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Midnight's children by Salman Rushdie

Midnight's children (original 1981; edition 1981)

by Salman Rushdie

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9,516162304 (4.07)1 / 740
Title:Midnight's children
Authors:Salman Rushdie
Info:London: Vintage, 1995.
Collections:Your library
Tags:fiction, male author, indian, india, bombay, magical realism, vintage, random house, bookshelf26, read2008, group reads - literature

Work details

Midnight's Children by Salman Rushdie (1981)

  1. 80
    One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez (Nickelini)
  2. 71
    The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy (GoST)
  3. 41
    The Tin Drum by Günter Grass (GabrielF, CGlanovsky)
    GabrielF: I think Rushdie based a lot of his style in Midnight's Children on The Tin Drum. Both books are historical epics told through the perspective of a child with strange powers.
    CGlanovsky: A boy bound to the destiny of his birthplace. Surreal elements.
  4. 21
    The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie (BGP)
  5. 10
    Kim by Rudyard Kipling (Gregorio_Roth)
    Gregorio_Roth: The book is a modern interpretation of KIM in a number of ways. I think it will complete your point of view on Imperialism and India.
  6. 11
    The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov (BGP)
  7. 00
    My Name is Red by Orhan Pamuk (BGP)
  8. 11
    The Moor's Last Sigh by Salman Rushdie (wrmjr66)
    wrmjr66: I think The Moor's Last Sigh is Rushdie's best book since Midnight's Children.
  9. 01
    Island of a Thousand Mirrors by Nayomi Munaweera (evilmoose)
  10. 02
    The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende (amyblue)

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English (151)  Spanish (2)  French (2)  Dutch (2)  Czech (1)  Danish (1)  Finnish (1)  Hebrew (1)  Polish (1)  All languages (162)
Showing 1-5 of 151 (next | show all)
I couldn't quite shake the idea that Salman Rushdie worked with an open copy of The Tin Drum by his side. But where Tin Drum felt to me like rich and moving reading experience, Midnight's Children felt clownish and empty. Reading it was like listening to the author shout LOOK AT ME LOOK AT ME for hundreds of pages...and then it was over.

I can fully admit the writing itself is masterful, but I found myself wondering with almost every sentence: How can great writing be so empty of purpose and meaning? And also: How can such a skilled writer make the topic of Indian independence, and the resulting partition of India, such a dull reading experience?

Let me say more about this nagging Tin Drum echo that I heard throughout Midnight's Children--and why Midnight's children could mimic, but totally fail to capture the mastery of Tin Drum. Each book has countless minor characters who appear, play their part, and go away again. But in Tin Drum the characters are deeply felt, no matter how unrealistically portrayed, and in Midnight's Children the characters feel like windup toys. I think of Sigismund Markus in Tin Drum, a very minor character, the Jewish shopkeeper who commits suicide during Kristalnacht, versus Ilse Luben, who drowns herself in a lake before she makes any impression on the reader whatsoever, or Tai, a boatman who takes up many pages of narrative and who suffers an equally meaningless death. The death of Sigismund still moves me when I think about it, and the deaths of Ilse and Tai left nothing more than a great, boring, ho-hum, glad-they-are-gone-so-we-can-get-on-with-the-story feeling. Worse is the death of Vanita in childbirth--again my only feeling was that I had none.

Then I tried to frame the book as post-modern so of course it would use distancing effects as a way to call attention to its own fictions...but again the book compares so poorly with other postmodern novels, like those of Nabokov or Barthelme, which manage to use the same distancing effects to somehow bring a reader closer to all the beauty and tragedy of the human condition. This book in contrast just distances the reader.

So I'm left with a great wonderment that this is the book that wins the Booker of Bookers. ( )
  poingu | Jan 29, 2015 |
"Most of what matters in our lives takes place in our absence."

"'He was teaching them to hate, wife. He tells them to hate Hindus and Buddhists and Jains and Sikhs and who knows what other vegetarians. Will you have hateful children, woman?' [Doctor Aziz]
"'Will you have godless ones?' Reverend Mother"

"... anything you want to be you kin be, the greatest lie of all ..."

