update May 12: Finished! Instead of writing a whole post for Books 2 & 3, I think I am just going to write a review… I’ll see if I can make it spoiler-free, but I’m not sure.
The book begins with the story of how Saleem’s grandparents met. Saleem’s maternal grandfather was a doctor named Aadam Aziz. He met his wife, Naseem, when she was one of his patients. The first chapter is called “The perforated sheet,” because for three years, Naseem, at her father’s insistence, is always covered by a sheet with a small hole in it that is moved to expose the part of her that is sick. one day she has a headache, and he sees her face for the first time.
This section was pretty familiar. I remembered most of it from my first time reading the book.
“The sheet, incidentally, is stained too, with three drops of old, faded redness. As the Quran tells us: Recite, in the name of thy Creator, who created Man from clots of blood.”
Huh, I didn’t know that.
Saleem’s grandfather returns home after medical school:
” …he had spent five years, five springs, away from home…
Instead of the beauty of the tiny valley circled by giant teeth, he noticed the narrowness, the proximity of the horizon; and felt sad, to be at home so utterly enclosed. He also felt– inexplicably — as though the old place resented his educated, stethoscoped return. Beneath the winter ice, it had been coldly neutral, but now there was no doubt; the years in Germany had returned him to a hostile environment. Many years later, when the hole inside him had been clogged up with hate, and he came to sacrifice himself at the shrine of the black stone god in the temple on the hill, he would try and recall his childhood springs in Paradise, the way it was before travel and tussocks and army tanks messed everything up.”
“Please believe that I am falling apart. I am not speaking metaphorically; nor is this the opening gambit of some melodramatic, riddling, grubby appeal for pity. I mean quite simply that I have begun to crack all over like an old jug—that my poor body, singular, unlovely, buffeted by too much history, subjected to drainage above and drainage below, mutilated by doors, brained by spittoons, has started coming apart at the seams. In short, I am literally disintegrating, slowly for the moment, although there are signs of acceleration. I ask you only to accept (as I have accepted) that I shall eventually crumble into (approximately) six hundred and thirty million particles of anonymous, and necessarily oblivious, dust. This is why I have resolved to confide in paper, before I forget. We are a nation of forgetters.”
I don’t remember whether this is further explained at some point.
“Family history, of course, has its proper dietary laws. One is supposed to swallow and digest only the permitted parts of it, the halal portions of the past, drained of their redness, their blood. Unfortunately, this makes the story less juicy; so I am about to become the first and only member of my family to flout the laws of halal.”
Chapter 6 (on the concept of fate):
“… we should either-optimistically-get up and cheer, because if everything is planned in advance, then we all have a meaning and are spared the terror of knowing ourselves to be random, without a why; or else, of course, we might-as pessimists-give up right here and now, understanding the futility of thought decision action, since nothing we think makes any difference anyway, things will be as they will. Where, then, is optimism? In fate or in chaos?”
Chapter 8: (after a long list of things Saleem has inherited):