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Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Book review: Midnight's Children

Book:     Midnight's Children
Author: Salman Rushdie
ISBN:     0099578514
ISBN-13: 9780099578512,978-0099578512
Binding: Paperback
Publishing Date: 1995
Publisher: Vintage
Edition: 1stEdition
Number of Pages: 464
Language: English

(Since there was so much of hue and cry about this author, I felt of breaking some rules and included a book I liked reading and I wrote about long time back. Thus, this is more of musing less of scrutiny- that I usually employ in Book reviews.)

It is difficult to deny the burden on the back, it’s prickly and heavy and how much we try to shrug it off, it sticks on harder….it’s the historical burden of the past. The language I am writing in right now, is essentially not mine, but borrowed from another land, my ways are not those of my people but an amalgamation of what I have and what I have borrowed. Thus it was never very difficult to understand this lingering sense of borrowed past, this impossible burden of past as I flipped through the first few pages of Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children.
Salman Rushdie, has a made a name for himself as a controversial novel writer. All his novels are characterized by an epic sweep of narration, a plethora of allusions to real events, real people, mythological and literary characters, and hilarious, often ribald humour reminiscent of Tristram Shady.
Rushdie has written eleven fictions- Grimus(1975), Midnight’s Children(1981), Shame(1983), The Satanic Verses (1988), Haroun and the Sea of Stories (1990), The Wizard of Oz (1992),  East, West (1994), The Moor's Last Sigh (1995), The Ground Beneath Her Feet (1999),  Fury (2001),Step Across This Line: Collected Nonfiction 1992 - 2002 (2002),Shalimar the Clown (2005) and The Enchantress of Florence (2008). And most of them speaks of good overcoming the evil force, or at least survives. Perhaps for this one might be forced to agree that Rushdie is a romantic who uses the medium of satire, much like his Indian counterparts and in his own way presents a story where past and present overlap to give a blurred future.
Midnight Children expresses an historical connection through the literary journey. This journey is again not singular; it is the journey of self and a nation. Born at the dawn of Indian independence and destined, upon his death, to break into as many pieces as there are citizens of India, Saleem Sinai manages to represent the entirety of India within his individual self. His is the writer-protagonist, a son of an Englishman who has seduced the wife of a Hindu street singer. He is educated at the Cathedral and John Connon’s Boy’s School in Bombay. He is the ‘Snotnose, Stainface, Baldy, Sniffer, Buddha and Piece-of-the-Moon’, who rise and fall is linked miraculously to the faith of a new born country.
The Mexican critic Luis Leal has said, "Without thinking of the concept of magical realism, each writer gives expression to a reality he observes in the people. To me, magical realism is an attitude on the part of the characters in the novel toward the world," or toward nature. He adds, "If you can explain it, then it's not magical realism."
Writers like García Márquez, who use magical realism, don't create new worlds, but suggest the magical in our world. And Marquez’s A Hundred years of Solitude had a great influence on Rushdie’s take on Midnight Children, especially in the context of the theme.
The theme of magic reality, the combination of the two heavy words makes its presence felt almost in every page of the novel, a sense of overlapping entities that further tries to invade the identity of the reader itself. Saleem Sanai talks of 365 voices jostling and shoving each other inside him. And as the reader travels along the course of the story, he finds himself becoming a part of those persistently chattering voice. This is magical, yet an undistinguished reality. For, even if a reader is born much after the main events supporting the novel, has occurred, its sweeping history has become his own history; an important identity that cannot be considered a ganglion and amputated right away. The above observation lies true when we are to recall the gory Jalianwala barg massacre, the pains of the Emergency period, the terrorist attacks and the Bangladesh war. At one point, in Midnight’s Children, Saleem, makes use of the metaphor of a cinema to explain his peculiar business of perception. The same can be used to understand the profound use of magic realism.
‘Suppose yourself in a large cinema, sitting at the first in the back row, and gradually moving up,… until your nose is almost pressed against the screen. Gradually the stars’ faces dissolve in the dancing grain; tiny details assume grotesque proportions; … it becomes clear that the illusion itself is reality.’
The movement towards the cinema screen is the metaphor for the narrative’s movement through time towards the present.
Thus Salaam Sinai is handcuffed to history. Rushdie has carefully drawn numerous parallels between the protagonist and his country, right from his face which resembles “the whole map of India” to his fortune which is “indissolubly chained to those of my country.  Soothsayers had prophesied me, newspapers celebrated my arrival, politicos ratified my authenticity. I was left entirely without a say in the matter.”
This is exactly the problem of modern man who is driven by the whirling chaos around him. Salaam is just one such victim who stands in the middle of disturbance and turmoil and like a speechless witness chronologically tries to reproduce history. But his memory fails to maintain the accurate dateline. And factual errors are prominent symptoms. He frets over the accuracy of his story and worries about future errors he might make. Yet again continues in his own rhythm adding metaphors and images that increase the authenticity of the notion, India is a land of illusion, where magic and reality reside side by side, and quite often intermingle to give a renewed identity to the mundane existence.

1 comment:

Rahul said...

Lovely movie & heard such music after ages! Def worth watching in the theatres. Superb acting by Ronit roy, rahul and Shahana also. Even darsheel was good.