Magazine article New Internationalist

Midnight's Children

Magazine article New Internationalist

Midnight's Children

Article excerpt

SALMAN RUSHDIE'S Midnight's Children was published in 1981 when the Western world had taken a shift to the Right, and its fiction writers seemed to be producing mainly stylish but anodyne, apolitical stuff which appeared to have no other purpose than to entertain a comfortable middle class.

For me, Midnight's Children was a breath of fresh air. At last here was a writer who had produced a work that dared show that the everyday lives of 'ordinary' citizens of a country are inextric - ably bound up with grander national politics.

The novel tells the story of a group of children who were all born on the day that the 'new' independent nation of India came into existence in 1947. The hero - if hero be the right word - of the novel is Saleem. Together with another boy, Shiva, he is born exactly on the stroke of midnight, thus winning acclaim from the Prime Minister and a prize from The Times of India for being a symbol of the nascent state. Saleem discovers that he, along with other children born on Independence Day, has telepathic powers. He founds an alternative Congress consisting of all these children.

The Congress is able to function on a telepathic level and Rushdie portrays it as a mirror image of the real Indian Congress, including all the petty wrangles and pointless prejudices of the politicians of the day. Saleem seeks to impose his ideas of a moral and decent India upon his fellow children.

Shiva, on the other hand, believes only in the survival of the fittest. The two boys fall into a Manichean - good against evil -struggle. The children's Congress collapses amid recriminations and accusations of elitism. Rushdie's subtle irony and wide - ranging criticism of power politics becomes apparent.

Few works convey so magnificently just how the corrupt and corrupting policies of major figures filter through to the lives of the populace. …

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