencence from British rule. Of course, from here the author will spent the next 300 pages traipsing back and forth through the saga of the Sinai family from the clear lakes of Kashmir, to Agra, Delhi, Bombay and beyond. I wish, at times, for a more discerning audience, someone who would understand the need for rhythm, pacing, the subtle introduction of minor chords which will later rise, swell, seize the melody. . And the book indeed feels like a symphony, with hundreds of instruments playing different tunes, but following the partiture of the composer and the baton of the conductor. It's also very demanding on the focus of the reader. Sometimes I speed-read my books, especially thrillers, but I found it impossible to fast forward here. On the contrary, I often had to backtrack and re-read a baroque passage to see where I started and make sure I didn't miss one clue or one note played by one specific instrument / character. The individual life and the history of the country are one indivisible entity, macrocosm and microcosm tied in a cause-effect loop by such innocuous artefacts as a lapis-lazuli decorated silver spitoon, a perforated linen sheet, or a dash of mercurochrome. Politics is life in the tumultous years of Indian and Pakistan struggle for independence, and Salman Rushdie is no casual outside observer of events - he is full of passion and righteous indignation - to the point where the line between his character Saleem and his own personal experiences is blurred. Both of them a unreliable narrators, embelishing the truth to make a point and introducing the magic wand of the supernatural to explain coincidences and causalities. Is factual accuracy more important than the message? The author doesn't think so: Does one error invalidate the whole fabric? Am I so far gone, in my desperate need for meaning, that I'm prepared to distort everything - to re-write the whole history of my times purely in order to place myself in a central role? and, in another place: We're living in the Age of Darkness, Kali-Yuga, in which the cow of morality has been reduced to standing, teeteringly, on a single leg! Kali-Yuga - the losing throw in our national dice-game; the worst of everything; the age when property gives a man rank, when wealth is equatted with virtue, when passion becomes the sole bond between men and women, when falsehood brings success (is it any wonder, in such a time, that I too have become confused about good and evil) I find it impossible to make a concise resume of the plot or to introduce each major character - remember, I've swallowed a whole world - so I will try to make a few observations about style. Rushdie follows the oral traditions of the Oriental world, where the narrator sits in the dust in front of the whole village and will eat and drink well only if he captures the audience imagination. He will start his chapters with teaser like movie trailers, foretelling in cryptic utterances the coming attractions, postponing the death sentence for another night, holding the reader / listener rooted in place for one more tall story, one more chapter, one more pickle jar of memories: ... and still so much remains to be told ... Uncle Mustapha is growing inside me, and the pout of Parvati-the-witch; a certain lock of a hero's hair is waiting in the wings; and also a labor of thirteen days, and history as an analogue of a prime minister's hair-style; there is to be treason, and fare-dodging, and the scent (wafting on breezes heavy with the ululations of widows) of something frying in an iron skillet) ... . I look forward to re-reading the book just to savour these titbits of prophetic utterances, now that I have an inkling what they mean. He ends his chapters with promises of more to come, stories waiting in the wings for their time on the scene. Like the already mentioned Arabian Tales, the content is earthy / slightly rude, with little reticence in tackling sexuality, a really raw sense of humor, freaky characters and improbable magical abilities: If I seem a little bizarre, remember the wild profusion of my inheritance ... perhaps, if one wishes to remain an individual in the midst of the teeming multitudes, one must make oneself grotesque. . The result is partly a circus show, but so full of life , so brilliantly colourful, noisy and smelly and overpowering in scale. In a wily inversion of gender roles, if Saleem takes the role of Sheherezade, The Prince / listener is played in the book by Padma: the down to earth helper, prospective consort and keeper of common sense, pulling the author's sleeve when he goes on a tangent for too long and keeping in check the wilder fancies of his exuberant imagination: Padma! The Lotus Goddess; The One Who Possesses Dung; Who is Honey-Like, and Made of Gold; whose sons are Moisture and Mud ... Padma, who along with the yaksa genii, who represent the sacred treasure of the earth, and the sacred rivers, Ganga Yamuna Sarasvati, and the tree goddesses, is one of the Guardians of Life, beguiling and comforting mortal men while they pass through the dream web of Maya ... Padma, the lotus calyx which grew out of Vishnu navel, and from which Brahma himself was born; Padma the Source, the mother of Time! ... The novel mixes freely and to great effect the Gods of Ramayama with the Muslim heritage and with the British / Western pop culture icons in a melting pot that reflects the raw materials from which Saleem spicy pickle preserves / chapters are made. I got the impression the actual Children of Midnight are incarnations / avatars of the old gods - Vishnu, Rama, Ganesh, Shiva, Kali - but I'm not so well versed in the Indian Pantheon to be sure of each reference and godly atribute. The point, anyway is that they are all part and source of the India we are seeing today. Why introduce magic realism into what is basically a historical account? Because the author operates with symbols and allegories rather than academic reports; because history is made of people not cold statistics, with all their imperfections and irrationalities; and because sometimes reality is too hard to swallow: What I hope to immortalize in pickles as well as words: that condition of the spirit in which the consequences of acceptance could not be denied, in which an overdose of reality gave birth to a miasmic longing for flight into the safety of dreams The birth of a nation is not a pretty watercolour to swoon over - it is painted in the blood of millions - from the British troops opening fire in Agra, to the burning of mosques and warehouses, stormtroopers invading Bangladesh, political dissidents dissapearing without trace or prime ministers declaring a state of emergency in order to keep their position ( do we not get the leaders we deserve? . Midnight Children is thus a painful book, with few heroes and a multitude of ordinary people who will get crushed under the steamroller weight of history. Saleem himself has been in the thick of it and then has been thrwn to the sidelines. He has come out with more questions than answers. Most of all he has the people and their stories to preserve in his pickle factory, least they be forgotten: Who / What am I? My answer: 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. Nor am I particularly exceptional in this matter; each "I", every one of the now-six-hundred-million-plus of us, contains a similar multitude. I repeat for the last time: to understand me, you'll have to swallow a world.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Ben

