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Midnight's children by Salman Rushdie

Midnight's children (original 1981; edition 1981)

by Salman Rushdie

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9,381155315 (4.08)1 / 695
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. 70
    One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez (Nickelini)
  2. 61
    The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy (GoST)
  3. 31
    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 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.
  7. 00
    My Name is Red by Orhan Pamuk (BGP)
  8. 11
    The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov (BGP)
  9. 02
    The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende (amyblue)

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English (144)  Spanish (2)  French (2)  Dutch (2)  Czech (1)  Danish (1)  Finnish (1)  Hebrew (1)  Polish (1)  All languages (155)
Showing 1-5 of 144 (next | show all)
A bit slow but promising, of course it's way too long and I had other things to do at the time so I stopped at page 300. ( )
  Evalangui | Aug 22, 2014 |
The man can write, I certainly won't argue that. There were several things about this novel that really struck me - the passage where a young Saleem exposes the infidelity of Commander Sabarmati's wife, the ghost of Joe D'Costa, etc. In many ways, Rushdie is genius.

As much as I wanted to enjoy this book though, most of the time I didn't. I'm not sure why - was the style that threw me off, or something else? I found myself finishing it for the sake of finishing it. ( )
  ashleyk44 | Jul 8, 2014 |
From the opening scene of "Midnight’s Children", this novel begins giving rise to an epic tale. The narrator - 31 year old Saleem Sinai - on his death bed (so to speak) and running out of time, is writing his life story. He says, “I had been mysteriously handcuffed to history, my destinies indissolubly chained to those of my county”. Born at the stroke of midnight on August 15th, 1947 - the moment when India became a free nation, he is given the gift of ESP - able to read the mind of everyone in India. It doesn’t take him long to figure out that every child born that first hour had the ability to communicate with each other mentally, all through the power of his own brain.

I am not generally a fan of the genre of magical realism and usually avoid those books. But "Midnight’s Children" is far more than a pulp fantasy. It is stories within stories… stories encompassing the rich history of India and Pakistan including politics, war, religion, and Rushdie’s own philosophy. And it doesn’t end there. Themes are woven emphasizing the relevance of time with subtle hints of history repeating itself, superstition, dreams, and destiny. Loads of symbolism prevail: snakes and monkeys, an antique silver spittoon, drops of blood, peacock feathers, and all the sensory perceptions; sound, smell, tastes and color... lots and lots of colors. Dreams are in black and green symbolizing good and evil, always intertwined. And re-occurring statements like, “most of what matters in our lives takes place in our absence” and “what can’t be cured must be endured”, stressing how little control we have over our destinies. Salman Rushdie may well hold the world record for the number of sub-stories, themes, symbols, and philosophical quotes all in one novel.

One of my favorite scenes- and there are so many great ones - is when Saleem’s mother goes to a fortune teller before his birth. A frightening scene in the back alley of a ghetto - dark and mystical - the seer surrounded by snakes and monkeys informs her, “There will be two heads but you shall see only one, there will be knees and nose, a nose and knees... newspapers praise him, two mothers raise him! Bicyclists love him but crowds will shove him! Sisters will weep; cobra will creep... washing will hide him, voices will guide him! Spittoons will brain him, doctors will drain him, jungle will claim him - wizards reclaim him! Soldiers will try him - tyrants will fry him. He will have sons without having sons! He will be old before he is old! And he will die.... before he is dead” whereupon the seer collapses.

From there Saleem Sinai proceeds to explain the meaning behind the prophesy... his life story, starting in 1915 with the union of his grandparents and the lives of his parents, explaining, “Things - even people - have a way of leaking into each other, like flavors when you cook… the past has dripped into me… so we can’t ignore it.”

From there he meanders, tells of his momentous birth, his turbulent childhood, and short (but oh so eventful) life thereafter involving friends and enemies, classmates, neighbors, distant relatives, revolutionaries, and the women in his life. He reveals the secrets of his life, layer upon layer... adultery, swapped babies, murder, love, and death in the rich muslim exotic and chaotic culture of India.

And so many of the events recounted by Saleem Sinai correlate with real historical events like the “State of Emergency” put in place by Indira Gandhi when 1000 political opponents were imprisoned, tortured, and forced to have vasectomies and sterilization. In Saleem’s story, these were the “Midnight’s Children”.

This is not an easy book to read. I almost gave up after about 100 pages because in the beginning so many things are confusing and unexplained. But it all comes together as the story evolves. The plot is absurd, and many of the characters are grotesque… including Saleem. The prose is eloquent and mesmerizing. Rushdie’s style of writing has been compared to Faulkner and Dickens. I found this particular novel more in resemblance to Gunter Grass’s "The Tin Drum". On the lighter side, parts of it almost like "Forrest Gump", in the sense that like Forrest, Saleem - against all odds - seems to be intricately involved in the major events of his time. It is number 90 on Modern Library’s list of best 100 novels. My only question is - why it is so low on the list? ( )
  LadyLo | Jun 8, 2014 |
A sweeping yet focused novel that has the right balance of magical realism, internal dialogue, and multi-generatonal historical fiction. I really liked the main premise: a gifted group born at the midnight hour of India's independence. A bit overwritten at times, but it deserves its reputation. Very curious to see if the movie adaptation can render the richness of the prose with any level of fidelity. ( )
  albertgoldfain | May 10, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 144 (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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