Midnight's children : a novel

by Salman Rushdie

Paper Book, 2006

Status

Available

Genres

Publication

New York : Random House Trade Paperbacks, 2006.

Description

In India, one thousand and one children are born in the hour following the midnight commemorating the country's independence from British rule. And of those children, none is more entwined with the destiny of that land thatn Saleem Sinai, he of dubious birth and a nose of astounding proportion. Discovering a psychic connection with midnight's other thousand, Saleem recounts a life both reflecting and recreating the modern history of his oft-troubled homeland.

Media reviews

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.
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"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."

User reviews

LibraryThing member brenzi
All you members of the intelligentsia, who loved Midnights’ Children, excuse me while I try to figure out why. This book has been described as post-colonial literature and is written via a style referred to as magical realism. I’d like to get that stated up front so that in the future, I can avoid at all costs books that fall into these categories because, for me, this 533 page tome was a tortuous read. The last section of about 100 pages was like walking through a field, a foot deep in molasses, pulling one foot up as it is being pulled down with equal force and looking ahead to see that you have about 1000 feet ahead of you. You say to yourself, “I’ve come this far, I am not quitting now.”

The story is told by Saleem Sinai, who was born at the stroke of midnight on August 15, 1947, the same exact moment that India won her independence from Great Britain. Due to this coincidental birth, throughout the book Saleem is a metaphor for the sprawling land of India. You are forced to continually decipher the symbolism to understand what the author is trying to put forth. Saleem is born with unique magical abilities, and finds that he is able to communicate with all of India’s children born between twelve and one on that date, just by concentrating hard enough to produce the voices in his head.

The family saga narrated by Saleem is interesting enough to have been a good book on it’s own. Combine that with the magic, the symbolism, the imagery, the history and you find yourself confused, baffled and I wish I’d counted the times I thought, “I’m completely lost.” This did not make for a pleasurable read but, rather, a continual paging ahead to see how long until I’m done with that particular section. The landscape of the novel is awash with literary devices, which adds to the confusion.

I will give Salman Rushdie credit for an absolutely beautiful literary style. His smooth, poetic prose made me long for a story that made some kind of sense. Admire the beauty of this quote:

“On my sixteenth birthday, I was given a Lambretta motor-scooter; riding the city streets on my windowless vehicle, I breathed in the fatalistic hopelessness of the slum dwellers and the smug-defensiveness of the rich; I was sucked along the smell trails of dispossession and also fanaticism, lured down a long underworld corridor at whose end was the door to Tai Bibi, the oldest whore in the world….but I’m running away with myself.”

It could’ve been soooo good. But for me, it wasn’t meant to be. This may mean I am not a sophisticated reader. If so, so be it.
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LibraryThing member lyzadanger
This book nearly ruined me for all other books. Not from joy. Not from marvel. But sheer exhaustion. Its scope is so immense and foreign (to me, an ingoramus of Indian mid-century politics), its symbolism so constant and deep that instead of the thrill of discovery I turned furtive and avoided its clutches. I could only pound through a dozen pages in a sitting. Every sentence so dripping with meaning, every setting and object multi-dimensionally important. I have nothing bad to say about this book--it is a seminal masterwork--but did I enjoy it? Sadly, no.

Rushdie has done this to me before. Tempted me with such completeness of vision, led me into a labyrinthine tome that then wracked me for a fortnight. It happened in 2001 with "The Ground Beneath her Feet." I thought this would be different. And now, as then, I feel that I am the failure. Why did the genius of this book beat me down?

Perhaps I feel I gave it short shrift, even though it took me more than two weeks to read--a veritable lifetime in my normal reading pace. This book deserves a seminar series, a dissertation, not just a dilletante's shallow perusal. I hammered on my brain trying to put all of the symoblic pieces together, but I know, know, know I have fallen far, far short.

The book's early settings in mountainous Kashmir were evocative and easy-reading enough to lull me into thinking I could deal with the rest of the book. But then: enter the fracas of Bombay, and then politics: my academic Achilles heel (OK, along with biz/economics) and one of the few things in the world that bores me to seizures.

In all, reading this book seemed like an artistic duty. An offering up to the shrine of Rushdie's import and brilliance, but one of guilt, not joy.
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LibraryThing member Rynooo
Try as I might, I could not bring myself to like this book. Twice I put it down and walked away, the second time writing and retracting what was, as I thought at the time, a prematurely vitriolic review.

I figured perhaps I was missing the point; Midnight's Children would eventually deliver the goods. After all, amongst the needless drudgery there were sporadic moments of poetic clarity in which Rushdie imparts some truly beautiful storytelling.

