Friday, July 27, 2007

Midnight's Children


If you want to read a book solely to appreciate the author's command over the english language, Salman Rushdie should be your obvious choice. The very characteristic which made me dislike his books the first time i read them many years ago made me enjoy the book this time when i read it - the language. His command over the language is very impressive.. I enjoyed the book thoroughly just for his writing.. its amazing how just the right pick of words can make ANY incident interesting.. i never thought it to be possible. Had ANY other author picked up this storyline and decided to make a book out of it, he would have, most probably, been a terrible failure...coz I don't think anyone else could have done this much justice to the concept.

While i enjoyed the complicated language use, i also enjoyed the story of the white bedsheet with a hole in the center and the 3 spots of blood staining it.. the smelly old boatsman tai.. the story of a man who loved the different parts of the woman he saw but of course, when they came together, she was nothing like the parts had made her seem!.. the story of another woman who in an attempt to love an man she couldnt get herself to love decided to love him in parts.. concentrate on one aspect of him until she fell in love with it before moving on to the next.. the story of the birth of midnight's children.. the brass monkey.. a telepathic brain holding midnight conferences between witches and other 10 year olds with super powers.. the voice of pakistan..the constant references to hindu mythology.. and the list just goes on and on..

Salman Rushdie is a master story teller.. he's awesome! when you manage to get beyond the complex barrier created by the vocabulary (i have never heard of phantasmagoria before in my life!!), the story that is weaved is magical..

it is evident that he has laboured over each chapter, each page, each paragraph, each line..yeah..each line! and all the constant references between chapters all over the book makes you wonder if he had the whole book charted out in his brain even before he began..it definitely didnt seem to be the case of "pick up the pen and let your thoughts flow and lo! the book is complete!".. it was something much much more complicated than that. Each chapter is so disjoint from the one before it or the one following it and yet..they are all connected and tell the same story.. the story of the midnight's children..

and that brings me to another point.. the intertwining of saleem sinai's life and the life of india after independence..in his own words.."actively-literally, passively metaphorically, actively-metaphorically and passively-literally, I was inextricably entwined with my world" and then he goes on to explain this random choice of words..and suddenly, this random combination of nonsensical seeming words suddenly make sense!! the casual attitude with which political references are thrown in alongside trivial incidences of his childhood is soo cool....how they all coincide and merge!..i love the way he brings in important political landmarks in a single line in a "matter-of-fact" manner while describing something totally unrelated about saleem's life..
for example..here's one of my favorite examples..
"Via Ceylon we flew, avoiding overflying India, and thus losing our chance of watching, from twenty thousand feet, the celebrations of Indira Gandhi's New Congress Party, which had won a landslide victory.."...
i don't know why that line appealed to me soo much.. it somehow seemed to be the perfect example of the casual references to important political landmarks..

Another thing i loved about the book were the little details.. the details that could have been easily ignored but what salman rushdie thought were important..the very details which made reading the book such an enjoyable experience.. For example, when saleem was putting together an anonymous letter from newspaper cuttings, rushdie gives a detailed list of the news items from which he obtained the different letters he used in his little note.. eg, "DER was concealed in "nehru consiDERs resignation at congress assembly"..etc etc.. his own special way of adding more political tidbits to the already interesting story..

My favourite character in the book..thats a tough decision to make.. but i think i'll settle for the dung goddess.. Padma.. her innocence and her enthusiasm is listening to saleem's story is very endearing. the way she sits at his feet and urges him to go on with his story.. she's quite a dear..

Though at times, the story line did seem to border on absurdity..(i mean, talks of child that can change sex by just having a dip in water etc don't really appeal to my senses), the language and the way the absurd story was spun was awesome. I loved the way, the whole books seems like a web.. there are references to different part of the book in every chapter..just a word dropped in the middle that would immediately take you a few chapters back.. he talks about stuff from previous chapters and stuff that's going to happen in the future chapters.. and they are all sooo linked! Reading such a book with full comprehension was quite an experience.

I am glad of that feeling that made me pick this book up and read it again inspite of not liking any of rushdies works the previous time i tried reading them.. i was not prepared for his works then.. i seem to be in a better state now..

will i read another rushdie soon??? definitely yes..:)

6 comments:

bhags said...

havent read this one though....if u have missed u read my comment on the previous post.
I have tried to read Satanic versus, but havent been successful in completing it

Ramya said...

hehe..same here.. have to pick it up again.. i gave up within 20 to 30 pages of that book.. am going to give a few more rushdie books a shot before reading satanic verses though..:) read midnight's children..you might like it!:)

Peridot said...

What is phantasgamoria?

Ashwin said...

good review! i am planning to read it next :)

Ramya said...

@ashwin - read it and let me know what you thought of it!:)

Ramya said...

@peridot- phantasmagoria - A fantastic sequence of haphazardly associative imagery, as seen in dreams or fever..thats the meaning!!:)