BOOK REVIEWS

Midnight's Children: A Novel (Modern Library 100 Best Novels) Reviews

UPDATE TIME: 2018-02-21 
Review Score: 4 out of 5 star From 335 user ratings
ISBN:0812976533
LANGUAGE:English

" WOW!!!It took me 140 pages to really get 'hooked'. Do you know there is a 32 page vocabulary list (I printed it out)--online for "Midnight's Children?Its worth reading this book! lolUPDATE:In spirit of Sharyl's review which I read today...I'm going to RAISE my my 3 stars to 5 stars!I read this a long time ago ---(I had to work it) --looking up tons of words. However --I thought the story was TERRIFIC!!!I still think about this book...so...5 stars it is!!!!! " said.

"Midnight’s Children, Salman Rushdie
Midnight's Children is a 1980 novel by Salman Rushdie that deals with India's transition from British colonialism to independence and the partition of British India. It is considered an example of postcolonial, postmodern, and magical realist literature.
The story is told by its chief protagonist, Saleem Sinai, and is set in the context of actual historical events. The style of preserving history with fictional accounts is self-reflexive.
تاریخ نخستین خوانش: هشتم ماه سپتامبر سال 1988 میلادی
عنوان: بچه‌ های نیمه‌ شب؛ نویسنده: سلمان رشدی؛ مترجم: مهدی سحابی؛ تهران، تندر، 1363؛ در 687 ص؛ موضوع: داستانهای نویسندگان انگلیسی - قرن 20 م
بچه‌ های نیمه‌ شب رمانی است نوشته سلمان رشدی، در سال 1980 میلادی. سلمان رشدی در این رمان به دوران گذار از استعمار انگلیس به استقلال هند می‌پردازد. این رمان را می‌توان نمونه‌ ای از ادبیات پسااستعماری و رئالیسم جادویی دانست. رویدادهای این رمان در بستر رخدادهای تاریخی رخ می‌دهد و از اینرو می‌توان آن را رمانی تاریخی هم قلمداد کرد. بچه‌ های نیمه‌ شب جایزه بوکر سال 1981 میلادی و جایزه جیمز تیت بلک مموریال را در همان سال از آن خود کرد. در جشن سالگرد بیست و پنجمین و چهلمین سال برگزاری جایزه بوکر، در سال 1993 میلادی و در سال 2008 میلادی، بچه‌ های نیمه‌ شب جایزه بوکر بوکرها و جایزه بهترین برگزیدگان بوکر در همه زمان‌ها را برنده شد. همچنین این رمان تنها رمان هندی است که در لیست یکصد رمان برتر انگلیسی زبان مجله تایم از زمان انتشار در سال 1923 میلادی آن تاکنون قرار گرفته است. جناب مهدی سحابی بچه‌ های نیمه‌ شب را به فارسی برگردانده و در سال 1364 هجری خورشیدی برنده جایزهٔ بهترین رمان خارجی کتاب سال جمهوری اسلامی ایران شد. ا. شربیانی
" said.

"أطفال منتصف الليل

أنهيت الكتاب قبل سفري بيوم، لهذا أجلت الكتابة عنه حتى أعود، وعندما عدت جعلت أؤجل الكتابة تحاشياً لكل تلك الكلمات التي يمكن لها أن تتدفق تحت تأثير سلمان رشدي وجنونه الذي جعله يحصد جائزة البوكر عن هذا الكتاب سنة 1981 م.

كان هذا كتاب رشدي الثاني، الأول مر بلا صيت، رواية خيال علمي غريبة، ولكن هذه الرواية أخذته إلى القمة، كان هذا طبعاً قبل فضيحة (الآيات الشيطانية) وفتوى الخميني اللتان جعلتا اسم رشدي تابو في الأدب المترجم للعربية.

كل من سيقرأ هذه الرواية سيميز وبسرعة تيار الواقعية السحرية، وستقفز إلى ذهنه (مئة عام من العزلة)، وربما سيحاول استحضار ماكوندو ماركيز ليبحث عنها في هند رشدي، ولكن رشدي برأيي ليس متأثراً بسحرية أمريكا الجنوبية، وإنما - ربما بحكم إقامته في أوروبا - متأثر بواقعية سحرية أوروبية أسبق، هي الواقعية السحرية التي صنعها الألماني (غونتر غراس) في تحفته العملاقة (الطبل الصفيح).