Third time lucky perhaps things would fall into place?

Unfortunately not. My dislike spiralled with each eye-rollingly pointless chapter. Constantly infuriated by the overblown prose, inconsequential characters and hateful, self-obsessed protagonist, I struggled my way through to the end and it has left me feeling hollow.

What it did achieve was an overbearing atmosphere of disappointment. Every character is lazily introduced in a matter of lines, each new and potentially interesting sub-plot is squanderously concluded in a matter of pages. Even the children at the heart of the book's title are under-utilised and essentially pointless.

Midnight's Children promised much but as far as I'm concerned, did not deliver. While I can't say I hated it, I am at best indifferent.

If you want poignant, relevant Indian fiction then read A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry, a book that, in my opinion, effortlessly achieves everything this novel does not.
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LibraryThing member myfanwy
This is the second Rushdie I took to reading, after Haroun and the Sea of Stories. I must say that with Midnight's Children I suddenly realized why he is considered a great writer. It is truly an epic book, and I only wish that I knew more about the history of India before I began. The only analogy I can make is that of watching Forrest Gump with no knowledge of American history. Saleem Sinai, our anti-hero, is at the heart of every major event in the first thirty years of India's history as an independent nation.

The style is one which I have never encountered before. It is at times incredibly rushed. Our narrator has just days to live (by his account) and in order to encapsulate everything, he states upfront the outlines, the catchphrases of his life. There are premonitions, fortunes, strange feverish dreams that only get explained later. And after the important events, there are endless repercussions, connections to previous and future events. It's like he gives you the web of connections first and only later tells what actually occurred. Even in the sentence structure itself it is Germanic in its haste, creating words if necessary to encompass the right idea. He is "beholden to what's-next-ism" when he returns to the plot after a particularly long tangent. And there are moments of incredibly powerful imagery. When he walks through a field of dead soldiers, I had to stop reading, gape in awe and reread that passage. That is what good writing is: something that hits you so hard you have to stop and catch your breath.

I'll take a cue from the introduction and mention his similarities to authors of his generation such as Garcia Marquez and Gunther Grass. As soon as that was mentioned I could see it myself. He has the same long arc, the same attention to every detail of life, and he does not shy away from the grotesque or impossible. I might have shied away from quite so much wallowing, but I can see what Rushdie was trying to achieve. Here he has a narrator who by self-description has messianic visions of his role in Indian history, and you realize by the end that he is no more than an everyman, delusional, inspired perhaps, but nothing more.

Not every page was easy to get through, but the writing was addictive, the imagery intense. I think I have enough of a sense of Rushdie that I don't need to read more, but I'm certainly glad I spent a week or two on this fine book.
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LibraryThing member MeditationesMartini
Magic realism? Well, I dunno. More like alchemical realism, where each situation is transient, each environment has an element introduced into it that forces a chemical - maybe a magical - change. Or mythic realism, because I went through kind of thinking Rushdie was burying the lede here, taking a simple, affecting, brave new story about a brother and a sister, and a conference of children with the most fantastic of mutant powers and boundless unity - the myth that India needs - and drowning it in all this family memoir and sounds-and-smells colour and historical minutiae and nonsense. Because if Ireland is a day about town, Ancient Greece is the Olympics, America is a sports movie, China is a heavenly bureaucracy and Japan is a company, what is India but a legion of superheroes? But then it's like, don't be such a callow enthusiast, McCarvill. Recall VS Naipaul and his spit spit spittery about India and her prospects. She's not a legion of superheroes - not a DC team - she's a Marvel team, a ragbag collection of brilliant misfits born under a bad sign (Midnight's Children because they were born at midnight on the day of Indian independence), lurching from Days of Future Past to Civil War to disaster to renewal. This is a book about how each generation dies unfulfilled, and how that's ultimately no big deal because the more powerful cliche is "hope springs eternal." And in fecund India, there is no shortage of new generations of special children waiting to be born - as many children as gods and as many gods as children - and the river flows on and so we get back to Marquez and magic realism in a way. This is a great book.… (more)
LibraryThing member writestuff
Salman Rushdie’s Booker Prize winning novel Midnight’s Children is the story of a nation narrated by Saleem Sinai who embodies the history of India by being born at the exact moment of India’s independence (August 15, 1947). Other children, also born between midnight and one o’clock on this day, discover they are able to telepathically communicate with each other.