"Unless, of course, there's no such thing as chance;...in which case, we should either-optimistically-get up and cheer, because if everything is planned in advance, then we all have a meaning and are spared the terror of knowing ourselves to be random, without a why; or else, of course, we might-as pessimists-give up right here and now, understanding the futility of thought decision action, since nothing we think makes any difference anyway, things will be as they will. Where, then, is optimism? In fate or in chaos?"

"As a people, we are obsessed with correspondences. Similarities between this and that, between apparently unconnected things, make us clap our hands delightedly when we find them out."

“I learned: the first lesson of my life: nobody can face the world with his eyes open all the time.”

“...in autobiography, as in all literature, what actually happened is less important than what the author can manage to persuade his audience to believe”

"Does one error invalidate the entire 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?"

"A death makes the living see themselves too clearly; after they have been in its presence, they become exaggerated."

"if you're a little uncertain of my reliability, well, a little uncertainty is no bad thing. Cocksure men do terrible deeds. Women, too."

"The thing is, we must be here for a purpose, don't you think? I mean there has to be a reason, you must agree? So what I thought, we should try and work out what it is, and then you know, sort of dedicate our lives to ..." "Rich kid," Shiva yelled, "you don't know one damn thing! What purpose, man? What thing in the whole sister-sleeping world got reason, yara? For what reason you're rich and I'm poor? Where's the reason in starving, man? God knows how many millions of damn fools living in this country, man, and you think there's a purpose! Man, I'll tell you -- you got to get what you can, do what you can with it, and then you got to die. That's reason, rich boy. Everything else is only mother-sleeping wind!”

"Children are the vessels into which adults pour their poison."
( )
  gvenezia | Dec 26, 2014 |
Rushdie pickles up time, preserving an era of sweet cucumbers mixed with bitter vinegar. The story was not only thought provoking but often funny. He asks: How is time recorded? Remembered? and where does the truth lie. I liked this story a lot. ( )
  Gregorio_Roth | Dec 5, 2014 |
Rushdie pickles up time, preserving an era of sweet cucumbers mixed with bitter vinegar. The story was not only thought provoking but often funny. He asks: How is time recorded? Remembered? and where does the truth lie. I liked this story a lot. ( )
  Gregorio_Roth | Dec 5, 2014 |
Historical fiction and magic realism are two genres which are seemingly immiscible and repellent - to each other - in nature but densely intertwined in this book with wavering success.

The book has a tendency to overexplain itself, historically and magically-realistically. The self-referential nature of the narrator/protagonist was fresh at first but grew gimmicky through overuse. The short one-line biographies of everybody every hundred pages was tiring. Recurring motifs and symbolisms were used well, - e.g. the re/births of Saleem, the many father-figures, - but, every time they appear, the book not only shines a giant light on it but does everything short of reaching out of itself and jabbing the reader to draw attention to it. Is it the writing trait of Rushdie or Saleem? Rushdie seems to point it at Saleem, noting in the foreword that Saleem is meant to be unrelentingly and garrulously narcissistic. If that is the case - and it seems like an easy cop-out to me -, then success! However, my low tolerance for eyerolling-inducing main characters, especially when they are the narrator, forces me to take (two stars off).

However, beyond Saleem the character, the story, historical and magical-realistic, was interesting. The large cast of familial characters calls to mind A Hundred Years of Solitude with Naseem Aziz's uncanny assumption of the role of Ursula and Alia Amaranta (whereas Emerald reminds me of Lydia from Pride and Prejudice). Metaphors and symbols used to relate events surrounding Saleem and events surrounding India were used to good effect although I may have over/under-read the importance of some. Beyond the generic India facts (used to be a British colony, rich history/mythology, Bollywood - which I think contributes to some of the more soap-operatic storylines in the book - , etc), I profess my ignorance of the events the book covers but I enjoyed the history lessons as well as the impetus to research outside of the book. (half star on) ( )
  kitzyl | Dec 3, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 151 (next | show all)
Midnight's Children is a teeming fable of postcolonial India, told in magical-realist fashion by a telepathic hero born at the stroke of midnight on the day the country became independent. First published in 1981, it was met with little immediate excitement.
added by mikeg2 | editThe Guardian, Lindesay Irvine (Jul 10, 2008)
"The literary map of India is about to be redrawn. . . . What [English-language fiction about India] has been missing is . . . something just a little coarse, a hunger to swallow India whole and spit it out. . . . Now, in 'Midnight's Children,' Salman Rushdie has realized that ambition."
added by GYKM | editNew York Times, Clarke Blaise (Apr 19, 1981)

