“So: there were knees and a nose, a nose and knees. 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.”
— Salman Rushdie
, Midnight’s Children
This is an incredible book by Salman Rushdie published in 1980. The narrator is Saleem Sinai, born on the stroke of midnight on August 15, 1947— at the moment of India’s independence— and the tale is told by way of flashbacks from modern day. Saleem, along with a large group of other children born within the witching hour of that momentous change for India, was born with a special gift. Telepathy. Other children born during that time have a range of supernatural gifts, varying from the ability to fly to having absurdly powerful knees. (Something more dangerous than you might first imagine.)
Saleem writes his family’s history, beginning with a story about his grandfather and continuing through to his own life growing up in Bombay. He offers the stories of his trials and tribulations growing up with a problematic nose (large and runny) and his soon-found ability to read people’s thoughts— which, of course, has it’s pluses and minuses. Along with his own story he intertwines the tales of the other members in his family, such as his erratic and not-so-monogomous mother, and his sister with lungs of gold, Jamila Singer.
Saleem’s family is divided during his youth and half of them end up in Pakistan, which allows for both perspectives to be seen on the India-Pakistan war. After Saleem learns about all of the other “children of midnight,” he realizes that his gift and theirs are of great significance for the future of India, though he must struggle to figure exactly what it means.
The characters in this book are beautifully drawn. A comic-yet-poignant story, Rushdie’s employment of magic realismfurther emphasises the clash of colonial and post-colonial culture in India. It’s difficult to categorize the novel in simple terms, which perhaps greatly aids its ability to stand proudly apart from other books— and adds to the difficulty in trying to summarize it also. Suffice to say it is a terrific tale. I recommend this book.
“Midnight’s Children” is listed as #90 on the Modern Library’s best books of fiction. Other books by Rushdie include:
“The Satanic Verses”
“In Good Faith"
“The Moor’s Last Sigh”
“The Ground Beneath Her Feet”
"Haroun and the Sea of Stories"