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. - from Midnight’s Children, page 132 -

The novel is allegorical, narrated in the first person, and spans more than sixty years from before Saleem is born until he is thirty years old. Saleem’s voice is arrogant, satirical and tangential.

Family history, of course, has its proper dietary laws. One is supposed to swallow and digest only the permitted parts of it, the halal portions of the past, drained of their redness, their blood. Unfortunately this makes the stories less juicy; so I am about to become the first and only member of my family to flout the laws of halal. Letting no blood escape from the body of the tale, I arrive at the unspeakable part; and, undaunted press on. - from Midnight’s Children, page 62 -

Although difficult to follow at times, Rushdie’s sense of humor was one of the aspects of the novel I enjoyed.

Poor Padma. Things are getting her goat. Perhaps even her name: understandably enough, since her mother told her, when she was small, that she had been named after the lotus goddess, whose most common appellation amojngst village folk is “The One Who Possesses Dung.” - from Midnight’s Children, page 20 -

Despite these light moments, Midnight’s Children is not a light read. I really struggled to finish this book - and my feelings about it are mixed. Rushdie’s prose is full of symbolism, analogies, magical realism and the complex history of India. The book has multiple themes (the individual vs. the masses and destruction vs. creation to name two). It is also full of numerous characters - some minor, some major and everything in between. I often found myself scratching my head trying to understand it all.

Important to concentrate on good hard facts. But which facts? One week before my eighteenth birthday, on August 8th, did Pakistani troops in civilian clothing cross the cease-fire line in Kashmir and infiltrate the Indian sector, or did they not? In Delhi, Prime Minister Shastri announced “massive infiltration…to subvert the state”; but here is Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister, with his riposte: “We categorically deny any involvement in the rising against tyranny by the indigenous people of Kashmir.” - from Midnight’s Children, page 387 -

Rushdie is obviously brilliant. He knows how to tell a story. And yet I did not really enjoy reading this book and there are very few people to whom I could recommend it. If you are a person with some understanding of Indian culture and history and who loves symbolic stories filled with elements of magical realism, you might want to give Midnight’s Children a try. I am told it is one of his more accessible novels. If that is true, I don’t think I’ll be reading any more Rushdie in the near future.
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LibraryThing member LisaMaria_C
Warning: Although I will try to restrain myself, I may gush without warning. I was entranced from the first sentences:

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. Clockhands 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 tumbled forth into the world.

The only question in my mind from that point was whether Rushdie could sustain that magical voice through over 500 pages. The answer is yes. This is one of the most impressive and immersive books I've read in years. The prose style is as lyrical as a Margaret Atwood but with something I've missed in those books of hers I've read. Something missing in almost all books stamped as literary fiction--a sense of humor. The book has touches of modernist techniques and styles I'd often find off-putting, particularly of the TMI, scatological, Rabelaisian kind that usually makes me wrinkle my nose, along with a protagonist and narrator who, if not exactly unsympathetic, you couldn't by any means call a hero. Rushdie gets away with it because he gave Saleem Sinai a beguiling voice. Rushdie says in the introduction he was trying for a tone "comically assertive, unrelentingly garrulous" but with more than a touch of pathos. He succeeded. And in pairing his often hapless comic character with modern independent India Rushdie managed to give me a sense of the country and the forces that pushed and pulled the nation and its individual people.

I've been aware of Rushdie as a celebrated writer for decades, and whenever I've heard him quoted have found I've liked him for what he's said. A guy celebrated by the literati with the ability to admit he's a fan of JK Rowling's Harry Potter and her character Severus Snape? But it made me feel some trepidation about trying him--both the stellar literary reputation and that I liked his persona. What if I was disappointed? All I can say is my one disappointment is that I didn't read him years ago. I have a lot to catch up on now.… (more)
LibraryThing member edgeworth
"Midnight's Children" was written by Salman Rushdie (more famous for "The Satanic Verses" and subsequent fatwa) in 1981. It won that year's Booker Prize, and subsequently won both "Best of the Booker" awards in 1993 and 2008. As such it can safely be considered one of the greatest English-language novels ever written.

I couldn't stand it. An absolute drag to read, an immensely frustrating writing style, and the worst case of a wasted idea I've seen since Philip Jose Farmer's "Riverworld" series (although I wouldn't compare them any further than that; Rushdie may not be to my tastes, but he knows how to write, whereas Farmer had trouble stringing a sentence together).

