Salman Rushdie

Midnight's Children

  • personal history and national history

  • Saleem's history

  • connections between the personal and the public
  • --Saleem's view 
    --the critics' view 
    --non-causal connection 
  • the artist figures aiming at all-inclusiveness

  • Women and the people

  • The characters' cultural identities

  • Issues for discussion: Hope for India's future?

  • Rushdie's migrant identity 
    back to Rushdie mainpage, postcolonialism

    Midnight's Childrenpersonal history and national history

  • Personal: The novel starts in 1915,  32 years before the birth of Saleem,  and ends when he is about to be 31.   It spans about 63,  years, with Saleem's and India's birth as the center.
  • National: from the end of WWI to the indepence of India (Aug. 15, 1947) to the lifting of Emergency Rule (1977)

  • "Allegorica"l Aspects -- heritage
  • multiple heritage -- Saleem has many fathers (Methwold, Wee Willie Winkie, Ahmed Sinai) and mothers (Amina, Mary, and all the nannies)
  • The influence of the colonizers: Methwold (the actual father of Saleem); E. Burns
  • nation -- a new myth p. 129;  India a collective fiction; mix identity p. 135
  • (Time line: family history and national history--parallels and connections )
    India's history family history
    the world war ended Aziz + Naseem
    1915---massacre at Jallianwalla Bagh in Amritsar.  
    Gradfather's nose   

    S's skin a crack when telling this story p. 36

    optimism disease, Humming bird   
    1942 Mian Abudullah--1945 8/9 revelation and arrest p. 68 
    cracks in the earth p. 48   
    mother's false marriage; p. 70
    1946-6  Mumtaz (Amina)+ Ahmed
    transition of power -- British imperialism  W. Methwold 109; residents changed p.113 

    1947 8/15--Independence 

    birth of midnight's children 
    confusion 1956: 5 yr plan, election's coming, language marchers  confusion in S's head 203-04 
    businessmen turn white father turn white 212
    1956 --the linguistic reorganization of states  the Washing Chest Accident 
    1957 --  
    language marchers
    the Circus ring accident p. 223   

    S triggers of the violence that leads to state partition 229 

    1957 election, in which the Communist party won a large number of seats  S follows his mother to P Cafe   

    the manslaughter of Homi Catrack by Commander Sabarmati [Nanavati]   

    Cyrus Dubash made into a religious-cult leader 

    the blood of the rioters  Monkey and Evie's fight; mother's blush 
    mother's affair at the cafe  Sabamarti affair
    1958  the Midnight Children's Conference 1957-58   

    hopes to pull together again in 1962. 

    MC attacked Saleem The Chinese attacked Indians 
    The Sinais move permanently to Pakistan early in Feb. 1963. 
    1965--Indo-Pakistani war 
    Shiva's explosion into S's life  India's arrival at a Nuclear age 
    1975 6/25, Indira Gandhi's Emergency Rule   
    1976--two of Sanjay Gandhi's projects: clearance of Delhi slums and pavements, and mass vasectomy camps to reduce population growth.   
    1977--election in which Indira Gandhi's Congress is defeated 
    1975 6/25 the birth of Aadam Sinai   

    1976 420 children in captivity   

    1977 1/18 ectomy 


    B. Saleem's his-story

    (Saleem, "handcuffed to history" 3; "fathered by history")

    C.  connections between the personal and the public

    D. the artist figures aiming at all-inclusiveness

    painter who Nadir Khan lives with p. 50
    Lifafa Das p. 82 Wee Willie Winkie p. 116
    Hanif's documentary realism 292 --the story of a pickle factory
    E. The characters' identities

     Issue for discussion:
    1. Does Rushdie express any hope for India's future? Is the reader given a real choice between form and content, or between "celebration of India and a withering satier on the very possibility of the nation state" (Portenaar 57)?

    "The story of Saleem does indeed lead him to despair. But the story is told in a manner designed to echo, as closely as my abilities allowed, the Indian talent for non-stop self-regeneration. This is why the narrative constantly throws up new stories, why it 'teems'. The form--multitudinous, hinting at the infinite possibilities of the country--is the optimistic counterweight of Saleem's personal tragedy.

