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It begins with a countdown.
On August 14th, 1947,
a woman in Bombay goes into labor as the clock ticks towards midnight.
Across India, people hold their breath for the declaration of independence
after nearly two centuries of British occupation and rule.
And at the stroke of midnight,
a squirming infant and two new nations are born in perfect synchronicity.
These events form the foundation of "Midnight's Children,"
a dazzling novel by the British-Indian author Salman Rushdie.
The baby who is the exact same age as the nation is Saleem Sinai,
the novel's protagonist.
His narrative stretches over 30 years of his life,
jumping backwards and forwards in time to speculate on family secrets
and deep-seated mysteries.
These include the greatest enigma of all: Saleem has magic powers,
and they're somehow related to the time of his birth.
And he's not the only one.
All children born in and around the stroke of midnight
are imbued with extraordinary powers;
like Parvati the Witch, a spectacular conjurer;
and Saleem's nemesis Shiva, a gifted warrior.
With his powers of telepathy,
Saleem forges connections with a vast network of the children of midnight—
including a figure who can step through time and mirrors,
a child who changes their gender when immersed in water,
and multilingual conjoined twins.
Saleem acts as a delightful guide to magical happenings
and historical context alike.
Although his birthday is a day of celebration,
it also marks a turbulent period in Indian history.
In 1948, the leader of the Indian independence movement,
Mahatma Gandhi, was assassinated.
Independence also coincided with Partition,
which divided British-controlled India
into the two nations of India and Pakistan.
This contributed to the outbreak of the Indo-Pakistani Wars in 1965 and 1971.
Saleem touches on all this and more,
tracing the establishment of Bangladesh in 1971
and the emergency rule of Indira Gandhi.
This vast historical frame is one reason why "Midnight's Children"
is considered one of the most illuminating works of postcolonial literature
ever written.
This genre typically addresses the experience of people living in colonized
and formerly colonized countries,
and explores the fallout through themes like revolution, migration, and identity.
Rushdie, who like Saleem was born in 1947, was educated in India and Britain,
and is renowned for his cross-continental histories, political commentary,
and magical realism.
He enriches "Midnight's Children" with a plethora of Indian
and Pakistani cultural references,
from family traditions to food, religion and folktales.
Scribbling by night under the watchful eyes of his lover Padma,
Saleem's frame narrative echoes that of "1001 Nights,"
where a woman named Scheherazade tells her king a series of stories
to keep herself alive.
And as Saleem sees it,
1001 is “the number of night, of magic, of alternative realities.”
Over the course of the novel,
Rushdie dazzles us with multiple versions of reality.
Sometimes, this is like reading a rollercoaster.
Saleem narrates:
“Who what am I? My answer:
I am everyone everything whose being-in- the-world affected was affected by mine.
I am anything that happens after I've gone
which would not have happened if I had not come.
Nor am I particularly exceptional in this matter;
each 'I,' every one of the now-six- hundred-million-plus of us,
contains a similar multitude.
I repeat for the last time:
to understand me, you'll have to swallow a world.”
Saleem's narrative often has a breathless quality—
and even as Rushdie depicts the cosmological consequences of a life,
he questions the idea that we can ever condense history into a single narrative.
His mind-bending plot and shapeshifting characters
have garnered continuing fascination and praise.
Not only did "Midnight's Children" win the prestigious Man Booker Prize
in its year of publication,
but in a 2008 competition that pitted all 39 winners against each other,
it was named the best of all the winners.
In a masterpiece of epic proportions,
Rushdie reveals that there are no singular truths—
rather, it's wiser to believe in several versions of reality at once,
hold many lives in the palms of our hands,
and experience multiple moments in a single stroke of the clock.
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Why should you read “Midnight’s Children”? - Iseult Gillespie

87 分類 收藏
林宜悉 發佈於 2020 年 4 月 7 日
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