"Midnight's Children" is a blend of historical fiction and magical realism, following the life of Saleem Sinai, a Muslim child born in Bombay at the stroke of midnight on August 15, 1947 - the exact moment that the nation of India came into being. This coincidence of birth grants Saleem, and 1000 other children born between the hour of midnight and one o'clock, with various supernatural powers. One can teleport through mirrors, one can see through time, one can change his size, one can fly, one is a werewolf, one is a magician, and so on. Saleem himself, the eldest of the children, can read minds and communicate telepathically, and so he sets himself the task of uniting the children into what he calls the "Midnight's Children Conference," to discuss their purpose and destiny, and determine what to do with their powers.

I've never been a fan of superhero stories, but I found this to be unconventional enough to be an awesome idea, partly because it was in India rather than the USA, and partly because their powers were allegorically linked to the existence of the nation itself. I was quite disappointed, then, to find that less than two or three chapters are devoted to Midnight's Children, and other than Saleem, only two other Children are remotely close to being major characters. The vast majority of the book is typical literary fiction: growing up, falling in love, a backdrop of great events, weddings, deaths, family, epiphanies, blah blah blah, all wrapped up in Rushdie's tiresome writing style, which is particularly thick and impenetrable, every sentence dripping with awareness of its presence in a piece of literature.

Towards the end of the book, during India's Emergency, most of Midnight's Children are rounded up and imprisoned by the despotic Prime Minister Indira Ghandi, and surgically robbed of their superpowers and their ability to reproduce. Rushdie's argument is that Indira was filled with a lust for power bordering on godhood, and sought to eliminate the only people who were actually close to godhood, threatening her own ambitions. This would have been more tragic, and made a lot more sense, if Midnight's Children had actually featured in their own novel beyond a couple of chapters. Such a waste! Such a fantastic idea, so irresponsibly squandered! 1001 children with superpowers, growing up alongside India, with conflicting powers and beliefs and agendas - forming factions, some fighting each other and some working together, some offering their services to the state and others trying to bring it down, splinter cells, defections to Pakistan, villains and heroes, betrayals, friendships, rivalries! The classic superhero story, set in the fascinating nation of India, flowing from the pen of a gifted master of literature! Now that would have been a novel!

Instead we get pages and pages about the backstory of Saleem's grandparents, and his schoolboy experiences, and his mother's affair, and dozens of other banal and boring plot threads. And all the while I'm plodding along with that carrot of speculative fiction dangling in front of my face, just out of reach, Salman Rushdie sitting on my back coaxing me along, faithful old donkey, what a delicious carrot it looks, come on now, nearly there, and all of a sudden it's the end of the book and Rushdie snatches the carrot and flings it into the distance, never to be seen again. Not cool.
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LibraryThing member SarikaP8
Midnight's Children by Salman Rushdie is an absolutely brilliant book. A good amount of humour, History, human nature and the typical Indian 'masala' make it really un-put-downable! Initially, the book might seem a little confusing and perhaps even a little boring, but as you move ahead, you will become a part of it. We have watched India grow form the point of view of Politicians, inspiring personalities, established authors, critics, etc. However, here, you will get an opportunity to watch India and her children grow from the point of view of a common man, just another citizen of the country. A little bit of knowledgeable historical accounts give the book an intellectual edge. This is one book you musn't give a miss!… (more)
LibraryThing member ChelleBearss
Saleem Sinai is born on the stroke of midnight. No, not just the stroke of midnight but also the stroke of India's independence. The Indian government has declared that any child born on the stroke of midnight at the hour of India's independence will be a special child. This sets the stage of Saleem's life, a special child who forms a group with the other special children, The Midnight's Children. These children turn out to be more special than the Indian government would want and Saleem's life is a tumultuous event from beginning to end.

Saleem tells the tale of his pathetic, turbulent life; a life he needs to tell about before he breaks into pieces as he can already feel the cracks forming. He tells the tale of a half deaf, cucumber snot nosed boy living someone else's life. For almost thirty-one years he rides the waves of India's political ups and downs and those of his family as well.

I can't tell you if I like this book as I still don't know. Too many times I wanted to put it down and walk away completely but then I would think about it again and pick it right back up. It is a difficult read, very dense and written in a way that made me reread sentences before they would make any sense.
It is hard to like Saleem, I found him rather whiny and his childhood nickname "snot nose" suits him in more ways than one, but not hard to want to find out where his life takes him and what the ending will be. There were parts that I laughed at and parts that made me cringe. I guess that's the sign of a good book when you feel strong emotions like wanting to hurl the book across the room but at the same time need to know the ending.
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LibraryThing member browner56
Saleem Sinai is both a man and a metaphor. As one of the 1,001 boys and girls born in the first hour of August 19, 1947—the exact moment that India broke free from British colonial rule and became an independent nation—Saleem is one of “midnight’s children” who are imbued with a variety of magical powers. And as he and his life-long nemesis Shiva were born just at the stroke of midnight, their powers are the strongest of all, a fact which becomes both a curse and a blessing as they grow up over the next three decades. In fact, as Saleem learns soon enough, his life is not really his own; not only is his family life complicated by someone else’s misguided action that occurred in that initial hour, but significant events in his upbringing also seem to mirror the progress of the entire country with which he shares a birthday.

