Midnight's Children | Salman Rushdie

Books | Review

magical realism | india | historical fiction

First published 1981

Saleem Sinai is born at midnight on 15th August 1947 at the exact moment when India bocames an independent country. Saleem has been born with special telepathic powers like all children born between 12 a.m and 1 a.am on the same date. He acts as a conduit between these children and creates the Midnight Children's Conference where he tries to learn more about the various gifts these other children possess. The closer to midnight that the children were born, the stronger their gift. Shiva and Parvati-the-witch are the two most notable characters in Saleem's story.

Saleem's family must migrate several times, encountering numerous wars which have begun to plague the newly independent nation. In particular, his family, which is Muslim, joins other family members in the freshly-created state of Pakistan. Saleem is recruited, against his will, into the Pakistani army and suffers from amnesia, where he enters into a quasi-mythological jungle with his comrades. He gains his memories back, but loses all of his companions in the process.

My Verdict: The winner of the 1981 Booker Prize and often cited as one of the most important novels to come out of the English-speaking world, this was not the easiest book to read, but it was incredibly interesting. Saleem's life and destiny are inextricably bound and, at times, inseparable from the history of the newly-independent country where he has been born. It is a novel that spans the first 31 years of India's history and includes heady topics such as religion, language, the partition, Indira Gandhi's brutal repression (which I acknowledge, I had not read about before), the birth of Bangladesh and Pakistan as well as less heavy subjects like snot, giant turds and eccentric aunts.

I am not a big fan of magical realism, but I am a fan of historical fiction and I learnt a lot about post-colonial India by reading this book. Rushdie is an incredibly gifted and beautifully poetic writer - you really get the feeling that every single word has been deliberately used to convey exactly a particular feeling, emotion, event. And you can't help but wonder if some of it is autobiographical - Rushdie denies it, but there are just too many similarities to his own life. A well-deserved winner of the Booker Prize and I wouldn't be surprised if he wins the Nobel Prize for Literature at some point.

Review Award | 4/5

Posted 02.11.2022

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