    "[The optimism] resides in the people, . . . the people have enormous energy and invention and dynamism, are not passive, and that kind of turbulence in the people is, I suspect, where the optimism lies ("Midnight's Children and Shame" 17 Kunapipi 7 (1985): 1-19.).

    1. Shiva vs. Saleem //India vs. Pakistan; Rushdie's presentation of Pakistan
    (India an infinity of alternative realities; Pakistan --an infinite number of falseness, unrealities, and lies)

    Saleem'self-centeredness? "I am the sum total of everything that went before me, of all that I have seen done, of everything done-to-me....To understand me, you'll have to swallow the world." 457-58
    Saleem's self-centeredness p. 115; p.124
    his telepathy-the thoughts he jumped into were his 207--illusion of an artist
    "the spirit of self-aggrandizement which seixed me then was a reflex, born of an instinct for self-preservation."

    Saleem vs. Shiva -p. 271 dislikes Shiva "I disliked the roughness of his tongue, the crudity of his ideas, and I was beginning to suspect him of a string of terrible crimes--although I found it impossible to find any evidence in his thoughts..."

    Saleem vs. Shiva  307; Shiva the commander; the war hero 486
    --490  S "I have allowed his account too much space"
    the rivalry between Saleem and Sinai=the age 515

    the magicians' ghetto 474-// the Communist movement in India 476
    Picture Singh

    D. Women and the people
    the lower class:  women: change his life 229 
    Lifafa Das p. 82   

    Wee Willie Winkie p. 116   

    Mary & Joseph 119   

    Durga the washerwoman 532  

    Padma'hate his self-reflexivity 72  

    dripping in p. 38; paean to Dung 30  

    impatient 116; angered 142 

    grandmother'being asked to take off her purdah 33 whatitsname 42   


    B. Monkey = Jamila Singer--subject to the exaggeration and simplification of self and right-and-wrong nationalism 375  


    E. Burns   

    Aunt Alia vengeful 395 

  • »PÂĪLÀ¿¨­¦Ó¹Lªº¤@¦ì¹A¥Á  = ³QSaleem©¿µø

  • ©s¥[©Ô¿W¥ß¾Ô®É¡AÂĪL¿ò§Ñ¹L¥h¡A³Q¤Ú°ò´µ©Z¬F©²§Q¥Î¬°¡uÂy¤ü¡v¡A°l®·©s¥[©Ô¿W¥ß­x¡C 
    ("make do with what¡ehe has¡f")©è¨îÅé¨î(°ê®a¡B¾Ôª§)ªº¤è¦¡¡C¹A¥Á¦V­x¶¤¨DÄǪº¸Ü¹D¥X¤ 
    ¤j·Ý¡A¤£¹ï¶Ü¡H¡v("Ho yes. Ho yes, my sir, life must go on; trade must go on, my sir, not true?" 445) 
  • Durga the washerwoman 532  = ³QSaleem©¿µø

  • ¼w¥[¥¤¤ô»Pºë¤O¥R¨K¡A¥Nªí¡u·s©_¡v¡B¡u¶}ºÝ¡v¡C¦ý¹ïÂĪL¦Ó¨¥¡A¦o¬O¡u¹L¤@¤Ñ§Ñ¤@¤Ñªº©Çª«¡v¡B 
    ¥¢¥h¿³½ì®É¡A¥L´N¤w¥´¶}°­ªùÃö¤F¡I¡v("You should understand that when a man loses interest in new 
    matters, he is opening the door for the Black Angel."  533)¡C 
  • Shiva -- ³QSaleem ºÃÄß

  • ¦­¦b²Õ´¡u¤È©]¨à¤k¤j·|¡v¤§ªì¡AÂĪL´N«D±`¤£³ßÅw¦è¥ï¡G¡u¤£³ßÅw¥L¨¥»y²Ê«U¡A«ä·Q²Ê³¥¡A 
    ...ÃhºÃ¥L´c³eº¡¬Õ¡Ð¡ÐÁöµM¦b¥L«ä·Q¸Ì§ä¤£¨ìÃÒ¾Ú¡v("I disliked the roughness of his tongue, the 
    crudity of his ideas, and I was beginning to suspect him of a string of terrible crimes--although I found it impossible 
    to find any evidence in his thoughts..." 271)¡C¬°¤F¤½¥­¡AÂĪL¨S¦³±N¦è¥ï±Æ°£¦b¥~¡A¦ý¦Ü®Ñ§À¡A¥L©Úµ´ 
  • Padma ©¬ªºº¿Saleem¤S»Ý­n¤S±Æ¥¸¡C

