First impression: fear. As if the seemingly harmless cover image was only a facade, the thickness of the book made me shake my head. 600 pages of pure words – not for the willowy-minded, indeed. As I began perusing through the first few pages of the novel, I was plunged into deeper shock; an army of my English teachers would have been no use. The numerous shifts from the narrator’s present to past, tedious referrals to cultural jargon that I simply did not know, and the boisterous and ingenious metaphors that tested my patience overwhelmed me. But more was yet to come; and indeed there was more.
Midnight’s Children, written by Indian author Salman Rushdie, is an amalgam of literary audacity, personal memoir, and historical narrative. The narrator Saleem Sinai recounts the history of his life and adamantly argues that his life runs in parallel with that of his nation, which became independent the moment Saleem was born. With countless characters whom he has influenced and been influenced by, Saleem takes the audience on a journey that seems to confound even himself. After having frantically condensed his life into 600 pages of writing, Saleem leaves the audience deeply amazed with the author Salman Rushdie’s literary feat.
The novel is one that is not frequently found in standard English classrooms; with its surplus of adjectives and deficiency of understandable chronology, the audience has to be diligent in his or her comprehension of the story. This novel is one that requires grit and patience from the reader – as well as a pen and a notepad by the side. Truthfully, it is difficult to give an unreserved recommendation of this novel; unless prepossessed with literary genius or a PhD in the history and culture of India, the story will initially approach any audience with storm of confusion and frustration.
However, despite the obvious difficulty and confusion of the novel, it also makes many wonder: why has Midnight’s Children not found itself on to the shelves of classrooms of English-speaking minds? The ingenuity in the writing is simply breathtaking; every page is a mark of the author’s balance of imagination and facts. The symbolism and thematic exploration resonates for the audience; hours and days of discussion within a literary circle would not suffice for a full comprehension of the story. As many great novels do, the story seems to provide opportunities for the audience to use as a kindling for their own fiery interpretation.
Having finished the book, a reader is likely to sit and gape for quite some time. As difficult and dense as the book may be, the fruit of having finished reading the work is worthwhile; under the influence of brain-churning and flowery language, it inspires one to recount his or her life as Saleem recounts his. Midnight’s Children, simply put, is a wondrous novel.
Keebum Kim, Grade 11
Seoul International School