©1981 Salman Rushdie; (P)2009 Recorded Books, LLC
“Extraordinary . . . one of the most important [novels] to come out of the English-speaking world in this generation.” (The New York Review of Books)
“Burgeons with life, with exuberance and fantasy . . . Rushdie is a writer of courage, impressive strength, and sheer stylistic brilliance.” (The Washington Post Book World)
“A marvelous epic . . . Rushdie’s prose snaps into playback and flash-forward . . . stopping on images, vistas, and characters of unforgettable presence. Their range is as rich as India herself.” (Newsweek)
Salman Rushdie is a writer's writer. I have been hooked on his fiction ever since I discovered Satanic Verses - All of his books are full of humour, contemporary culture and some of the best prose since James Joyce & Marcel Proust. The narration is masterful - but the language is dense and requires the reader's full attention. The narration resembles that of "I Claudius" in that it wavers between 1rst & 3rd person points of view. The history of modern india at the moment of its independence is collapsed into the life-story of the narrator, born at the stroke of midnight of independence.
In short I love this book and have thoroughly enjoyed it's narration.
Eclectic mixer of books of my youth and ones I always meant to read, but didn't.
?? have lost count of the numbr of times I've read this modern classic. It's hard to believe that it gets better with each read. The story is detailled, beautifully structured and timed, and has a credibility that is better than the truth. Lyndam Gregory made the experience richer for his many nuances of accent, the way he captured the characters and enlivened some of the best prose ever written. Rushdie is brilliant, of course. Not everyone could have done him, or this great piece of literature, justice. I suggest that Gregory has. Is he planning to read Satanic Verses? If he is, or has, I can't wait. Back to the store to check!
Midnight's Children isn't an easy book to listen to first time around; and it certainly took me many hours of listening before getting a grip (that, too, somewhat tenuous) on the story line, which is full of twists, and exceptions, and clarifications, and which jumps back and forth in time and points of view.
Nonetheless, it is a really funny story. I must have laughed out loud at least few times. The text and the narration easily capture the irony and hypocrisy one finds in India (and Pakistan).
As to the narration, well ... I think Lyndam Gregory has put in a lot of effort to get it right. To bring the text to life. Unfortunately he didn't succeed. He simply couldn't pronounce any of the Indian names or terms properly. At times I had to refer to the text (which, thankfully, was available for download online) to understand what was being read.
I plan to listen to again.
Salman Rushdie's narrative tone in this book is jovial and humorous, even when he's describing pretty horrific things. It sneaks up on you that the first-person narrator, Saleem Sinai, is not just a little unreliable, but also whiny, self-justifying, and arrogant. The history of India ran parallel to his own personal history, with events happening in synchronicity, really? And the war between India and Pakistan was actually History's attempt to get him and his family? Saleem Sinai is sometimes likeable and sometimes a real jerk. He spends the entire book telling his life story to an unseen nurse/lover, Padma, who seems to be a long-suffering woman who loves him despite his determination to literally make everything all about him.
But there really are magical elements in this book, in which the thousand and one "Children of Midnight" born during the midnight hour of India's independence are all given supernatural gifts. If this were a genre fantasy novel, we'd see them running around India engaging in feats of heroism and villainy. But this isn't a superhero novel, it's a literary historical novel with a touch of the fantastic, so the Children of Midnight never do much at all, and Saleem's amazing telepathic abilities are used only as a plot device to connect them and include them in his narrative.
As a modern history of India (told irreverently and one-sidedly and in a self-involved way by Saleem), Midnight's Children is funny, tragic, interesting, and a grand epic that Rushdie's storytelling device makes extremely personal. Rushdie's writing style is full of asides and interjections and laugh-out-loud metaphors, and he brings all the characters, even the bit ones, to life in amusing detail. He reminds me a bit of Stephen King in that respect, though Rushdie is far more of a literary prose-smith than King, and his book, while a little bit wordy and tangential at times, nowhere near as bloated as a King epic.
Gen-Xer, software engineer, and lifelong avid reader. Soft spots for sci-fi, fantasy, and history, but I'll read anything good.
I wanted to like this book more than I did and ended up calling it quits about halfway through. It's not that Rushdie isn't a brilliant writer, but his generation-sweeping narrative felt like a long exercise in allegory and self-referentialness without characters or a plot that I managed to find involving.