Framed as a lengthy oral history that Saleem relates to Padma, his long-suffering fiancée, Midnight’s Children is nothing short of a masterpiece of modern story-telling. Within its sprawling structure, Salman Rushdie manages to piece together a multi-generational saga of Saleem’s family dating back to his maternal grandparents along with eyewitness histories of the first 30 years of independent countryhood for India, Pakistan, and, eventually, Bangladesh. For someone to even conceive of completing such a massive undertaking in a single volume is impressive, but for the author to have actually succeeded in accomplishing that feat is truly remarkable. This is a novel crammed full with enough erudition, wit, drama, social and political history, pathos, tenderness, cruelty, and, above all, true humanity to fill three ordinary novels. That it won a Booker Prize—as well as “Best of Booker” Prizes on two subsequent occasions—is hardly surprising.

It has been noted elsewhere that Midnight’s Children inherited parts of its narrative style (e.g., the use of magic realism elements and allusion, the creation of dense, multi-layered stories) from writers like James Joyce, Günter Grass, Gabriel García Márquez, and Thomas Pynchon. That may be true, but it is certainly no detraction because this novel clearly stands on its own as a significant work of fiction. To be sure, it is neither an easy nor a quick reading experience; the author has packed it with so many characters, vignettes, and veiled historical references that I do not presume for a moment to have understood every detailed nuance of what I read on the first pass. (In fact, I found myself referring to an eight-page annotated list of characters that I got from a different source just to help keep track who’s who in the book.) Through it all, though, I found Rushdie’s prose to be well-crafted, engaging, and beautifully rendered. This is a thought-provoking and moving tale that will stay with me for a long time.
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LibraryThing member cbl_tn
When I picked up Midnight's Children a little more than a week ago, I didn't know what to expect. I thought it would be good for me to experience at least one of Rushdie's works. But would I like it? Or would reading it seem like a chore? I didn't love the book, but I liked it very much.

For a book filled with symbolism and references to gods and myths unfamiliar to many Western readers, it is surprisingly accessible. Rushdie helpfully interprets much of the symbolism for the reader through Saleem's explanations of the significance of names, numbers, and events to the more literal minded Padma.

I often read reviews of other books where the reviewer observes that the book would have been better if it had been edited to a shorter length. Although Midnight's Children is a long novel, its length seems just right. The novel is carefully constructed, and every part serves a purpose. I read the 25th anniversary edition, and didn't read the author's introduction until I had finished the book. In the introduction, Rushdie gives credit to his editor for advising him to write out a redundant character and for helping him to re-work a complicated part of the story to make it easier for readers to follow. I admire Rushdie for acknowledging his editor's part in shaping the work. This behind-the-scene glimpse gave me an even greater appreciation for the book's structure.

Grounded as it is in the history of India, this would be a good choice for historical fiction readers who want to try something outside their usual genre.
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LibraryThing member stephmo
Midnight's Children has been a challenge to read for the last few weeks. At times I wondered how a novel full of children blessed with varying magical powers for being born at midnight on the day of India's birth as a post-colonial nation, the history of a family fraught with its own destinies and secrets, the very history of India, a burgeoning love story and a story of an obsession with pickles could really ever meld together.

How? It's an alchemy of magical realism, a narrator who carries with him a certain amount of admitted unreliability and a character who serves to remind our narrator that there are interested readers attempting to get through a story. Painted on the canvas of postcolonial India with a brush under the direction of Salman Rushdie, this all comes together and becomes a worth-while endeavor.
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LibraryThing member plabebob
This is the first book I've read by Rushdie & I have to say it's not at all what I expected. I'm not sure how I ended up with this expectation, but I really thought this was going to be a dry literary book that took me hours to get through but would be rewarding in the end (think all those Russian authors!)

Rushdie's writing is actually very funny & endearing. He paints an idiosyncratic picture, the story moving forward by a series of small events, never long passages of descriptive text, building up a vivid image of the setting by inference & suggestion. It's effortless reading in which you suddenly realise you've learnt so much without having to take anything in.

