Midnight’s Childrenby Salman Rushdie
Random House, New York, 2006 (original published in 1981)
From my TBR pile. Winner of the Booker Prize and the Booker of Booker’s Prize. I am reading this novel as part of a group read organized by Arti, Meredith and Mrs. B. It is wonderful sharing thoughts.
The second part of Book Two focuses on exile and migration, on war and politics, both in the insular world of Saleem Sinai and the larger world of India and Pakistan. The Midnight’s Children Conference suffers from the same divisiveness that shatters the sub-continent.
…..Children, however magical, are not immune to their parents; and as the prejudices and world-views of adults began to take over their minds, I found children from Maharashtra loathing Gujaratis, and fair-skinned northerners reviling Dravidian “blackies”; there were religious rivalries; and class entered our councils. The rich children turned up their noses at being in such lowly company; Brahmins began to feel uneasy at permitting their thoughts to touch the thoughts of untouchables; while, among the low-born, the pressures of poverty and Communism were becoming evident…and, on top of all this, there were clashes of personality, and a hundred squalling rows which are unavoidable in a parliament composed entirely of half-grown brats. From page 292.
The world mirrored in the thoughts and actions of children. I greatly admire Rushdie’s ability to focus in on Saleem’s story and then move out, as if with a camera, to capture all that is happening in and around the Indian subcontinent. Saleem’s family contains love and betrayal, eventually even murder. Saleem lives within this drama as he grows into an awkward young man. The family is exiled to Pakistan and Saleem finds himself witness to revolution, followed shortly by war.
Midnight has many children; the offspring of Independence were not all human. Violence, corruption, poverty, generals, chaos, greed and pepperpot…I had to go into exile to learn that the children of midnight were more varied that I— even I—had dreamed. from page 333.
And then there are endings. In the final chapters of Book Two, in a conflict that seems a farce, Saleem looses many members of his family.
I am trying to stop being mystified. Important to concentrate on good hard facts. But which facts? One week before mu 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 page 387.
Saleem’s rants about the sheer insanity of the Indo-Pakistani war bring to mind the politics and propaganda that infuse all wars. They also remind me that Kashmir is still in suffering a territorial dispute, between Pakistan, India and China.
So on to Book Three and the wrap up of our read-along. I can’t wait to see what my co-readers have to say about the rest of Midnight’s Children.