والتشابهات الكثيرة بين طبل غونتر غراس الصفيحي وأطفال رشدي لا تقلل من أصالة وجمال عمل رشدي، بطل كلا العملين طفل غريب، يحدثنا عن تاريخه الخارق للعائدة، عائداً بالتاريخ إلى جده، وكلا البطلين له قدرات خاصة، فأوسكار ماتسيرات يمنع جسده من النمو ليبقى طفلاً بطبله الصفيحي حتى يقرر في لحظة ما أن ينمو، فيما يكتسب سليم سيناء القدرة على سماع أفكار الآخرين، وكلاهما يولدان في لحظة تاريخية مهمة، هي بالنسبة لأوسكار مرحلة النازية وما قبلها وما بعدها، وهي بالنسبة لسليم مرحلة ما قبل استقلال الهند وما بعدها، كلاهما يكونان شاهدين على لحظة تاريخية مهمة، هي بالنسبة لأوسكار حادثة البريد البولندي، وهي بالنسبة لسليم لحظة التخطيط لانقلاب ذو الفقار بوتو، ويمكن لدراسة مدققة أن تظهر تشابهات أوسع في بنية كلا الروايتين وأحداثهما وربما حتى أسلوبهما، ولكن هذا لا يمنع أن كلا العملين هو تحدي لذيذ لأي قارئ عاشق للأدب.

إن قصة سليم سيناء الذي ولد لحظة إعلان استقلال الهند في منتصف الليل سنة 1947 م، مع ألف طفل آخر بحيث كونوا المصطلح الذي منح الرواية اسمها (أطفال منتصف الليل) هي قصة الهند، إن أطفال منتصف الليل هؤلاء خارقون، فلكل منهم قدرة ما، سنتعرف على هذه القدرات ولكن من خلال حكاية طويلة تبدأ من الجد آدم سيناء والذي درس في بريطانيا وعاد للهند ليعيش ويعمل في كشمير، سنتنقل بين مدن الهند لنكون شهوداً على مذبحة أمريستار التي ارتكبتها القوات البريطانية حيث قتل قرابة الألف هندي بالرصاص، كما سنشهد كيف كانت الحياة في بومباي آخر أيام الإنجليز، وسنرحل مع سليم إلى إسلام أباد بعد الإنفصال، ثم سنعود للهند بعد حرب هندية باكستانية أخرى، كل هذا من خلال قصة مجنونة، محبوكة بدقة، لا يمكن لأي مراجعة أن تفيها أو تعطيها حقها، وحدها قراءة متأنية، مع ورقة جانبية يسجل فيها القارئ ملاحظاته وملخص ما يمر به من أحداث، حتى لا يضيع في جنون رشدي وأحداثه وشخصياته ومدنه، إنها رواية لا تقرأ مثلها مرة أخرى، إنها رواية من الروايات القلائل التي يجود بها الزمن.
" said.

"This was an extremely good book; one which, for some reason, I couldn't quite fall in love with. I was, however, more and more impressed with Rushdie's mastery over his novel as I made my way through it.

Midnight's Children is as much a tale of history and nationhood as it is of a person. I think, in some sense, the book was a sort of authorial attempt to bring into the realm of substantial palpability everything that had happened to the Indian subcontinent since Independence in '47 (or thereabouts). In so doing, Rushdie had to deal with many of the themes that have been the standards of world literature in the passing decades: the richness of pre-modern superstition falling away to the antiseptic light of post-colonial progress, the upheavals of third-world political instability, magical realism, the individual as a link in the hereditary chain.

I don't know for sure, but I'm certainly willing to grant the benefit of the doubt to the notion that Rushdie (along with with Gabriel Garcia Marquez) was among the first to employ these literary devices. And in some ways, he does it best. I was repeatedly impressed by the fact that Midnight's Children didn't just talk about history, patterns, and the past and the future interlinking. No -- its author had done the hard and uncommon work of planning the book so that those patterns would really be there. So that images from the beginning of the book would effectively and reliably return to haunt at the apex and at the climax of the tale. I *often* lose patience (and Marquez is on this list) with books that make great promises (witness: Love In the Time of Cholera) early on, but end up meandering, without focus, robbing the book's conclusion of greater meaning and impact. Rushdie did not make this mistake.

I think that one of the problems I had with Midnight's Children is that I read it out of order. Clearly clearly clearly God of Small Things and Middlesex to pick two at random among many, were heavily influenced by this novel. But I read them first. And in some ways, you have to admit that they improved on the techniques that I suspect Rushdie pioneered.

