Midnight’s Children was Salman Rushdie’s second novel, published in 1981. The novel blending magical realism and historical fiction won the Booker Prize that year. It was very uncontroversial, even being deemed the best novel of all previous winners of the Booker Prize.
Salman Rushdie, a British Indian, wouldn’t have such an easy time in 1989 with his fourth novel, The Satanic Verses. The book was so offensive to some members of the Muslim community that a fatwa calling for his assassination was issued by the leader of Iran. Rushdie, who had publicly stated he was an atheist shaped by Muslim views, decided to let the Muslim world know that he would be practicing the faith again, in an attempt to lessen the rage against him.
Rushdie lives in the United States now, teaching at various universities.
Midnight’s Children is a story told by the protagonist, Saleem Sinai who relates his experiences of actual historical events in the independence and partition of India. Saleem is a midnight child, born between midnight and 1 a.m. on the day of India’s independence, which grants him the ability to communicate telepathically with the other children who were also born at that time.
Saleem is the conduit for the other children to communicate telepathically, and he creates a Midnight’s Children Conference, bringing the children, who are scattered across India, together to talk about their powers.
Besides his gift of telepathy, Saleem also has an enormous, running nose with a sensitive sense of smell. The other children have gifts too – and it seems the closer born to midnight, the more powerful they are.
Enjoy these powerful quotes from the novel to get a sense, or a reminder, of Rushdie’s prose.
“Memory’s truth, because memory has its own special kind. It selects, eliminates, alters, exaggerates, minimizes, glorifies, and vilifies also; but in the end it creates its own reality, its heterogeneous but usually coherent version of events; and no sane human being ever trusts someone else’s version more than his own.”
“Who what am I? My answer: I am everyone everything whose being-in-the-world affected was affected by mine. I am anything that happens after I’ve gone which would not have happened if I had not come. Nor am I particularly exceptional in this matter; each ‘I’, every one of the now-six-hundred-million-plus of us, contains a similar multitude. I repeat for the last time: to understand me, you’ll have to swallow the world.”
“Unless, of course, there’s no such thing as chance;…in which case, we should either-optimistically-get up and cheer, because if everything is planned in advance, then we all have a meaning and are spared the terror of knowing ourselves to be random, without a why; or else, of course, we might-as pessimists-give up right here and now, understanding the futility of thought decision action, since nothing we think makes any difference anyway, things will be as they will. Where, then, is optimism? In fate or in chaos?”