Midnight`s Children2

Autofiction, Fictional Autobiography and
Autobiography as History
An Early Life History!
Rushdie was born on 19 June 1947, Bombay, India, into a Muslim family of Kashmiri
Educated at Cathedral and John Connon School
in Mumbai, Rugby School, and King's College,
University of Cambridge, where he studied history.
Rushdie has been married four times.
Awarded with
-Arts Council Writers‘ Award.
-Author of the Year (Germany).
-Booker of Bookers for his best novel
“Midnight’s Children”.
-Commandeur de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres (France).
-Booker Prize for Fiction.
& many more.
Awards and Recognition
Midnight's Children is a 1981 book by Salman Rushdie that deals with India's
transition from British colonialism to independence and the partition of British India.
It is considered an example of post colonial literature and magical realism. The
story is told by its chief protagonist, Saleem Sinai, and is set in the context of
actual historical events as with historical fiction.
Midnight's Children won both the Booker Prize and the James Tait Black Memorial
Prize in 1981.
It was awarded the "Booker of Bookers" Prize and the best all-time prize winners in
1993 and 2008 to celebrate the Booker Prize 25th and 40th anniversary.
In 2003, the novel was listed on the BBC's survey "The Big Read". It was also added
to the list of Great Books of the 20th Century, published by Penguin Books.
What is it about?
Saleem Sinai, the narrator of Midnight's Children, opens the novel by explaining
that he was born on midnight, August 15, 1947, at the exact moment India gained
its independence. Now nearing his thirty-first birthday, Saleem believes that his
body is beginning to crack and fall apart. Fearing that his death is imminent, he
grows anxious to tell his life story.
Saleem's story begins in Kashmir, thirty-two years before his birth, in 1915.
Saleem's grandfather, a doctor named Aadam Aziz, treats Naseem, the woman
who becomes Saleem's grandmother.
Amina- Saleem's mother moves to Bombay with her new husband. They buy a new
house and Sallem is born.
Meanwhile, a midwife at the nursing home, Mary Pereira, is preoccupied with
thoughts of her radical socialist lover, Joseph D'Costa. Wanting to make him proud,
she switches the nametags of the two newborn babies. Driven by a sense of guilt
afterward, she becomes an ayah, or nanny, to Saleem.
Saleem begins to hear the thoughts of other children born during the first hour of
independence. Saleem discovers that Shiva, the boy with whom he was switched at
birth, was born with a pair of enormous, powerful knees and a gift for combat.
Amina takes Saleem and the "Brass Monkey", his sister, to Pakistan, where she
moves in with Emerald. Saleem's perpetually congested nose undergoes a medical
operation. As a result, he loses his telepathic powers but, in return, gains an
incredible sense of smell, with which he can detect emotions
Saleem's entire family moves to Pakistan after India's military loss to China.
During the India Pakistan war, there were air raids and in one of them Saleem gets
hit in the head by his grandfather’s silver spittoon, which erases his memory entirely.
He finds himself conscripted into military service, as his keen sense of smell makes
him an excellent tracker.
While in the army, Saleem helps quell the independence movement in Bangladesh.
He flees into the jungle with three of his fellow soldiers.After leaving the jungle,
Saleem finds Parvati-the-witch, one of midnight's children, who reminds him of his
name and helps him escape back to India. He lives with her in the magician's ghetto
and later decides to marry her.
Meanwhile, Indira Gandhi, the prime minister of India, begins a sterilization
campaign. Shortly after the birth of Parvati’s son, the government destroys the
magician’s ghetto.
Parvati dies while Shiva captures Saleem and brings him to a forced sterilization
camp. There, Saleem divulges the names of the other midnight’s children. One by
one, the midnight’s children are rounded up and sterilized, effectively destroying
the powers that so threaten the prime minister.
Later, however, Indira Gandhi loses the first election she holds.