He builds up a picture of India amazingly, diving straight in but never excluding the western reader. He explains just enough of culture & language for you to be a part of his story without feeling like a tourist. Unlike some novels I've read set in foreign parts, you don't strain your inner eye trying to imagine the setting, you are simply there.

I am generally a fan of page turners, I like to be thrown from scene to scene & desperate to read just...one...more...page.... but this is one where you're along for the ride. I find myself reading it really slowly, but in a good way, enjoying every sentence. I was surprised when I realised how little I'd read in a week! It's very thick prose that gives you the impression of having eaten more than you actually had on your plate.
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LibraryThing member Cecrow
Saleem is born on the same stroke of midnight when India becomes independent from Great Britain in 1947. For the rest of his life he sees parallels between the events that happen to him personally and his nation's history that reach back to before he was born. There are grand metaphors at work (apparently I've missed many of these) and a wide cast of family and their acquaintances, covering the period up to 1978.

An untrustworthy narrator overly full of himself, a wandering narrative, a story full of bizarre elements that never manage to engage ... Tragedy without pathos, almost unrelieved by comedy. Filled with bald foreshadowing that drains the plot of tension, a novel you can easily substitute with googling the history of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Only the loose framing story inspired my interest, though I read all the way to the end. I'll keep reading positive reviews in hopes of feeling it was worth it.

Edit: ... from which I gather the point is that India's politics and culture are too foreign to the Western mind, thus requiring a magic realism approach. Does the fizzling out of those elements represent a discarding of India's mystical past as it embraces a Westernized future, or abandonment of the early promise its independence extolled? It's up to the reader to decide. The individual's contribution to the history of his nation is another theme; whether any one person can affect the course of the whole, in a nation of a billion people. Worthy messages, and I'll allow they are well presented, but it still didn't make for a pleasant reading experience.
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LibraryThing member Fenoxielo
When I should have been doing other work (or taking a nap) the other day, I sat down and finished the last two chapters of Salman Rushdie's Midnight's Children, the second book in my process of reading every Rushdie novel to date. The reason this review is simple is that I have absolutely no criticism of this book whatsoever. This is quite possibly one of the best and most ingeniously crafted pieces of literature I have ever had the incredible pleasure of reading. The intricacies of the expansive plot are mind-blowing, and the foreshadowing and self-reference that permeates the narrative lend it the verissimilitude to make Saleem Sinai, the protagonist and narrator, seem to be a real, live person that lived his life inseparably bonded to the fate of India as a result of his birth at midnight on August 15, 1947— the exact moment India became independent. If I needed any reaffirming of my goal to read every Rushdie novel after finishing Shalimar the Clown, this is it. I'm almost tempted to say that if someone were to read only one English-language 20th century novel, this would be it, but I don't think I've read enough to say that definitively. The novel's accolades, however, including the Booker Prize and twice the Best of the Booker, back me up in confirming Midnight's Children's place on the shortlist for that distinction. There's so much to experience in this book— so many flavors, so many spices— that it just may become the first novel I ever read a second time from cover to cover. There just aren't enough words to say how much I truly enjoyed this book and how I am humbled by Rushdie's ability as an author. How blessed we are to have a mind like his in our world.… (more)
LibraryThing member lauralkeet
Saleem Sinai was born at midnight on August 15, 1947, just as India attained independence. At the age of 10, he becomes aware that all children born in the historic first hour of independence are endowed with special gifts: It was as though -- if you will permit me one moment of fancy in what will otherwise be, I promise, the most sober account I can manage -- as though history, arriving at a point of the highest significance and promise, had chosen to sow, in that instant, the seeds of a future which would genuinely differ from anything the world had seen up to that time. (p. 234) Saleem's story plays out in accordance with a prophesy delivered to his mother shortly before his birth. His story is a metaphor for India. And, over the course of this book, the journeys and fates of Midnight's Children parallel India's growing pains.

I did not expect to like this book as much as I did. At first, I found Rushdie's prose a bit wordy, and I'm not a big fan of magical realism. But once the secret of Midnight's Chidren was revealed, I was hooked and found this book hard to put down. I was also intrigued because Rushdie himself was born in 1947; to what extent did political and economic events shape him? How much of his story is embodied in Midnight's Children?

