Sunday, October 24, 2010

Contemporary Series Part 2: Midnight's Children

I am ready to step into my next piece of uncharted territory and assert that Salman Rushdie's Midnight's Children (1981) ought to and one day will be considered a work of Classic Literature.  Certainly, this book has received much acclaim on its own and does not need my encouragement, but I do think it should be able to join the ranks of Classic Literature now.

Rushdie is a unique and talented Indian author who writes in English.  Midnight's Children is more of a story of India than the story of Saleem Sinai, the narrator.  The culture of India shines throughout the story, bringing out the traditions, sights, foods, and personality of the nation.  He even maintains an Indian influence in his distribution of "gifts" among Midnight's children, naming them after Indian gods and influences rather than Western ones. In addition to these cultural idiosyncrasies, Saleem offers a history of India after it gained its independence from Britain.  Nevertheless, all of this is inescapably presented through Saleem's perspective, which makes all of the "facts" and "histories" subjective.

Readers should be careful not to consider this subjectiveness a flaw, for I think it is one of Rushdie's primary, postmodern messages of the novel.  Midnight's Children is a story about the story - about the way our lives are shaped by narrative.  As Saleem narrates, he frequently interrupts his story and breaks into metanarrative, in which the act of narration itself becomes a story.  There are thus two stories in the novel - the story of Saleem's development and the story of Saleem and Padma, his faithful scribe.  The interaction between these stories is often amusing, and yet it illustrates the control that the narration-story has over the narrated-story.  The main story of the Midnight's children must stop when the narrator and scribe stop and is explicitly shaped by their will.

I've spent so much time talking about the culture and metanarrative, and yet I have not mentioned the creative and compelling nature of the story itself.  The plot of Midnight's Children follows Saleem, his family, and his friends over a number of years.  He discovers that everyone who was born on the day of India's independence has inherited a magical power of some sort, and Saleem can communicate with them all through his power of telepathy.  There are many poignant and emotional moments, which enables the readers to have a real connection with the fantastical story.  The writing style, characters, culture, and philosophy in this novel propel it into the realm of genius.  It offers so much to literature, and I recommend it to everyone.


Sarah G. said...

Loved reading this post. Salman Rushdie is such a great writer! I personally enjoyed the way he played with grammar and what you call his subjective facts and histories. Also, Padma fascinates me. Anyway. Glad you enjoyed the book!

IngridLola said...

Great analysis. I also loved this book even though I'm not a huge fan of magical realism.

Amy said...

Thanks! I'm glad you both have already discovered Rushdie. I feel like I was a little late in the game to find him, but he's great.

JoV said...

Hi Amy, Mel U referred you to me. I hope you come join me for a discussion over the span of 4.5 weeks about this book.

Your experience would enlighten us greatly!

Nice blog!

Rahul said...

The Magical Realism does not sit well within the framework in which Deepa Mehta tries to fit it into.The movie is good in parts but its sum total is half baked.Strictly for the hard core fans of Deepa and Salman!