Rushdie brings history to life in Midnight's Children, and he does it by adding magic. He weaves a personal, wonderful, and improbable life into the history of Indian independence, the creation of Pakistan and Bangladesh. It is set in an even more charming, and considerably more personal (and personable) frame-tale narrative. The structure is not born of whimsy. The author is making a strong and cogent point about the nature of knowledge and history and experience. Official records contain one version of history. Rather than just smugly assert that there are others, he provides us a literary illustration. Who knows what could have happened? When Reasons swept its bright and ruinous hand over this part of the world, who can say what got lost? What was looked over? It is as if the thesis of the book (if there were one, other than that Indira Ghandi was a plague to the nation), was that within the cracks and crevices of official knowledge are rich seams of midnight-black possibility, a dark rainbow of being.

My final criticism: the book brought all of this history and insight beautifully to life. I felt the sacrifice was the actual protagonist. In the present, he is a charming reality. The versions of himself that he narrates feel like a frail sort of cipher. He rarely has strong attachments, we are not told much about his feelings, and when we are, they don't seem to be connected to the main thread of the narrative. He changes as needed to move the story forward, but, ultimately, the story is not a personal one. The person at its center has worked too hard to be a symbol, a nation, history.

Is Midnight's Children worth reading? Absolutely. Will it enter my list of most-beloved novels? I'm afraid not.
" said.

"(view spoiler)

درست نصف شب بود. در لحظه ای که من پا به جهان می گذاشتم، عقربه های ساعت روی هم افتاد؛ و این درست در لحظه ای بود که هند به استقلال رسید. به حکم جبارانه ی عقربه ها، من و تاریخ به هم پیوسته شده بودیم؛ سرنوشتم برای همیشه با سرنوشت کشورم عجین شد.

ما همه بچه های نیمه شبیم. به دنیا آمده ایم برای کارهای بزرگ. برای شگفت انگیزترین جادوها. ما خود اساطیریم، اساطیر زنده ای که روی زمین راه می رویم. با قدرت هایی جادویی که خودمان هم نمی دانیم به چه کار می آید. پیش از تولّدمان جهان در انتظار تولّدمان بوده است، پیشگوها این عظیم ترین رخداد هستی را پیشگویی کرده بودند، چشم مردم سرزمین مان به زندگی ماست.
"تو تازه ترین نمود آن چهره ی کهن سرزمین هندی، که جوانیِ جاودانه دارد. همواره به دقت چشم به زندگی تو خواهیم دوخت، که به نوعی، نمایانگر زندگی همه ی ماست."

رودخانه ی گنگ هستیم ما، مادر همه ی رودخانه ها، سرچشمه گرفته از موهای شیوا. اما به کجا می ریزیم؟ در کدام باتلاق ها به خاک فرو می رویم و ناپدید می شویم؟ مقدس ترین رود جهانیم، کدام لجن زار را آبیاری می کنیم؟ بچه های نیمه شبیم، که "سربازها محاکمه اش می کنند، جبّارها سرخش می کنند..." (hide spoiler)]" said.

"
I tried tackling this "sacred monster" of a book twenty years ago, and I was defeated - neither my English skills, nor my cultural background were up to the task, and I had to return it to the library only a third of the way in. In a way I'm glad I've waited so long to come back, because Midnight's Children is still a difficult book, but worth all the effort on my part and all the critical praise it received from the Booker Prize crowd.

It was from the start a most ambitious project - the Indian epic to rival War and Peace, Les Miserables, Gone With the Wind and One Hundred Years of Solitude - the big canvas that captures and preserves for posterity the birth of a nation and all of its spirituality:

And there are so many stories to tell, too many, such an excess of intertwined lives / events / miracles / places / rumors, so dense an commingling of the improbable and the mundane! I have been a swallower of lives; and to know me, just the one of me, you'll have to swallow the lot as well.

Despite the Gordian Knot puzzle of the narrative line (Rushdie has an inborn aversion to the straight line from event A to event B), I have the feeling that every chapter in the story of Saleem Sinai, later variously called Snotnose, Stainface, Baldy, Sniffer, Buddha and even Piece-of-the-Moon, was carefully planned and integrated in the larger story of the subcontinent. The metaphor is not difficult to discern, as the book starts with Saleem being born at the stroke of midnight, August 15, 1947, the exact time of India Indepencence from British rule. Of course, from here the author will spent the next 300 pages traipsing back and forth through the saga of the Sinai family from the clear lakes of Kashmir, to Agra, Delhi, Bombay and beyond. I wish, at times, for a more discerning audience, someone who would understand the need for rhythm, pacing, the subtle introduction of minor chords which will later rise, swell, seize the melody. . And the book indeed feels like a symphony, with hundreds of instruments playing different tunes, but following the partiture of the composer and the baton of the conductor. It's also very demanding on the focus of the reader. Sometimes I speed-read my books, especially thrillers, but I found it impossible to fast forward here. On the contrary, I often had to backtrack and re-read a baroque passage to see where I started and make sure I didn't miss one clue or one note played by one specific instrument / character.

