Like many people, I’ve known of Salman Rusdie since I was very young, due to the fatwa put on him by Ayatollah Khomeini back in 1989, but until now I’d never read one of his books and that was a near inexcusable mistake. Midnight’s Children is a deep, witty, and marvelous book, and altogether worthy of the 1981 Booker prize that it won.
Midnight’s Children is written as the autobiography of Saleem Sinai, a young Indian man who was born at the precise moment of India’s independence from Britain — the stroke of midnight on August 15, 1947, and who because of this is intimately connected to the progress of the nation (hence the attached genre of ‘magical realism’). Much like Forrest Gump, Saleem is thrust into the events that shaped the young nation along with the 1000 other midnight’s children (the babies born within 1 hour of India’s independence). From Saleem, to Pavarti-the-Witch, to the Reverend ‘whatitsname’ Mother, the novel is full of deep and memorable characters.
Rushdie arguably has the greatest mastery of the English language of any 20th century author. Through pathos and tenderness, cutting wit, and an eye for meaningful detail, he exposes the soul of a young nation, with all of its complexities laid bare. There should be no illusion though: this is a dense book that will demand your attention, and in reading this, my rate of pages read / minute was very low. Nonetheless, it is a fantastic novel that should be read by all.