Midnight's Children: A Novel

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Midnight's Children: A Novel

by Salman Rushdie

Knopf Canada | June 10, 1997 | Trade Paperback

Midnight's Children: A Novel is rated 4 out of 5 by 4.
Introduction by Anita Desai

Saleem Sinai was born at midnight, the midnight of India''s independence, and finds himself mysteriously ''handcuffed to history'' by the coincidence. He is one of 1,001 children born at the midnight hour, each of them endowed with an extraordinary talent -- and whose privilege and curse it is to be both master and victims of their times. Through Saleem''s gifts -- inner voices and a wildly sensitive sense of smell -- we are drawn into a fascinating family saga set against the vast, colourful background of the India of this century.

Format: Trade Paperback

Dimensions: 560 pages, 8 × 5.14 × 1.13 in

Published: June 10, 1997

Publisher: Knopf Canada

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 0676970656

ISBN - 13: 9780676970654

Found in: Fiction and Literature

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Rated 5 out of 5 by from "To understand the person, you have to swallow the world." Midnight's Children is the next novel in what seems to be a long line of magical realist novels I've read recently. However, there seems to be a certain divide between me "liking" these novels and me "loving" these novels. The first was Gloria Naylor's Mama Day - a novel I'd give a solid 3 (out of 5): a novel that I did enjoy and find easy to recommend, but would have enjoyed so much more if it hadn't have been for -- what I felt to be -- a poor conclusion. Next was The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz -- a novel I would consider today amongst my all-time favourites. After that I read Gabriel Garíca Márquez's One Hundred Years of Solitude. While I appreciated Garíca Márquez's vivid world of Macondo, I was turned off by what I felt was a overly circuitous, repetitive narrative -- which I know some happen to love, I'm just not one of them. And now where does Salman Rushdie's Midnight's Children fall? Probably as one of my favourite novels ever. Midnight's Children is a novel almost impossible to explain; so much happens in this book it is almost amazing it can be contained within 533 pages. An epic novel -- one that is extremely well-written, emotionally engrossing; a book that is simply an unbelievable achievement -- in every sense a work of art. Anyone who loves One Hundred Years of Solitude has to read Midnight's Children. While I feel Midnight's Children is a great deal more complicated and a knowledge of Indian history is a must, it's a hard novel not to at least come away with some semblance of enjoyment. I've read some pretty great novels this year, but none I can actually say I wanted to start over and read again as much as this book. A must-read for any fans of fantasy or historical fiction.
Date published: 2010-04-28
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Well written but poor story This book is written very well and Rushdie is a great storyteller. However, I have to admit sadly, the story itself is quite boring. It was my first time reading fiction in probably 10 years and decided to give Rushdie a chance. I liked the fact that the story is intertwined with key moments in Pakistani and Indian history. For those who are vaguely familiar or interested in the year proceeding and following partition this book will be enjoyable. If I read this book in 1980 when it was published I think my review would be different. Rushdie seems to offer inspiration for other creative writers such as Rohinton Mistry who also writes about Indians during the sixties and seventies. Many of the terms and concepts used by Rushdie will be unfamiliar to non-Indians and Pakistans. However, that doesn’t mean you won’t understand the book. I think what this book lacks most is…more. You keep thinking that something more will happen and it doesn’t. Maybe that is what Rushdie is trying to convey the story of a guy who is supposed to be magical but in fact is really a loser. We watch as Saleem goes from rags to riches and riches to rags. I guess in summary, I have to say I was a little disappointed. The story is written very well, however, the story itself lacks.
Date published: 2008-08-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The Ultimate Read Instinct often guides us in the choices we make when looking for great fiction. We may also make choices based on an author's past accomplishments, or comments made by friends. In the case of 'Midnight's Children,' the only reference point we need is the book's great opening. This work is outstanding fiction. It is autobiographical, familial, and historical. The life of Saleem Aziz (Stainedface, Snotnose, Cucumbernose, etc.) is at the center of the book, and the details are intricately interwoven with Indian history before and after its independence. Family is very important as well. Saleem begins his account by describing his father's first meetings with a member of the opposite sex (his future bride), a time before 'his' time. But Saleem sees into the distant past, just as he will, later, be able to read the minds of men, and smell the future. These supernatural powers never take away from the story's realism, but do much to enrich the reader's mind. Saleem, the narrator, is one of 581 Midnight's Children. He is born on the stroke of midnight, on the day of India's Independence, and becomes an immediate celebrity. He receives a letter signed by the Prime Minister, congratulating him, and his parents expect great things from him. It is also on this night he gains the power to read the minds of others, especially those of the other MIdnight's Children. But the most outstanding trait of Saleem's person is one huge proboscis. The story is told by Saleem, in a very chatty, know-you-on-first-terms way. Stops, reversals, stammering and stuttering, are all the order of the day. I found this book a difficult one to read. Rushdie applies the rules of English grammar in a very unorthodox way, to say the least. The vocabulary is rich; I was introduced to more new words than I can remember. For example, who uses the word, 'succubus?' (A devil woman with love on her mind?) Wow. The work is also rich in Indian culture and history, another great reason to read it. Yet, it makes it difficult to flip through words in order to speed through pages. But who would want to, anyway. Each sentence is special, with varying levels of meaning. What I most liked about the author's writing style, was the way he created sensations - hearing Jamila sing, smelling the corrugated huts of the snake charners, tasting the green chutmey made by Mary Pereira (the woman who switched Saleem with another of Midnight's Children, at birth). Incidents jump out at you from the page. Rushdie has his own philosophy of who we are, and why we exist. He gives us a unique way of looking at ourselves. He seems to suggest that we are the sum of all who have become before us, of all that we have done, and all that has been done to us. Whether these are is exact words, or some of his words, I'm not sure. But that's how I remember it. He says so much more. I enjoyed this novel immensely. Further, I feel that I could read it again, and take more away from it, learn more about Saleem, and about myself. Obviously, this is not a cheap thriller. And there is nothing wrong with thrillers; I read Clancy, DeMille, and Baldacci and enjoy them. But there's something to be said for read that opens the mind and fills the heart. Enjoy.
Date published: 2008-07-18
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Booker of Bookers? Now call me a philistine, but I’m just not sure about this book. It bears more than a passing ressemblance (mostly thematic) to Mistry’s A Fine Balance and has won lots of important awards, including the Booker of Bookers. And you know, the story is great. Interesting, lots of twists and turns, fantastic but not too fantastic to be believable. And I’m not afraid of spiralled narratives – One Hundred Years of Solitude uses similar devices, and I love it. I guess the self-referentiallty, and the obsession with summing up and resuming up the action that had already happened, and the oh-woe-is-me-ness of the narrator (another device, I know) just started to get to me after a while. I kept reading because I wanted to find out what next, but the writing kind of annoyed me. I do like the way Rushdie sometimes listed things without commas, and I did like the foreshadowing, (had it not led to so much aft-shadowing…) So… I enjoyed Midnight’s Children, I guess, despite myself, even if it did take me ages to read.
Date published: 2006-08-03

