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  1. A look at the modern history of India, just prior to and after its independence from Britain, as told through the eyes of a magically gifted boy born at the stroke of midnight on the very day of independence. I think the first thing to address is Rushdie's narrative style in this novel. For the most part, it is a very obvious first person narrative, even downright intrusive at times. Usually, I'm not a fan of intrusive narrative, but this is a rare case where it works and enhances the story-telling. The narrator, Saleem, is telling/writing his story, as well as his family's story, to us, as well as to his employee, Padma. If you look at that last sentence again, it's two sets of (intertwined) stories told to two different audiences, one written and one delivered orally (both intertwined)--and sometimes all four of these different focuses are on the same page. Yet, Rushdie makes it work seamlessly. His writing is packed loaded overflowing with description and repetition, yet his tone is very light, even when discussing some pretty harsh atrocities. Despite the theme (and the title), this isn't a dark novel at all. What it is, however, is slow--especially in the first two parts--and this is despite several characters running--FULL TILT! (sorry, I loved that someone else out there uses that expression and just wanted to work that in somehow). I have an inherent dislike for novels about, or primarily dealing with, children (my fault, I know), and I think that prevented me from thoroughly enjoying the bulk of the first two parts. Not that they were poorly written or boring, they were just very, very, episodic, which didn't exactly inspire me to rush to pick up the book again after finishing a particular chapter. The third part, however, is literary dynamite; nay, literary gold, as it brought the whole thing together. One thing I did notice is that Fury, the only other Rushdie novel that I've read, had a much less intrusive narrator, as well as a more conventional use of language and syntax. Perhaps Rushdie, twenty years later, was through experimenting and had settled for a more mainstream use of language. Midnight's Children, while being proud of its Indian culture, is very critical of religion, politics, and society in India. As it traces the naiveté, the successes, failures, 5-year plans, elections, politics, conflicts, optimism, et cetera of India in the generation just after independence, there are corresponding events in Saleem's life (ie. a lengthy political instability between major conflicts with Pakistan corresponds to a time when Saleem can't remember his past). This is my first real foray into Magical Realism, and I like it. There are telepaths, magicians, snake charmers of mythical proportions, teleporters, enchanted jungles, even a 500-year-old prostitute. There is one character, I'm sure in an ode to Odd Job from Goldfinger (or perhaps some other James Bondesque henchmen), who can kill hundreds, thousands, with his knees. And, in case you haven't already assumed so, the characters are larger than life, downright Dickensian. As odd as it all sounds, the novel succeeds. The last lingering question is regarding the novel's fame: the 1993 Booker of Bookers. Is it really the best of the best? As much as I enjoyed it, as creative as it is, I would say, with my limited exposure to Booker-prize winning novels, that it may qualify pre-1989. The Remains of the Day is still a much more valuable, relevant, and meaningful novel. I highly recommend this novel--The Remains of the Day, too. But, be patient and expect something weird.
  2. I finished this last week, but have been ruminating. I suspect most people have a love or hate relationship with Salman Rushdie. I have enjoyed most of what I have read to a greater or lesser degree (with the exception of "The Ground Beneath Her Feet"). I don't think he is an, albeit incredibly erudite and linguistically flashy, one trick pony, but at some points during TEoF, I did wonder. There are various stories going on in the book. The over-arching narrative is that of the Florentine, Niccolo Vespucci (aka the "Mughal of Love" - which is almost too cheesy), who arrives in Sikri during the Rennaissance, claiming to be a relative of the Emperor, Akbar the great (typically with Rushdie, "Akbar" means "great" so he is "The Great, the great"). The general gist of his claim (and boy, does it take him 300 pages to get there!) is that his mother was the Emperor's long-lost aunt (Akbar didn't know this aunt existed until AV turned up on the scene). Eventually (and I won't spoil the twist), this turns out not to be the case, although they *are* related. In the meantime, there is also the story of Akbar himself (who is by far the most sympathetic character in the book for me: he is an early proponent of religious tolerance, a common theme for SR, and puts it into practice in Sikri), a man who thinks and feels deeply, but who also has his flaws. There is an interwoven story of Florence and 3 boyhood friends: Niccolo Macchiavell (yes, that one), Ago Vespucci (cousin of Amerigo), and of Antonino Arcalia (who has lots of aliases, but who is, as far as I can tell, fictional). The juxtaposition of Florence and the "East" seems to be to demonstrate that they were both thinking big thoughts at the same time about the nature of power, identity, love etc, but that in practice, Florence was a violent, nepotistic place to live, whereas Sikri was actually more meritocratic (sweeping generalisation). It is also a story about story-telling. I started to get into the stories about the characters and how they ended up being linked, but at times I wanted to scream at him to get on with the story and quit the bloody flourishes. Sometimes the digressions just went on too long. There has been some talk in the reviews of the principal female character being a representation of his ex-wife, from whom he divorced during the writing, I think. I'm not so sure about this - the character in question isn't all bad and I can't see it as a roman a clef - that doesn't strike me as SR's style. I feel almost disloyal to an author I have long defended, but there you go: you can't like them all! Zebra
  3. I have to get this book included on the list of books of the 20th Century as it is a book I totally love and keep coming back to, even now, some 14 years after I first read it. I found this book - in fact, all Rushdie's books - to be incredibly rich and detailed, but there is something about the sheer joy and motion of the narrative in this particular work that keeps me spellbound, and a real depth to the characters. For me: 10/10 LV
  4. I finished this book recently and would recommend it. The book is about many narratives, history, religion, geography, but it is a story about love more than anything else. A story about Shalimar the Clown's love for Boonyi and I think about Rushdie's own affection for Kashmir. I was interested in this book, as my parents are from Kashmir- an unlucky region with the war and the recent cruel and deadly earthquake. The story is typical Rushdie, moving from one time and place to another- war time France to contemporary America. The range and use of language is brilliant. His previous novel have been philosophical and often difficult to get involved with- I didn't find Midnight Children easy- but this could probably be called a 'pageturner' the story moves fast and is entertaining. Good novelists write about the important issues of our times and say something profound about the times we are living through. For me Rushdie has always done this, or at least attempted to do this.
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