Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie

Susan Nero
Core Faculty and Chair, MAOM

This book is a tour de force. It is written with a flair for story-telling that is epic and the language is masterful. It can make you laugh uncontrollably and weep profound tears. If you have not read Salman Rushdie you may associate him with his controversial novel The Satanic Verses (1988) and the subsequent fatwah against him by the Ayatollah Khomeini that sent Rushdie into hiding for many years and led to the assassination of editors and translators in several countries. If that book put you off of reading Rushdie, please reconsider.

Midnight’s Children was published in 1980 and won the Man Booker Prize. Besides its literary merits, the novel is an excellent substitute if you cannot make an actual visit to India. Rather than exclaim further, here’s the first paragraph, to get you started:

I was born in the city of Bombay. . .once upon a time. No, that won’t do, there’s no getting away from the date: I was born in Doctor Narlikar’s Nursing home on August 15th, 1947. And the time? The time matters, too. Well then: at night. No it’s important to be more. . . On the stroke of midnight, as a matter of fact. Clock-hands joined palms in respectful greeting as I came. Oh, spell it out, spell it out: at the precise instant of India’s arrival at independence, I stumbled forth into the world. There were gasps and outside the window fireworks and crowds. A few seconds later, my father broke his big toe; but his accident was a mere trifle when set beside what had befallen me in that benighted moment, because thanks to the occult tyrannies of those blandly saluting clocks I had been mysteriously handcuffed to history, my destinies indissolubly chained to those of my country. For the next three decades, there was to be no escape. Soothsayers had prophesized me, newspapers celebrated my arrival, politicos ratified my authenticity. I was left entirely without a say in the matter. I, Saleem Sinai, later variously called Snotnose, Stainface, Baldy, Sniffer, Buddha and even Piece-of-the Moon, had become heavily embroiled in Fate—at the best of times a dangerous sort of involvement. And I couldn’t even wipe my own nose at the time.
50 years of Indian independence. Panel discussion, Salman Rushdie, Arundhati Roy, Barbara Crossette on Charley Rose.
Interview with Salman Rushdie about Midnight’s Children. The Leonard Lopate Show

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