Saturday, April 01, 2006

25 years later: Rushdie on Midnight's Children

Salman Rushdie's new introduction to the novel Midnight's Children, 25 years after the novel was originally published:

IN 1975 I PUBLISHED MY FIRST novel, Grimus, and decided to use the £700 advance to travel in India as cheaply as possible for as long as I could make the money last, and on that journey of 15-hour bus rides and humble hostelries Midnight’s Children was born. It was the year that India became a nuclear power and Margaret Thatcher was elected leader of the Conservative Party and Sheikh Mujib, the founder of Bangladesh, was murdered; when the Baader-Meinhof Gang was on trial in Stuttgart and Bill Clinton married Hillary Rodham and the last Americans were evacuated from Saigon and Generalissimo Franco died.
I remember buying a pirated copy of Midnight's Children and attempting to read it when I suppose I was in class 9. I could not go beyond page 7. It was too complex for me to make any sense of it.

Later when I read it on the recommendation of a friend, I had already read Garcia Marquez's One Hundred Years of Solitude and also Gunter Grass's The Tin Drum. Hence in terms of literary techniques Midnight's was now a cakewalk and even gave the feel of deja vu.

However, I was still mesmerized by the sheer sweep and depth of the novel. I then lived close to Delhi and visited the city a number of times- and must have passed by some of the places that Rushdie describes in his novel at least a few times.

Yet, it was only when reading the descriptions of Delhi in the novel, that I truly experienced the city.

Only in The Moor's Last Sigh- with its lively portrayal of Bombay that Rushdie was to be as exuberant and naturally flamboyant as he was in Midnight.


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