This book is on the shortlist for this year's "Best of Booker" award, having already been recognized as the "Booker of Bookers" on the 25th anniversary of the prize. It's a a noteworthy book and one I'm glad to say I've read.… (more)
LibraryThing member Mikalina
"We must live I´m afraid, with the shadows of imperfections," I borrow words from Rushdie to tell you at once that I in no way will ever be able to do this book justice with my review. I can just hope that I manage to tell a few; Do not loose this one! Make no mistake about it; It is on the shortlist of shortlists, just as it was the Booker of the Bookers.

Essentially the book is political criticism of the Indian government´s (lack of) statemanship since the country´s independence in 1947 written by a Bombayian muslim who culturally is an anglo-indian. His question is: How can the leaders of a country with such huge amount of resources to draw on fail? Even worse; Of all the gifts to choose from (cultural heritage, natural and human resources) how can they still draw mostly on the Shivanian forces??? Even if the stripping off the corrupted is complete, this is not a depressing book, There is hope; This is India; Even Shiva is double-faced.)

"Politics children; at the best of times a bad dirty business."
" I have been at the mercy of the so called gentler sex. Is not mother India, Bharat Mata, thought of as a female?"
"India is Indira , Indira is India"
"Shiva engaged in political chit-chat, and declared himself a firm admirer of Mrs. Gandhi."
"Was Shiva´s explosion into my life truly syncronous with India´s arrival at the nuclear age?"
"He (Shiva major in Indira´s army) could be in hell or the brothel down the road"
" I smelled the ghost of ancient empires in the air."
"I inhaled once again the sharp aroma of despotism"

But it is so much more. Rushdie´s style could be the offspring produced by a marriage between Jonathan Swift, Charles Dickens, Wodehouse and the authors of 1001 night. The satire is Swiftianly sharply stinging, is certainly carried by fantastic figures, the story is interspersed with Dickensian romance and Wodehousian twisting of simple ordinary language that create new notions that comes so surprisingly you laugh out loudly before you can consciously register what the humor is. Add then the 1001 timeless adventure to the notion of an old nation becoming a new nation, and set a master-pickler to make chutney of the fate of the gifted children born that same independence day at the stroke of midnight. Rushdie´s language can like every other author´s words be reduced to white pages dotted with black, but once you start reading, whether you are interested in politics or not, whether India interests you or not, you will (double)swiftly be carr(y)ied off on a saffron and green-pea-green color (the color of rareness and naivity of Saleem´s voice) into a story that soon casts shadows in all flavours and equally rapidly mounts above both politics and nationality.

"He was a child of a father who was not his father, but also the child of a time which damaged reality so badly that nobody ever managed to put it right again."

Only Rushdie could; "Reality can have metaphorical content: that does not make it less real" Saleem Sinai, the Monkey´s brother´s odyssey through time and space, through a journey where only one object follow him through the whole story; A poet´s (his mother´s lover) spittoon inlaid with lapiz lasuli..... Do not let your "muscles of disbelief" lead you astray if some of the metaphors are lost on you at first encounter. "Saleem Sinai learned that Picture Singh and the magicians hold on reality was absolute; they gripped it so powerfully that they could bend it every which way in the service of their arts, but they never forgot what it was." "Chrishti Khan had permitted the ultimate solecism of permitting his illutionist expertise to unfeet his real life; he was not popular in the ghetto".

"To pickle is to give immortality". Rushdie has followed his own rule well enough and have but "changed the flavour in degree, but not in kind" in his project of embalming. You do not need to have Saleem Sinai´s nose to smell the "authentic taste of truths that despite everything is the acts of love". Do not, like me, put the book off for ages because India or politics or none of them is your first priority right now.....
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LibraryThing member baggas
After recently finishing Mistry's 'A Fine Balance' I planned to give myself a break from Indian lit for a while, but finding myself without a book on the other side of the country, the only books in the shop that called out to me were Indian - so I bought three!

Midnight's children is regarded as a classic, and deservingly so. I cannot help but contrast it with 'A Fine Balance' which I so recently read. Both are brilliantly written, inspiring books that intricately intertwine with India's tumultuous history. Yet they are as different as night and day. Midnight's children, although similarly passing through some quite dark hours of history, does not have the deflating, depression quality that the other book has. If anything Rushdie's writing shows symptoms of the 'disease of optimism' that his characters and his country so often succumb to in the novel. Despite the flawed narrator Saleem's neverending series of mishaps and his sense of inevitable doom, I couldn't help but feeling upbeat throughout this novel.

Part of what makes this book so interesting is that it combines history with fantasy. Not just in the usual sense of historical fiction, but in a more magical, mystical sense. I won't go into detail but this makes this book a delight to read. The first person narration is quirky, racing forwards and backwards and admittedly suffering from errors of memory and chronology but never too off-beat so as to get confusing (or rarely so).

