Hello readers and welcome back (finally) to another installment of the Reading List. As mentioned in previous entries, I have made it my goal to include more BIPOC authors on this list. To that end I decided to read Salman Rushdie’s landmark, multiple Booker-winning 1981 work Midnight’s Children.
This novel was quite a read for many reasons, not least of which is the time span that Rushdie includes within his narrative. Ostensibly it is the tale of one Saleem Sinai, who was born exactly at midnight during the 1947 partition of India and Pakistan, and therefore gains magical powers from that event. But the narrative actually starts decades and a generation before him, with Aadam Aziz, Saleem’s grandfather, and his journey finding love and marriage and children. The story really picks up with young Saleem realizing his gift of telepathic communication with the hundreds of other “midnight’s children” who were also born at that time and received amazing gifts. But this is merely scratching the surface of this story as we get introduced to multiple characters in the family as well as the exile of Saleem to live with his uncle and aunt at a certain point. The overall story revolves around an older Saleem telling it to his soon-to-be wife Padma and his son, who is not really his son but that of Parvati (a “witch” who befriends and saves Saleem’s life) and Shiva (Saleem’s enemy throughout most of the tale). There is an incredible reveal about halfway through the novel that makes the reader question much of which has gone on before and gives a different perspective to the entire novel. We see the horrific after effects of war take place in a serious way against the family, and later Saleem goes on a pilgrimage joining the army which was to my mind the most interesting part of the novel. After which he finds both his memory and his way back to his old “ayah” at the pickle factory where he is telling the story in the present tense of the book.
This was without a doubt one of the weirdest and most unusual books I have ever read. Rushdie definitely has his own way of writing, which includes a lot of repetition of three words in a row and the use of the letter “O” throughout. Like Homeland Elegies there were a ton of Indian and other words I had to look up throughout reading. These elements help shape the narrative toward the magical realist themes of the tale and give it its own style. The story occurs over several decades in Indian history and is an analogous tale to the reality that took place during the partition, political upheaval, war, and “Emergency” times under Indira Gandhi. I learned a lot about Indian history while reading this book.
Thank you readers for bearing with me as I have taken on a new job and thus have a little less time for reading; therefore this epic tale took a few months to read. Thanks as always for joining me on this reading adventure.
John Abraham is a published author and freelance journalist who lives in the Twin Cities with his wife Mary and their cat. He is writing a speculative dystopian novel and is seeking representation and a publisher.