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A midnight recap

Swinging with ease between the recondite and the dystopian parameters, Rushdie’s prose is difficult to imitate, writes Vikram Kumar.
None | By Vikram Kumar
UPDATED ON MAY 20, 2008 10:49 PM IST

Salman Rushdie's Midnight’s Children being the favourite to win the ‘Booker of Bookers’ in the prize’s 40th year (it won the ‘Booker of Bookers’ in its 25th year), it is worth revisiting the novel once again. In the novel, Rushdie chronicles the way the notion of inclusive citizenship has been eroded. He brilliantly weaves his narrative in allegorical prose to show that nation-States use their reshaped past by the filters of language and memory to engage in a conflicting relationship with each other. Swinging with ease between the recondite and the dystopian parameters, Rushdie’s prose is difficult to imitate.

Rushdie demonstrates the partiality of memory and experience, the basic ingredients for the construction of mythologies, by making Saleem, the unreliable narrator, to make mistakes even with the basic facts of contemporary history. The main metaphor for the nation is the sheet with the seven-inch hole through which Dr Aziz, grandfather of the narrator, examines the successive illness of the woman who eventually becomes his wife. He fell in love with the different parts of her body and his love remained confined to the parts that do not add up to a sum, having catastrophic results for their marriage as she too requited the love in the similar fashion. Their daughter’s marriage too met with the similar fate. The failed marriages symbolise the failure of the nation-State to knit its different parts in harmony.

There is something more to the dénouement. The failure of the conference of the midnight’s children is attributed to the inability of all involved to reveal personal and public histories correctly despite all 581 survivors being exceptionally brilliant in terms of physical and intellectual capacities, yet always remaining confused about being good.

Rushdie’s great post-colonial novel on independent India remains the magnum opus of his oeuvre and he might win the ‘Booker of Bookers’ again. Who knows, he may even be cursed by the utter greatness of Midnight’s Children.

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