The individual life and the history of the country are one indivisible entity, macrocosm and microcosm tied in a cause-effect loop by such innocuous artefacts as a lapis-lazuli decorated silver spitoon, a perforated linen sheet, or a dash of mercurochrome. Politics is life in the tumultous years of Indian and Pakistan struggle for independence, and Salman Rushdie is no casual outside observer of events - he is full of passion and righteous indignation - to the point where the line between his character Saleem and his own personal experiences is blurred. Both of them a unreliable narrators, embelishing the truth to make a point and introducing the magic wand of the supernatural to explain coincidences and causalities. Is factual accuracy more important than the message? The author doesn't think so:

Does one error invalidate the whole fabric? Am I so far gone, in my desperate need for meaning, that I'm prepared to distort everything - to re-write the whole history of my times purely in order to place myself in a central role?

and, in another place:
We're living in the Age of Darkness, Kali-Yuga, in which the cow of morality has been reduced to standing, teeteringly, on a single leg! Kali-Yuga - the losing throw in our national dice-game; the worst of everything; the age when property gives a man rank, when wealth is equatted with virtue, when passion becomes the sole bond between men and women, when falsehood brings success (is it any wonder, in such a time, that I too have become confused about good and evil)

I find it impossible to make a concise resume of the plot or to introduce each major character - remember, I've swallowed a whole world - so I will try to make a few observations about style. Rushdie follows the oral traditions of the Oriental world, where the narrator sits in the dust in front of the whole village and will eat and drink well only if he captures the audience imagination. He will start his chapters with teaser like movie trailers, foretelling in cryptic utterances the coming attractions, postponing the death sentence for another night, holding the reader / listener rooted in place for one more tall story, one more chapter, one more pickle jar of memories:
... and still so much remains to be told ... Uncle Mustapha is growing inside me, and the pout of Parvati-the-witch; a certain lock of a hero's hair is waiting in the wings; and also a labor of thirteen days, and history as an analogue of a prime minister's hair-style; there is to be treason, and fare-dodging, and the scent (wafting on breezes heavy with the ululations of widows) of something frying in an iron skillet) ... .
I look forward to re-reading the book just to savour these titbits of prophetic utterances, now that I have an inkling what they mean. He ends his chapters with promises of more to come, stories waiting in the wings for their time on the scene.

Like the already mentioned Arabian Tales, the content is earthy / slightly rude, with little reticence in tackling sexuality, a really raw sense of humor, freaky characters and improbable magical abilities: If I seem a little bizarre, remember the wild profusion of my inheritance ... perhaps, if one wishes to remain an individual in the midst of the teeming multitudes, one must make oneself grotesque. . The result is partly a circus show, but so full of life , so brilliantly colourful, noisy and smelly and overpowering in scale.

In a wily inversion of gender roles, if Saleem takes the role of Sheherezade, The Prince / listener is played in the book by Padma: the down to earth helper, prospective consort and keeper of common sense, pulling the author's sleeve when he goes on a tangent for too long and keeping in check the wilder fancies of his exuberant imagination:
Padma! The Lotus Goddess; The One Who Possesses Dung; Who is Honey-Like, and Made of Gold; whose sons are Moisture and Mud ... Padma, who along with the yaksa genii, who represent the sacred treasure of the earth, and the sacred rivers, Ganga Yamuna Sarasvati, and the tree goddesses, is one of the Guardians of Life, beguiling and comforting mortal men while they pass through the dream web of Maya ... Padma, the lotus calyx which grew out of Vishnu navel, and from which Brahma himself was born; Padma the Source, the mother of Time! ...

The novel mixes freely and to great effect the Gods of Ramayama with the Muslim heritage and with the British / Western pop culture icons in a melting pot that reflects the raw materials from which Saleem spicy pickle preserves / chapters are made. I got the impression the actual Children of Midnight are incarnations / avatars of the old gods - Vishnu, Rama, Ganesh, Shiva, Kali - but I'm not so well versed in the Indian Pantheon to be sure of each reference and godly atribute. The point, anyway is that they are all part and source of the India we are seeing today.

