Salman Rushdie's Midnight's Children - a synopsis


This article provides an overall view of one of the best novels by Rushdie, Midnight's Children, that amalgamates well between magical realism and historical fiction. The novel is about a boy, Saleem, who is born with amazing telepathic powers and gets ruined before he can serve the country with his blessed power.

About the author

Salman Rushdie is a British Indian novelist and essayist. Much of his fiction is based on the Indian subcontinent. His work mainly focuses on the blending of magical realism with historical fiction, which he does efficiently. His work is concerned mainly with the many connections, disruptions, and migrations between Eastern and Western civilisations. He may be regarded as one of those novelists who brought international fame to the Indian English novels.

Midnight's Children in a nutshell

Rushdie's most famous novel is Midnight's Children which has also been added to the list of 'Great books of the 20th century'. The novel is a loose allegory for India both before and after the independence and partition of India. The protagonist, Saleem Sinai, is born at midnight, 15 August 1947, and hence, is as old as independent India. Though the story has biographical elements, Saleem begins his story nearly thirty years prior his birth when his grandfather Adaam Aziz returned to India after studying and becoming a doctor in Germany. He fell in love with one of his patients, Naseem who decide to get married. Soon after their marriage, they understand their incompatibility but still live together. Their second child Mumtaz falls in love with Nadir, a hiding man and is compelled to live in the house of her father's. Nadir falls out of love with Mumtaz and divorces her.

Mumtaz rediscovers love in the heart of Ahmed Sinai and eventually marries him. Mumtaz's husband, Ahmed, changes her name to Amina. One day she saves a man from being killed by a crowd, and the man tells that his cousin will predict the nature of her baby, as Amina was pregnant then. Amina follows the man and gets the prediction about her future baby, that his son will be of the same age as that of their homeland, and his nose and knees will be very important. The mystic man also gives vague ideas about the important powers that he is going to be born with. The couple then move to a new apartment and eventually, at sharp midnight, Saleem is born. One day, he hides in the bathroom and accidentally sees his mother undress. His mother punishes him to one day of complete silence and it is during this period of acute silence that he gets to hear innumerable voices inside his mind.

Later, Saleem discovers that all children born between 12 am and 1 am are having some magical powers, of which he too, is not an exception. Saleem, with his special powers, assembles a "Midnight's Children's Conference", relative of the issues faced by India. Meanwhile, Saleem's family begin a number of migrations to save themselves from a number of wars. Saleem suffers from amnesia and somehow gets involved in the Emergency period of Indira Gandhi and Rajib's "cleansing" of Jama Masjid's slums. For a time, Saleem is held as a political prisoner; these passages contain scathing criticisms of the Gandhi family. The Emergency signals the end of the potency of the 'Midnight's Children', and there is little left for Saleem to do but pick up the few pieces of his life he may still find and write the chronicle that encompasses both his personal history and that of his still-young nation.

This tale is a gripping one because of the intense tone of the speaker and frequent extra-textual information given to us.

Rushdie won the Booker Prize in the year 1981 for Midnight's Children. It has also won the English Speaking Union Literary Awards and the James Tait Prize. In the year 2012, a film based on this novel was premiered at the Toronto Film Festival.


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