Book Beginnings is hosted by Rose City Reader. The weekly post goes up every Thursday and bloggers can add their links all week.
My book this week is Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie. I first read it a few years ago and loved it. I am really enjoying the reread so far.
Before Salman Rushdie had that problem with a certain religious-political figure with a serious need to chill out, he’d already shown he was an important literary force. Quite simply, Midnight’s Children is amazing–fun, beautiful, erudite, both fairy tale and political narrative told through a supernatural narrator who is caught between different worlds. Though it’s a big book, with big themes of India’s nationhood and of ethnic and personal identity, it’s far from a dry history lesson. Rushdie tells the story in his own brand of magical realism, with a prose of lyrical, transcendent goofiness.
I was born in the city of Bombay… once upon a time. No, that won’t do, there’s no getting away from the date. I was born in Doctor Narlikar’s Nursing Home on August 15th 1947. And the time? The time matters too. Well then, at night. No, it’s important to be more… On the stroke of midnight, as a matter of fact. Clock-hands joined palms in respectful greeting as I came. Oh, spell it out, spell it out, at the precise instant of India’s arrival at independence, I tumbled forth into the world. There were gasps, and outside the window fireworks and crowds. A few seconds later my father broke his big toe, but his accident was a mere trifle when set beside what had befallen me in that benighted moment, when thanks to the occult tyrannies of the blandly saluting clocks I had been mysteriously handcuffed to history, my destinies indissolubly chained to those of my country. For the next three decades there was to be no escape. Soothsayers had prophesied me, newspapers celebrated my arrival, politicos ratified my authenticity. I was left entirely without a say in the matter. I, Saleem Sinai, variously called Snotnose, Stainface, Baldy, Sniffer, Buddha and even Piece-of-the-Moon, had become heavily embroiled in Fate — at the best of times a dangerous sort of involvement. And I couldn’t even wipe my own nose at the time.
Now, however, time (having no further use for me) is running out. I will soon be thirty-one years old. Perhaps. If my crumbling, over-used body permits. But I have no hope of saving my life, nor can I count on having even a thousand nights and a night. I must work fast, faster than Scheherazade, if I am to end up meaning — yes, meaning — something. I admit it: above all things, I fear absurdity.
This post is also for this week’s Friday 56. on page 56, a character is in hiding from assassins:
He was down there a long time, too — long enough to start talking to flying cockroaches and fearing that one day someone would ask him to leave and dreaming of crescent knives and howling dogs and wishing and wishing that the Hummingbird were alive to tell him what to do, and to discover that you could not write poetry underground; and then this girl comes with food and she doesn’t mind clearing away your pots and you lower your eyes but you see an ankle that seems to glow with graciousness, a black ankle like the black of underground nights…