Friday, May 20, 2011

Midnight's Children

There are no adjectives left to praise this book any more. It has won so many awards (the Booker prize, 'Best of Booker-25 years' and 'Best of Booker-40 years' are the most notable) that any praise seems superfluous. Its like saying Michelangelo was a great artist; true but quite obvious (lapalissiano as a dear friend of mine would say)! In the case of this book, its achievements speak louder than any words ever could. So lets just say that it has earned all the praise it has gotten so far, and fully deserves the accolades that have & will come its way.

The story traces the life of a man born at exactly the same time as India gained its independence from the British, the midnight of 15th august 1945. Through his life, we see the major events that shaped the formative years of India. Considering that this was only the second book written by Rushdie, it is audacious not only in its scope but in its style and content as well. He plays with the narrative like a seasoned narrator and not once shirks from making powerful political statements concerning even the most influential political personalities. Along the way, he imbues every single character with a life of its own.

Salman Rushdie truly is a great writer(a sentiment echoed by literary figures with a lot more credibility than me). His sentences are magical, much more than mere constructions of words. Like a magician, he makes them do things that a mere mortal can only dream of. So it is that his words make us dream, think, despair, love & hate; a proper roller-coaster of emotions that even moving pictures cannot match. He achieves the ultimate objective of any writer by making his words speak directly to the heart of his reader!

One tiny example of his mastery of his art is an episode where a muslim woman saves a hindu life. The episode is narrated in a simple, straightforward way without any pretensions of judging the eternal race relations. His heroes are not sugar-coated, rose-tinted melodrama-filled dummies; they are real-life, simple and even matter-of-fact about their heroic actions, and hence are infinitely more believable. Another testament to his skills is the heart-rending simplicity with which the protagonist's grief is narrated in the second last chapter. With one brief sentence he manages to convey the depth of the protagonist's emotions. And that is the sign of a master writer; to do more with less, to recognize that grief does not need fancy explanations. Sadness is always stark, bare, unadorned and at its root, tragically simple. Listing down every single high point of the narrative is just not feasible, so suffice to say that in the pantheon of the greatest books on realism this book would hold its own along with The Moor's Last Sigh.

An epic for all ages!

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