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 Prize. I read this novel as part of a group read organized by Arti, Meredith and Mrs. B. It has been wonderful reading along with others. My thoughts on the first sections of this novel can be found here, here and here.
Book Three brings the story full circle. Saleem, having lost most of his family in the 1965 war between India and Pakistan, finds himself in 1971 amidst the fight for an independent Bangladesh. Throughout this section Rushdie makes a strong argument for the role that politics, graft, collusion and warfare played in the shaping of this part of the world. Saleem is forced into the army, witnesses atrocities and runs away. He looses his memory, his friends die, he regains his memory, he marries and has a son, but not really. Like Saleem himself his son, Aadam Sinai, is not really who he appears to be. And he is born at a time of great upheaval, just like his father and the rest of Midnight’s Children.
This final part of Midnight’s Children moves away from magic and brings history into focus. Places and events from the beginning of the novel are mirrored towards the end. I found it difficult, this last section, mainly because the novel loses the many of the elements that enticed me in the beginning, Saleem’s family’s history and the mythical and magical histories of India and Pakistan. I found myself enveloped in politics, particularly Rushdie’s scathing depiction of Indira Gandhi, her son Sanjay and their declared State of Emergency. I know some of this history. I started skimming parts of Book Three and not giving it the attention it deserved. I do understand Rushdie’s point, I just need a break from this kind of historical fiction.
I think it was a certain scene of a pile of bodies that threw me off. I am tired of war, of human failings and our ability to hate the “other”. What feeds our perverse need for destruction?
I did love this book and someday I will revisit Midnight’s Children and give Book Three the attention it deserves. The film adaptation, written by Salman Rushdie and directed by Deepa Mehta, is supposed to be released in October. I am looking forward to it.
I want to thank the organizers of this read-along. It has been a great experience.