  • ³QÂĪL´LºÙ¬°¡u¥Nªí²{¦bªº½¬ªá¤k¯«¡v("lotus-goddess of the present" 177)¡A 
    ©¬ªºº¿¬O­Ó¨å«¬ªº¼g¹êªºÅªªÌ(Realist reader)¡AÀH®É´°«PÂĪL±Äª½½u±Ô­z¡A¤£­n®Ç¥ÍªK¸`¡C 
    ¨Ï¥L¤£­P»P²{¦b²æ¸`(38; 187; 233)¡C¦ý¥t¤@¤è­±¡A³o¦ì½¬ªá¤k¯«¤´¬O¥X©ó¡u¦Ãªd¡v¡ÐÁT«Kªº
    ¡]½¬ªá¤k¯«¤S¦W¡u¾Ö¦³ÁT«Kªº¤H¡v"The One Who Possess Dung"(21¡^¡C



    ending -- Yes, they will trample me underfoot, ...ruducing me the specks of voiceless dust... It is the privilege and the curse of midnight's children to ...forsake privacy and be sucked into the annihilating whirlpool of the multitude, and to be unalbe to live or die in peace."

    Rushdie, Salman. Imaginary Homelands: Essays and Criticism 1981-1991. London: Granta Books, 1991.

    the past 12

    It maybe be argued that the past is a country from which we have all migrated, that its loss is part of our common humanity. ...Meaning is a shaky edifice we build out of scraps, dogmas, childhood injuries, newspaper articles, chance remarks, old films, small victories, people hated, people loved.

    p. 17 This is what the triple disruption of reality teaches migrants: that reality is an artifact, that it does not exist until it is made, and that, like any other artefact, it can be made well or badly, and that it can also, of course, be unmade. ...The migrant intellect roots itself in itself, in its own capacity for imagining and reimagining the world.

    Pakistan and Migrants Rushdie
    Although I have known Pakistan for a long time, I have never lived there for longer than six months at a stretch...I have learned Pakistan by slices...however I choose to write about over-there, I am forced to reflect that in fragments of broken mirrors...I must reconcile myself to the inevitability of the missing bits. ...

    What is the best thing about migrant peoples and seceded nations? I think it is their hopefulness...

    And what is the worst thing? It is the emptiness of one's luggage....We have floated upwards from history, from memory, from Time. (70-71)

    "the ability to see at once from inside and out is a great thing, a piece of good fortune which the indigenous writer cannot enjoy." ("A Dangerous Art Form" 4)

    Ahmad: As formulations of this kind become the manifest common sense of the metropolitan intelligensia, dutifully reproduced in the literary productions and pronouncements of 'Third World intellectuals' located within that milieu, one wonders what these cultural positions--the idea of origin being a mere 'myth'; the doubleness of arriving at an excess of belonging by not belonging; the project of mining the resource and raw material of 'Third World Literature' for archival accumulation and generic classification in the metropolitan university--might have to do with this age of late capitalism in which the most powerful capitalist firms, originating in particular imperialist countries but commanding global investments and networks of transport and communication, proclaim themselves nevertheless to be multinationals and transnationals." (In Theory. p. 130)

    Krishnaswamy--1. Myth of migrancy vs. historical reality:

    "Rushdie dematerializes the migrant into an abstract idea." (132) Indians of different classes and gender migrate to different places.

    2. [Naipaul's eternal exile and Rushdie's permanent migrancy share one feature]: "a deterritorialized consciousness freed from such collectivities as race, class, gender, or nation, an unattached imagination that conveniently can become cosmopolitan and subaltern" (139).

    Issue for discussion: compare Rushdie's identity politics with B. Muherjee's (loss-of-face meltdown," "reincarnation") or Suleri's (meatlessness)?