Saleem decides to marry Padma, whom he meets on his visit to Bombay, his
steadfast lover and listener, on his thirty-first birthday, which falls on the thirty-first
anniversary of India's independence.
Saleem prophesies that he will die on that day,disintegrating into millions of specks
of dust.
Commonalities between Saleem and Salman
o Kashmiri ancestors
o Born in Bombay in 1947
o Muslim family
o Second mother, Mary
o Father's name, Ahmed
o Sister's character, nicknamed Brass Monkey
o Went to live in Pakistan
o Saleem and Salman are derived from Arabic word "salima" meaning "to be
Fantastical autofiction : a narrative where “the writer is at the
centre of the text (like in an autobiography), but they
transfigure their existence and identity into an unreal story,
regardless of the constraints of verisimilitude”
There are 3 elements which play a part here: Salman
Rushdie’s personal life, Salim’s representation in the
fiction, and it’s intermingling with the post-colonial
history of India, Pakistan and even Bangladesh.
There is a constant melange of history with fiction, as
Salim is present in the 1958 coup in Pakistan, 1972 war
in Bangladesh, and even during the Emergency in India.
Just as during the cleansing of the Jama Masjid slum, the
termination of the magic ghetto along with the death of
Parvati, shows the resemblance yet incorporates fictional
Fictional Autobiography
First person narration by Saleem
Narrating his story to Padma, a mirror of the
reader within the book.
As with Charles Dickens’ David Copperfield, this
novel incorporates fact with fiction and gives a very
compact and meaningful representation to it.
Literary devices - Symbols
Recurrence of the same symbols throughout the
book - leitmotif
Perforated, blood-stained sheet
protector of identity
a symbol of conjugal love
a symbol of walking death
symbolic of blood-shed
symbolic of fragments
"the ghostly essence of the perforated sheet, which
doomed my mother to learn to love a man in segments,
and which condemned me to see my own life -- its
meaning, its structures -- in fragments also; so that by
the time I understood it, it was far too late"
Literary devices - Symbols
Snakes and ladders
"... for every ladder you climb, a snake is waiting just
around the corner; and for every snake, a ladder will
"... no sooner had my mother discovered the ladder to
victory represented by her racecourse luck than she
was reminded that the gutters of the country were still
teeming with snakes."
o Snakes venom treats him
"Snakes can lead to triumph, just as ladders can be
o Loses telepathic powers; gaines sense of smell
Literary devices
Imagery"The colors are there the green and black her hair is green her teeth
Alliteration"See him tear at them : rip! rap! rop!"
are black the Widow stands above high high as the sky the sky is black her skin is
green children screaming walls are green blood is black and she reaches out and
mmff and little balls the night is black but children torn in half I look and see the
Widow green but I am black the children run their screams are black her hand is
green it touches my face is green her nails are black she smiles and I am green my
blood is black she is hunting searching searching skin is green love is black I want
out out but children grabbed and mmff and little balls and the Widow looks for me
she grabs but no mmff no little balls the sky is black but fear is green."
Literary devices
Allegory and metaphors
Narration of history through Saleem's life
Independence and birth
Imminent death of character and death of hope
Fragmentation of body and state
Midnight's Children and unity in nation
Optimism "disease"
Past leaking into present
Line between personal and political life is extremely
Literary devices
Indianized language
English-Hindi Hybrids
Phrases turning into words
Literary devices
Magic realism
o Midnight's Children have magical powers. Protagonist
initially has telepathic powers.
Accurate prediction of Saleem's future
Saleem, the narrator, mentions future events and then
retracts his statement claiming that he must not rush.
Saleem's future is foretold before his birth
"A son, Sahiba, who will never be older than his motherland neither older nor younger. There will be two heads - but you
shall see only one - there will be knees and a nose, a nose and
knees. Newspaper praises him, two mothers raise him! Bicyclists
love him - but, crowds will shove him! Sisters will weep; cobra
will creep. Washing will hide him - voices will guide him! Friends
mutilate him - blood will betray him! Spittoons will brain him doctors will drain him - jungle will claim him - wizards reclaim
him! Soldiers will try him - tyrants will fry him ... He will have
sons without having sons! He will be old before he is old! And
he will die ... before he is dead."
