#100. Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie
#100 on the 2011 list and #69 on the 2012 list.
Midnight’s Children is a 1980 book by Salman Rushdie that deals with India’s transition from British colonialism to independence and the partition India. It is considered an example of postcolonial literature and magical realism. The story is told by its chief protagonist, Saleem Sinai, and is set in the context of actual historical events as with historical fiction. Sinai, born at the exact moment when India became an independent country, seems to live an existence parallel to the country’s history as it unfolds.
In 1984 Indira Gandhi brought an action against the book in the British courts, claiming to have been defamed by a single sentence in chapter 28, penultimate paragraph, in which her son Sanjay Gandhi is said to have had a hold over his mother by his accusing her of contributing to his father’s Feroze Gandhi’s death through her neglect. The case was settled out of court when Salman Rushdie agreed to remove the offending sentence.
The book was a long read, not in pages, but in absorption, for me. Perhaps it’s because it is a culture that I am not familiar with, and had to keep researching things to get a better mental picture in my head. There was a lot of digression that seemed to be unrelated to the story, but who is to say when it’s your own story, what is important and what is not? Is the term fractional appropriate here? The chapters were not as much “chapters” as they were fractured pieces of Sinai. Could the chaos related be reflective of what life in India was at the time? Or what it is now? With so many deities and as many languages/dialects, I cannot even begin to imagine! The chaos that we are forced to endure for the sake of the story is the same frustration that Sinai himself must endure. Was a fraction of the chaos more chaotic to me because India, her people, her history, her religions, her ways of life… were the clues lost upon me because I lack that insight? Who is to say? But even lacking those tools, I found the novel worth it.
Midnight’s Children was awarded the Booker Prize, the English Speaking Union Literary Award, and the James Tait Black Memorial Prize, all in 1981. It was also the best all-time prize winners in 1993 and 2008 to celebrate the Booker Prize 25th and 40th anniversary. In 2003, the novel was listed on the BBC’s survey The Big Read. It appeared as #100 on the BBC’s 2011 Top 100 Books List ,and #69 on the 2012 list. It was also added to the list of Great Books of the 20th Century, published by Penguin Books.
There appears to be a 2012 movie adaption out, but I have not found a copy to view. I posted the trailer earlier. Director Deepa Mehta collaborated with Rushdie on a new version of the story, the film Midnight’s Children. Indian-American actor Satya Bhabha played the role of Saleem Sinai while other roles were played by Shriya Saran, Seema Biswas, Shabana Azmi, Anupam Kher, Siddharth Narayan, Rahul Bose, Soha Ali Khan, Shahana Goswami, Anita Majumdar and Darsheel Safary. The film was premiered in September 2012 at the Toronto International Film Festival (2012-09-09) and the Vancouver International Film Festival (2012-09-27).