– More About This Product –

Midnight's Children: A Novel

by Salman Rushdie

Format: Trade Paperback

Dimensions: 560 pages, 8 × 5.14 × 1.13 in

Published: June 10, 1997

Publisher: Knopf Canada

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 0676970656

ISBN - 13: 9780676970654

From the Publisher

Introduction by Anita Desai

Saleem Sinai was born at midnight, the midnight of India''s independence, and finds himself mysteriously ''handcuffed to history'' by the coincidence. He is one of 1,001 children born at the midnight hour, each of them endowed with an extraordinary talent -- and whose privilege and curse it is to be both master and victims of their times. Through Saleem''s gifts -- inner voices and a wildly sensitive sense of smell -- we are drawn into a fascinating family saga set against the vast, colourful background of the India of this century.

About the Author

Salman Rushdie was born in 1947 and has lived in England since 1961. He is the author of six novels: Grimus, Midnight’s Children, which won the Booker Prize in 1981 and the James Tait Black Prize, Shame, winner of the French Prix du Meilleur Livre Etranger, The Satanic Verses, which won the Whitbread Prize for Best Novel, Haroun and the Sea of Stories, which won the Writers’ Guild Award and The Moor’s Last Sigh which won the Whitbread Novel of the Year Award. He has also published a collection of short stories East, West, a book of reportage The Jaguar Smile, a volume of essays Imaginary Homelands and a work of film criticism The Wizard of Oz. His most recent novel is The Ground Beneath Her Feet, which was published in 1999.

Salman Rushdie was awarded Germany’s Author of the Year Award for his novel The Satanic Verses in 1989. In 1993, Midnight’s Children was voted the ‘Booker of Bookers’, the best novel to have won the Booker Prize in its first 25 years. In the same year, he was awarded the Austrian State Prize for European Literature. He is also Honorary Professor in the Humanities at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. His books have been published in more than two dozen languages.

