Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie
Random House, New York, 2006
From my TBR pile.
We are reading Book Two in two parts, the first up section to the chapter titled The Kolynos Kid. Our hero, Saleem Sinai, writes his history, reads it to his plump and beloved Padma, all the time echoing events that rumble through the turbulent mix of cultures and religions that was India in the mid-decades of the twentieth century. And we are slowly introduced to Saleem’s special talent, his ability to read the minds of all of his country’s Midnight’s Children.
Let me sum up: at a crucial point in the history of our child-nation, at a time when Five Year Plans were being drawn up and elections were approaching and language marchers were fighting over Bombay, a nine-year-old boy named Saleem Sinai acquired a miraculous gift. despite the many vital uses to which his abilities could have been put to use by his impoverished, underdeveloped country, he chose to conceal his talents, frittering them away on inconsequential voyeurism and petty cheating. This behavior – not, I confess, the behavior of a hero – was the direct result of a confusion in his mind, which inevitably muddled up morality – the desire to do what is right – and popularity – the rather more dubious desire to do what is approved of. Fearing parental ostracism, he suppressed the news of his transformation; seeking parental congratulations, he abused his talents at school. This flaw in his character can partially be excused on the grounds of his tender years; but only partially. Confused thinking was to bedevil much of his career.
I can be quite tough in my self-judgements when I choose. from page 196.
As I read this vast novel I am continually receiving questioning looks from Mr G. It is because I am giggling to myself or making odd appreciative noises at Rushdie choice of words. Saleem’s childhood is a mash-up of old and new, a perfect mirror for his young country. I can not wait to see what happens to him and the rest of Midnight’s Children.
So among the midnight children were infants with powers of transmutation, flight, prophecy and wizardry…but two of us were born on the stroke of midnight. Saleem and Shiva, Shiva and Saleem, nose and knees and knees and nose…to Shiva, the hour had given the gifts of war (of Rama, who could draw the undrawable bow, of Arjuna and Bhima; the ancient prowess of Kurus and Pandavas united, unstoppable in him!)…and to me, the greatest talent of all – the ability to look into the hearts and minds of men. From page 229.