Midnight's Children: A Novel

Paperback | June 10, 1997

bySalman Rushdie

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Saleem Sinai is born at the stroke of midnight on August 15, 1947, the very moment of India’s independence. Greeted by fireworks displays, cheering crowds, and Prime Minister Nehru himself, Saleem grows up to learn the ominous consequences of this coincidence. His every act is mirrored and magnified in events that sway the course of national affairs; his health and well-being are inextricably bound to those of his nation; his life is inseparable, at times indistinguishable, from the history of his country. Perhaps most remarkable are the telepathic powers linking him with India’s 1,000 other “midnight’s children,” all born in that initial hour and endowed with magical gifts.

This novel is at once a fascinating family saga and an astonishing evocation of a vast land and its people–a brilliant incarnation of the universal human comedy. Midnight’s Children stands apart as both an epochal work of fiction and a brilliant performance by one of the great literary voices of our time.

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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 ...

From the Publisher

Saleem Sinai is born at the stroke of midnight on August 15, 1947, the very moment of India’s independence. Greeted by fireworks displays, cheering crowds, and Prime Minister Nehru himself, Saleem grows up to learn the ominous consequences of this coincidence. His every act is mirrored and magnified in events that sway the course of na...

Sir SALMAN RUSHDIE is the multi-award winning author of eleven previous novels--Luka and the Fire of Life, Grimus, Midnight's Children (which won the Booker Prize, 1981, and the Best of the Booker Prize, 2008), Shame,The Satanic Verses, Haroun and the Sea of Stories, The Moor's Last Sigh, The Ground Beneath Her Feet, Fury, Shalimar the...

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:560 pages, 8.01 × 5.15 × 1.13 inPublished:June 10, 1997Publisher:Knopf CanadaLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0676970656

ISBN - 13:9780676970654

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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?

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

WINNER OF THE BOOKER OF BOOKERS

“Extraordinary...one of the most important novels to come out of the English-speaking world in this generation.” The New York Review of Books

“In Salman Rushdie, India has produced a glittering novelist–-one with startling imaginative and intellectual resources, a master of perpetual storytelling.” The New Yorker