From Our Editors

In part a 'stream of consciousness' narrative blended with history, Midnight's Children by Salman Rushdie is considered one of the most important books to come out of the English-speaking world. Saleem Sinai entered this world at the precise moment India gained independence. For the next three decades, his fate and that of his country are entwined. Midnight's Children was awarded the Booker Prize and the James Tait Black Prize.

Editorial Reviews

"Salman Rushdie has earned the right to be called one of our great storytellers." -- Observer

"Huge, vital, engrossing... in all senses a fantastic book." -- Sunday Times

"The literary map of India has been redrawn... Midnight''s Children sounds like a country finding its voice." -- New York Times

"A brilliant and endearing novel." -- London Review of Books

Bookclub Guide

1. Midnight''s Children is clearly a work of fiction; yet, like many modern novels, it is presented as an autobiography. How can we tell it isn''t? What literary devices are employed to make its fictional status clear? And, bearing in mind the background of very real historical events, can "truth" and "fiction" always be told apart?

2. To what extent has the legacy of the British Empire, as presented in this novel, contributed to the turbulent character of Indian life?

3. Saleem sees himself and his family as a microcosm of what is happening to India. His own life seems so bound up with the fate of the country that he seems to have no existence as an individual; yet, he is a distinct person. How would you characterise Saleem as a human being, set apart from the novel''s grand scheme? Does he have a personality?

4. "To understand just one life, you have to swallow the world ... do you wonder, then, that I was a heavy child?" (p. 109). Is it possible, within the limits of a novel, to "understand" a life?

5. At the very heart of Midnight''s Children is an act of deception: Mary Pereira switches the birth-tags of the infants Saleem and Shiva. The ancestors of whom Saleem tells us at length are not his biological relations; and yet he continues to speak of them as his forebears. What effect does this have on you, the reader? How easy is it to absorb such a paradox?

6. "There is no escape from form" says Saleem (p. 226); and later, he speaks of his own "overpowering desire for form" (p. 317). Set against this is the chaos of Indian life which is described in such detail throughout the book. How is this coherence achieved? What role does mythology play in giving form to events in the novel?

7. "There is no magic on earth strong enough to wipe out the legacies of one''s parents" (p. 402). Saleem is speaking here of an injury; but has he inherited anything more positive? Is there anything inherited which aids rather than hinders him?

8. Saleem''s father says of Wee Willie Winkie, "That''s a cheeky fellow; he goes too far." The Englishman Methwold disagrees: "The tradition of the fool, you know. Licensed to provoke and tease." (p. 102). The novel itself provokes and teases the reader a good deal. Did you feel yourself "provoked"? Does the above exchange shed any light on Rushdie''s own plight since The Satanic Verses?

9. How much affection is there between fathers and sons in Midnight''s Children? Why is Saleem so drawn to father-figures? What does he gain from his many adopted fathers?

10. "What is so precious to need all this writing-shiting?" asks Padma (p. 24). What is the value of it for Saleem?

11. "...is not Mother India, Bharat-Mata, commonly thought of as female?" asks Saleem; "And, as you know, there''s no escape from her" (p. 404). Elsewhere he speaks of "...the long series of women who have bewitched and finally undone me good and proper" (p. 241). To what extent are women "held for blame" for Saleem''s misfortunes?

12. Saleem often appears to be an unreliable narrator, mixing up dates and hazarding details of events he never witnessed. He also draws attention to his own telling of the story: "Like an incompetent puppeteer, I reveal the hands holding the strings..." (p. 65). How much faith do you put in his version of events?

13. Saleem pleads, "...believe that I am falling apart." (p. 37); he never arrives at a certain image of himself without being thrown into chaos again (e.g. p.164-165). But a child on an advertising hoarding is described as "flattened by certitude" (p. 153). Is there, then, value in uncertainty? What is it?

14. With the birth of Saleem''s giant-eared son, history seems about to repeat itself; but Saleem senses that this time round, things will be different. How have circumstances changed?

15. Midnight''s Children is a novel about India, and attempts to map the modern Indian mind, with all its contradictions. In your discussions, how much difficulty have you had in addressing the novel from a Western perspective? Is there an ''otherness'' which makes it hard to assimilate, or are the novel''s concerns universal and easily understood?

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