Why introduce magic realism into what is basically a historical account? Because the author operates with symbols and allegories rather than academic reports; because history is made of people not cold statistics, with all their imperfections and irrationalities; and because sometimes reality is too hard to swallow:
What I hope to immortalize in pickles as well as words: that condition of the spirit in which the consequences of acceptance could not be denied, in which an overdose of reality gave birth to a miasmic longing for flight into the safety of dreams
The birth of a nation is not a pretty watercolour to swoon over - it is painted in the blood of millions - from the British troops opening fire in Agra, to the burning of mosques and warehouses, stormtroopers invading Bangladesh, political dissidents dissapearing without trace or prime ministers declaring a state of emergency in order to keep their position ( do we not get the leaders we deserve? . Midnight Children is thus a painful book, with few heroes and a multitude of ordinary people who will get crushed under the steamroller weight of history. Saleem himself has been in the thick of it and then has been thrwn to the sidelines. He has come out with more questions than answers. Most of all he has the people and their stories to preserve in his pickle factory, least they be forgotten:

Who / What am I? My answer: I am the sum total of everything that went before me, of all I have been / seen / done, of everything done-to-me. 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 a world.
" said.

"Update:

Just back from watching the movie and.... well... it kind of highlights the less great parts of the book, just because it's a movie. You notice the non-plot, you notice that the characters get dragged around from India to Pakistan to Bangladesh depending which big political event or war is happening as we make our way from 1947 to 1977; and we really notice how gushingly sentimental it all turns out in the end. All of these problems are there in the book but are melted, dissolved, and blended like tasty spices in a piquant dish. All is made good by Rushdie's fantastic prose style which is utterly stunning and makes the book a MUST READ. And the prose, even the bits read by the narrator, who is Mr Rushdie himself, is not in the movie. Because it's a movie not a book.

SUMMARY

Book : 10!

Film : 5.5

************

An earlier non-review:


Everyone knows Salman was once a humble copywriter for an ad agency. And he came up with a couple of good ones – famously, one for the National Dairy Council, when they were advertising cream cakes. The slogan was “Naughty … but nice” and the ads were televised around 1980.

I was listening to a lot of American pop stuff from the 50s the other day and what came up but Frankie Avalon, singing a daft song called “Gingerbread”


REFRAIN
Ginger bread ginger bread ginger bread ginger bread
Ginger bread ginger bread ginger bread ginger bread
You're full of sugar you're full of spice
You're kinda naughty but you're naughty and nice


Salman Rushdie – you’re busted. And you're outed as a Frankie Avalon fan.

" said.

"Reading Rushdie's Midnight's Children is like listening to someone else's long-winded, rambling re-telling of a dream they had. And like all people who describe their dreams -- especially those who do so long past the point where their listeners can believably fake interest or patience -- Rushdie is inherently selfish in the way he chose to write this book. Midnight's Children is one of those novels that are reader-neutral or even reader-antagonistic -- they seem to have been written for the sole purpose of letting a writer wallow in their own history, their own problems, their own pet concerns, desires, and childhood hangups. Books like this are not mirrors of the world, or even mirrors of the author, but mirrors of how the author wants to be seen by the world.

There are patches of writing in this book that startle, amuse, and tantalize the reader, but the story is not as interesting as the narrator or the author seem to think it is; in fact, the narrator's constant references to the depth/difficulty/complex interconnectedness of his story all rang false to me. The narrator constantly tried to impress the reader with the gravity, absurdity, necessity, etc. of the story he was telling: there were lots of annoying, melodramatic asides to the reader along the lines of "O, this!" "O, that" "If only--" "But I must wait to get to that later!", which only served to distract from a story that should have just been left to stand on its own.

I'm not necessarily the type of reader who wants concrete, literal, plot-driven stories, but I'm also not the type of reader who has infinite patience for postmodern, self-inflated authors who either have a degree in literature and waste no time bludgeoning you with that fact, or don't have a degree in literature and waste no time in showing you just how good they are despite it all.

And, lastly, above and beyond the annoying narrator, the rambling story that went on for about 200 too many pages, and the author's disrespect (or at least disregard) for the reader, the last and crushing blow I can deliver to this book is that it was boring. The narrator – who, by the way, is a fairly flat character despite having over 500 pages to develop himself -- went to great pains to convince us otherwise, with constant reminders of how "epic" and "interconnected" his life was and how it resonated with the history of modern India, but in my opinion, a truly interesting story wouldn't need an obsequious narrator to constantly remind us how interesting it was.

I realize I'm in a minority in my dislike of this book; after all, it won the Booker Prize and is widely regarded to be one of the most important novels in English-language literature. I also realize I haven't said anything about what the book is actually about (in a nutshell: a coming-of-age story with a heavy dollop of magical realism and self-pity, with doses of Indian life scattered throughout) -- but all I felt when turning the last page of this book was relief.
" said.

May 2018 New Book:

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