    This was an extremely good book; one which, for some reason, I couldn't quite fall in love with. I was, however, more and more impressed with Rushdie's mastery over his novel as I made my way through it. Midnight's Children is as much a tale of history and nationhood as it is of a person. I think, in some sense, the book was a sort of authorial attempt to bring into the realm of substantial palpability everything that had happened to the Indian subcontinent since Independence in '47 (or thereabou This was an extremely good book; one which, for some reason, I couldn't quite fall in love with. I was, however, more and more impressed with Rushdie's mastery over his novel as I made my way through it. Midnight's Children is as much a tale of history and nationhood as it is of a person. I think, in some sense, the book was a sort of authorial attempt to bring into the realm of substantial palpability everything that had happened to the Indian subcontinent since Independence in '47 (or thereabouts). In so doing, Rushdie had to deal with many of the themes that have been the standards of world literature in the passing decades: the richness of pre-modern superstition falling away to the antiseptic light of post-colonial progress, the upheavals of third-world political instability, magical realism, the individual as a link in the hereditary chain. I don't know for sure, but I'm certainly willing to grant the benefit of the doubt to the notion that Rushdie (along with with Gabriel Garcia Marquez) was among the first to employ these literary devices. And in some ways, he does it best. I was repeatedly impressed by the fact that Midnight's Children didn't just talk about history, patterns, and the past and the future interlinking. No -- its author had done the hard and uncommon work of planning the book so that those patterns would really be there. So that images from the beginning of the book would effectively and reliably return to haunt at the apex and at the climax of the tale. I *often* lose patience (and Marquez is on this list) with books that make great promises (witness: Love In the Time of Cholera) early on, but end up meandering, without focus, robbing the book's conclusion of greater meaning and impact. Rushdie did not make this mistake. I think that one of the problems I had with Midnight's Children is that I read it out of order. Clearly clearly clearly God of Small Things and Middlesex to pick two at random among many, were heavily influenced by this novel. But I read them first. And in some ways, you have to admit that they improved on the techniques that I suspect Rushdie pioneered. Rushdie brings history to life in Midnight's Children, and he does it by adding magic. He weaves a personal, wonderful, and improbable life into the history of Indian independence, the creation of Pakistan and Bangladesh. It is set in an even more charming, and considerably more personal (and personable) frame-tale narrative. The structure is not born of whimsy. The author is making a strong and cogent point about the nature of knowledge and history and experience. Official records contain one version of history. Rather than just smugly assert that there are others, he provides us a literary illustration. Who knows what could have happened? When Reasons swept its bright and ruinous hand over this part of the world, who can say what got lost? What was looked over? It is as if the thesis of the book (if there were one, other than that Indira Ghandi was a plague to the nation), was that within the cracks and crevices of official knowledge are rich seams of midnight-black possibility, a dark rainbow of being. My final criticism: the book brought all of this history and insight beautifully to life. I felt the sacrifice was the actual protagonist. In the present, he is a charming reality. The versions of himself that he narrates feel like a frail sort of cipher. He rarely has strong attachments, we are not told much about his feelings, and when we are, they don't seem to be connected to the main thread of the narrative. He changes as needed to move the story forward, but, ultimately, the story is not a personal one. The person at its center has worked too hard to be a symbol, a nation, history. Is Midnight's Children worth reading? Absolutely. Will it enter my list of most-beloved novels? I'm afraid not.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Riku Sayuj

    Truly deserving of booker of bookers.

Add a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Loading...
We use cookies to give you the best online experience. By using our website you agree to our use of cookies in accordance with our cookie policy.