Yet another book I highly recommend. Look forward to reading more of Salman Rusdhie's work in the future.
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LibraryThing member deebee1
Brilliant, extraordinary, Rushdie is a storyteller par excellence and he truly dazzles in this epic tale.

The novel begins at the stroke of midnight 15 Aug 1947, we are in Bombay and witness to the birth of one Saleem Sinai which coincides with the exact moment of India's independence from British colonial rule and the creation of the new state, Pakistan. Within that magical hour of midnight a thousand other children were born. Gifted with extrasensory powers, they are midnight's children, and as destined, their fate will be intertwined with that of their country. Sinai's own gift is his oft-ridiculed ugly nose through which he can “smell”his way into other people's thoughts. This is how he learns about many things including certain dark secrets such as the realization that he was not who he thought he was.

Sinai here, is a storyteller and from him, we travel across time, from his grandparents' romance up to his own 31st birthday, and across India and Pakistan during this tumultous and exhilarating infancy phase of the two nations. We are carried away in a hallucinatory and dizzying fashion into the midst of great events and conflicts, into the minute but never boring details of people's lives --- his own family's, his neighbors, into the minds of politicians and millitary leaders, into the enlightened conferences he holds mentally with the other magical children, into his roller-coaster incredible life when he leaves for Pakistan and later, on his return to India. Rushdie's prose is vivid and intensely sensory, with a stark humor that is underlined with sensitivity, and throughout, characterized by rich metaphor and an extreme and superb playfulness with words and expression which only the best of writers dare or are able to do.

This book is a grand celebration, an indictment, a history, a biography, a metaphor, a literary tour de force. Rushdie, in this tale, brings magico-realism, as well as non-linear narration to another level. Either you will love this book or hate it, and intensely either way. I loved this book even better than One Hundred Years of Solitude, which I thought was difficult to top when I read it two decades (!) ago. Why I waited this long to read this book, I honestly don't know.
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LibraryThing member ferebend
It took me well over a month to read this book. Partly because I've been extremely busy with my thesis. Partly because it was hard to get into. The first two fifths or so are not that captivating.

Once I got to a certain point, a bit before the halfway mark, however, it turned into a completely different kind of story than I was expecting. Magical realism! In India! Once that fact was established, it was a quick read. I really should've known, though. It is, after all, Salman Rushdie. Magical realism is his genre.

There is an incredibly rich, detailed, complicated story at work here. Tons of interesting characters (just try and keep track of them!) and none of them seem transparent or under-developed.

Midnight's Children was well worth the initial time-investment. I highly recommend it. A side-benefit was that my nascent fascination-obsession with India grew by leaps and bounds!
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LibraryThing member ninahare
Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie (1981). I read this directly after Satanic Verses. At that time I was writing short stories and thinking of how I could write a novel for children. Rushdie's books made me realize anything was possible. Okay, I cannot reach Rushdie’s dazzling heights of invention and literary prose, but I loved how he used his own personal experiences, while pushing the novel form to extremes. Rushdie was born in 1947, a year before the transition to independence in India, and used that moment in time to create a dazzling, game-changing novel of a young man born at the very moment of Indian independence. “Let your mind go,” Rushdie seemed to be saying directly to me, “and you can write the things you want to say in the way you want to say them.… (more)
LibraryThing member marshapetry
I heard about Salman Rushie when a death sentence was announced for him, and I just never could get interested in him. However, this book was really incredibly good and I highly recommend. The style, the words, just reading it was a treat. There were parts i couldn't totally follow and got too complex for an audiobook (it's hard to go back and reread a section when you're in the middle) but, other than that, was a pleasure to read.… (more)
LibraryThing member LindaWeeks
Salman Rushdie is always a challenge to read but rewarding in the end. I found I had to put this book down often and pick out the story, the history, the heart from all the words this man uses in his writing. Filled with native phrases and slang one hears the narrator's voice accent fully formed in their mind as they read this novel; at times one could even smell the setting, it was so richly drawn.This is a story about the birth of modern India and Pakistan, about myth, prophesy and one man's attempt to give his life meaning through his mystical connection to events in his world. Sad, funny, disturbing, hopeful and fatalist, Saleem's story is the story of all our lives, told with the colour and vibrancy of India in all it's glory.… (more)
LibraryThing member Reverend30
This book, due to various interruptions, took me about 6 months to read. It's a beautiful novel, deep, and layered. I'll read it again eventually.

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