Premonitions in the book
Married to "Padma - Parvati Laxmi"
Saleem married to Parvati in the book
Padma falls in love with Saleem in the book
Political pressure in real life
Political prisoner in book
Autobiography as history
Character's fate intertwined with that of India's
Twins born at Midnight on 15th August 1947
History told through the eyes of a common man
not a narration of a ruler or emperor or general
Various historical aspects :
Pakistan's coup : "... not only did I overthrow a
government - I also consigned a president to exile."
Bangladesh war
Indian Emergency period
Sanjay Gandhi's cleansing of Jama Masjid Slums and
family planning steps
Depicted as political prisoner of Indira Gandhi;
portrays her lust for power and her insecurities
Playing with History
The political upheaval and constant threat of
violence that marked the first three decades of
independence forms the backdrop for Midnight’s
Children, Rushdie’s most celebrated novel.
The violence that accompanied independence was a
prelude to the multiple wars, coups, and
governmental abuses that plagued the area in the
years that followed.
Magic of Rushdie
History: A term that relates to past events as well as the
discovery, collection, organization, and presentation of
information about these events.
Memory also plays an important role in construction of
nation’s history. Rushdie knows this well and acknowledges
“Memory has its own special kind. It selects, eliminates, alters, exaggerates, minimizes,
glorifies, and mollifies also, but in the end it creates its own reality, its heterogeneous but
usually coherent version of events; and no same human being ever trusts someone else’s
version more than his own”……From his interview given to BBC
Memory thus, fulfills the purpose to relate private lives to
public events and to explore the limits of individuality in a
culturally diverse India.
Personal history and the historical
Rushdie successfully draws a parallel between the private
destiny of Saleem and public destiny of India.
Saleem sometimes thinks that : “From the moment of my conception, it seems, I have been
public property”
Rushdie creates a new history based on historical facts –
he sets his main character against “a real historical
backdrop”. He views history through the eyes of his
Perhaps a nation's history is nothing more—but also
nothing less—than the shared personal history of its
individual citizens.
National Allegory
For the purpose of making the novel a national allegory,
Rushdie had provided Saleem and the other midnight’s
children with a magical faculty:
“What made the events noteworthy … was the nature of those children every one of whom
was, through some freak of biology or perhaps owing to some prenatural power of the
moment or just conceivably by sheer coincidence…, endowed with features, talents and
faculties which can only be described as miraculous”
At the stroke of midnight only two children were born,
Saleem and Shiva and their fates were exchanged.
India’s history collides again with Saleem’s personal life.
Love-affair of Evelyn and Saleem can be seen as
America’s generosity in providing India large aid in 50’s.
Saleem’s friends give him company on that day i.e. his
birthday , due to Evie’s ban on festivities. This is an
example of neocolonialism, wherein despite of attaining
much sought after independence, Indians have a special
liking for the whites and their products. The way the
citizens of Methwold’s Estate follow Evie’s instructions is a
substantiation of this fact.
Manufacture of History
Creation of grandeur achievements in war by
both the sides- Pakistan and India.
"... Voice of Pakistan announced destruction of more aircrafts than
India had ever possessed; in eight days, All India Radio massacred
the Pakistan Army down to, and considerably beyond, the last man.“
Saleem’s comment:
"Nothing was real; nothing was certain."
Jennifer Santos, Arizona State University, Historical Truth in
Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children: A Question of
O.P. Dwivedi, Nation and History: A Postcolonial Study of
Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children (1981), Journal of
Alternative Perspectives in the Social Sciences ( 2009) Vol 1, No
2, 498-522
Wikipedia (for a lot of things)
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