» Add other authors (46 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Salman Rushdieprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Capriolo, EttoreTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Howard, IanCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Schuchart, MaxTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Versluys, MarijkeEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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For Zafar Rushdie
who, contrary to all expectations,
was born in the afternoon.
First words
I was born in the city of Bombay . . . once upon a time.
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
Please distinguish among:

-- Salman Rushdie's original 1981 novel, Midnight's Children;

-- Rushdie's 1999 screenplay adaptation (with introduction) of the novel, having the same title; and

-- The 2003 stage play, Salman Rushdie's Midnight's Children, adapted for theater by Rushdie, Tim Supple and Simon Reade.

Thank you.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0812976533, Paperback)

Anyone who has spent time in the developing world will know that one of Bombay's claims to fame is the enormous film industry that churns out hundreds of musical fantasies each year. The other, of course, is native son Salman Rushdie--less prolific, perhaps than Bollywood, but in his own way just as fantastical. Though Rushdie's novels lack the requisite six musical numbers that punctuate every Bombay talkie, they often share basic plot points with their cinematic counterparts. Take, for example, his 1980 Booker Prize-winning Midnight's Children: two children born at the stroke of midnight on August 15, 1947--the moment at which India became an independent nation--are switched in the hospital. The infant scion of a wealthy Muslim family is sent to be raised in a Hindu tenement, while the legitimate heir to such squalor ends up establishing squatters' rights to his unlucky hospital mate's luxurious bassinet. Switched babies are standard fare for a Hindi film, and one can't help but feel that Rushdie's world-view--and certainly his sense of the fantastical--has been shaped by the films of his childhood. But whereas the movies, while entertaining, are markedly mediocre, Midnight's Children is a masterpiece, brilliant written, wildly unpredictable, hilarious and heartbreaking in equal measure.

Rushdie's narrator, Saleem Sinai, is the Hindu child raised by wealthy Muslims. Near the beginning of the novel, he informs us that he is falling apart--literally:

I mean quite simply that I have begun to crack all over like an old jug--that my poor body, singular, unlovely, buffeted by too much history, subjected to drainage above and drainage below, mutilated by doors, brained by spittoons, has started coming apart at the seams. In short, I am literally disintegrating, slowly for the moment, although there are signs of an acceleration.
In light of this unfortunate physical degeneration, Saleem has decided to write his life story, and, incidentally, that of India's, before he crumbles into "(approximately) six hundred and thirty million particles of anonymous, and necessarily oblivious, dust." It seems that within one hour of midnight on India's independence day, 1,001 children were born. All of those children were endowed with special powers: some can travel through time, for example; one can change gender. Saleem's gift is telepathy, and it is via this power that he discovers the truth of his birth: that he is, in fact, the product of the illicit coupling of an Indian mother and an English father, and has usurped another's place. His gift also reveals the identities of all the other children and the fact that it is in his power to gather them for a "midnight parliament" to save the nation. To do so, however, would lay him open to that other child, christened Shiva, who has grown up to be a brutish killer. Saleem's dilemma plays out against the backdrop of the first years of independence: the partition of India and Pakistan, the ascendancy of "The Widow" Indira Gandhi, war, and, eventually, the imposition of martial law.

We've seen this mix of magical thinking and political reality before in the works of Günter Grass and Gabriel García Márquez. What sets Rushdie apart is his mad prose pyrotechnics, the exuberant acrobatics of rhyme and alliteration, pun, wordplay, proper and "Babu" English chasing each other across the page in a dizzying, exhilarating cataract of words. Rushdie can be laugh-out-loud funny, but make no mistake--this is an angry book, and its author's outrage lends his language wings. Midnight's Children is Salman Rushdie's irate, affectionate love song to his native land--not so different from a Bombay talkie, after all. --Alix Wilber

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:48:48 -0400)

(see all 7 descriptions)

The life of a man born at the moment of India's independence becomes inextricably linked to that of his nation and is a whirlwind of disasters and triumphs that mirror modern India's course, in a twenty-fifth anniversary edition of the Booker Prize-winning novel.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

» see all 7 descriptions

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