Category Archives: Salman Rushdie

Midnight’s Children By Salman Rushdie

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.

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Filed under Booker, Historical Fiction, India, Pakistan, Salman Rushdie, Thoughts

Midnight’s Children – Book Two, Part B by Salman Rushdie

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.

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Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie – Book Two

Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie

Random House, New York, 2006

From my TBR pile.

I am reading this wonderful novel as part of a group read organized by Arti Meredith and Mrs. B.  Heartfelt thanks to them for allowing others to join in.

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.

Reading Midnight’s Children reminds me of a wonderful production of the Mahabharata directed by Peter Brooks that I saw years ago.  It has been released on DVD.  See it if you can.

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Filed under Booker, Historical Fiction, India, Salman Rushdie, Thoughts

Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie – Book 1

Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie

Random House, New York, 2006

From my TBR pile.

I am taking part in a read-along organized by Mrs B, Arti andMeredith.  We are taking four months to read the book that won the Booker of Booker’s prize twice.    After reading Book One, I wanted to jump ahead and continue reading but decided to take the time to digest the first section.

In our den we have several wall hangings, presents from a friend who visited India and Nepal.  They are made up of pieces of cloth and imbedded with bits of mirrors.  When the sun hits them they bounce light all over the room.

Midnight’s Children is a book made of words like bits of  mirror, reflecting the time before and after India gained independence from Britain and was partitioned into the states of India, West and East Pakistan.  The story is told by Saleem Sinai.  Each evening he writes his scattered thoughts and reads them to a woman he works with, Padma, who is illiterate and seems a bit grumpy and slow-witted.  It is Padma who helps bring Saleem’s thoughts into focus as he recalls his family history from the time before he was born.

Midnight’s Children reminds me of a twisted version of 1000 and One Nights, a comparison I’m sure the author is tired of,  and I love it.  Rushdie’s mix of tumbling language, history and magical realism is like looking through a kaleidoscope, where the image is split into a thousand parts but somehow comes together beautifully.

Book One covers the story of Saleem’s family up until the time of his birth, August 15th, 1947, which is also the exact time of the creation of the independent State of India.  By telling his story Saleem also tells of India’s struggles for independence, the bigotry between classes and religions and the lasting impact of the British Raj.  All this is told with grace,  humor and a burning coal of anger at its core.  Anger at the thick-headed greed of politicians, thieves and governments.

I find it difficult expressing  my admiration for Salman Rushdie’s abilities with language, with story-telling.  I can not wait to move on to Book Two.

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Filed under Booker, Historical Fiction, India, Read-Along, Salman Rushdie, TBR Double Dare

Midnight’s Children Group Read

Arti’s post reminded me that March 1st marked the beginning of the Midnight’s Children Group Read.  If you are intrigued please join her,  Bellezza, Mrs. B and those of us who have signed on, in this slow and flexible read-along.

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A Midnight’s Children Group Read

Mrs. B. at The Literary Stew, Arti at Ripple Effects and Meredith at Dolce Bellezza are organizing a group read of  Salman Rushdie’s Booker of Bookers prize winning Midnight’s Children starting in March.  I’ve been meaning to get back to this novel for years and find this a perfect opportunity.

From The Literary Stew post:

Since Rushdie won’t be an easy read we decided to take this very slowly so this will be a long and relaxed group read. We don’t want it to interfere with other reading plans. The book has 533 pages and is divided into three parts with the second part being the longest. We’ll begin in March, and for four months at the last day of each month we’ll post our review.

Here’s the exact schedule for postings:

  • March 31 — Book One
  • April 30   — Book Two (Part A ending with ‘Alpha and Omega’)
  • May 31   —  Book Two (Part B starting with ‘The Kolynos Kid’)
  • June 30   —  Book Three
As you can see we’ll have more than enough time to get through the 533 pages. If you’d like to join, please let us know and take note of the schedule above. We’ll do a reminder post in early March.
I am excited to be reading this novel with others and look forward to some lively discussions.  If you are interested in joining in please visit any of the links to these wonderful blogs.

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Luka and the Fire of Life

Luka and the Fire of Life by Salman Rushdie

Random House, New York, 2010

Borrowed from the library.

Salman Rushdie is a master storyteller.  He has written dense, historically relevent novels for adults and two books for young people, both of which are enchanting.  Any adult reader who enjoys myths and magical stories will love them.

Luka and the Fire of Life is actually a sequel to Haroun and the Sea of Stories but reading that first book is not a prerequisite to enjoying the second.

Luka’s father, Rashid Khalifa, a  master raconteur and adventurer, has fallen into a strange sleep.  Luka and his companians, Bear the Dog and Dog the Bear, must travel into the Magic World to save his life.

Of course Luka knew all about the World of Magic.  He had grown up hearing about it from his father every day, and he beleived in it, he had even drawn maps and painted pictures of it – the Torrent of Words flowing into the Lake of Wisdom, the Mountain of Knowledge and the Fire of Life, all that stuff; but he hadn’t believed in it the way he believed in dining tables, or streets, or stomach upsets.  It was  only real the way that stories were real while you were reading them, or heat mirages before you got too close to them, or dreams while you were dreaming.  From page 29.

But now the World of Magic is all too real, and dangerous and Luka must find his way to the Fire of Life.  Along the way he meets people and magical creatures  familiar to him, from his father’s stories and his brother Haroun’s adventures.  He also meets many unfamiliar, strange and terrible beings.   There are unloved Gods and Goddesses who behave very badly, virtual lives gained and lost as in a video game, and many references to modern culture, all written in beautiful, crazed poetic language filled with story and myth.

This book is celebration of the power of friendship and of love.  It is also a tribute to the power and importance of stories.  How they nurture us as children and as adults.  How if we lose them we lose a part of ourselves and by remembering them we gain courage and overcome fear.  How they can open our hearts.

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Filed under Fantasy, Review, Salman Rushdie, Young Adult