You'll find that the usual checkmarks of "magic realism" apply here. The writing has a fanciful storybook quality, as does the plot logic. The author blends real-world history with myth and pseudo-myth. Characters have exaggerated personality and physical traits, and strange ailments, some of which seem to grant them extraordinary powers of telepathy and foresight. Don't get me wrong -- I appreciate symbolism and thematic depth, but there was a bit too much literary flash at the expense of characters or a story arc I could relate to. Maybe it's just me -- I was also left cold by Mark Helprin's much-loved Winter's Tale, for similar reasons.
Too bad, because Rushdie really can write colorful descriptive passages that sing in audiobook form, combining poetry, satire, Bollywood imagery, and bits of the real world in a rollicking series of well-crafted scenes. But it's also one of those books where the author is constantly and consciously being "clever", mainly through manipulative foreshadowing and an air of ah-but-you-don't-see-where-I'm-going-with-this. To me, that sort of thing gets annoying, as though Rushdie wants to bait critics into being impressed with his novel through structural trickery.
Still, Rushdie is quite brilliant, and for literary adventurers who appreciate dense novels and are perhaps a bit more knowledgeable about India/Pakistan/Kashmir than I am, there's a lot here. Depending on your tastes, it's certainly worth consideration. But, as generation-spanning multicultural novels go, I *liked* Zadie Smith's White Teeth and Jeffrey Eugenides' Middlesex a lot more.
I dunno... maybe I'll come back to it later.
Lyndam Gregory was born to do this performance. it is truly extraordinary. He captures the essence of India, the characters, the time, the wonder and the magic of this incredible book. It was a joy to listen to each day, and I felt very sad when it was over. It was like saying goodbye to intimate friends. Congratulations to Mr. Gregory for a tour de force performance.
Former Marine 4321, former State Department public diplomacy officer. Current USAF Public Affairs Specialist
Looking for a way to ease the monotony of the daily commute, I thumbed through the audiobooks on my iPod and settled on Midnight's Children. In about 90 seconds, Salman Rushdie made me feel more stupid than a season of Are You Smarter than 5th Grader? First, he says his favorite Indian authors are Charles Dickens and Jane Austin and he loved the Bombay description Charles Dickens gives. Dickens? In India? Then he says the birth of Midnight's Children started the year Indira Gandhi was indicted for election fraud and then activated emergency powers and began her series of crimes. Indira Gandhi was a dictator? And during that year, so-and-so, the founder of Bangladesh was murdered. The founder of Bangladesh was who? Was assassinated? Maybe I don't read enough.
This novel is amazing. It simultaneously transports me to a world so completely foreign I might as well be on Mars and prominently reminds me of the pains of poverty and petty politics in Cairo. Funny and disparaging, absurd and painfully real, I love it.
I couldn't quite shake the idea, as I listened, that Salman Rushdie worked with an open copy of The Tin Drum by his side. But where Tin Drum felt to me like rich and moving reading experience, Midnight's Children felt clownish and empty. Reading it was like listening to the author shout LOOK AT ME LOOK AT ME for hundreds of pages...and then it was over. I can fully admit the writing itself is masterful, but I found myself wondering with almost every sentence: How can great writing be so empty of purpose and meaning? And also: How can such a skilled writer make the topic of Indian independence, and the resulting partition of India, such a dull bludgeon of a reading experience?
Let me say more about this nagging Tin Drum echo that I heard throughout Midnight's Children--and why Midnight's children could mimic, but totally fail to capture the mastery of Tin Drum. Each book has countless minor characters who appear, play their part, and go away again. But in Tin Drum the characters are deeply felt, no matter how unrealistically portrayed, and in Midnight's Children the characters feel like windup toys. I think of Sigismund Markus in Tin Drum, a very minor character, the Jewish shopkeeper who commits suicide during Kristalnacht, versus Ilse Luben, who drowns herself in a lake before she makes any impression on the reader whatsoever, or Tai, a boatman who takes up many pages of narrative and who suffers an equally meaningless death. The death of Sigismund still moves me when I think about it, and the deaths of Ilse and Tai left nothing more than a great, boring, ho-hum, glad-they-are-gone-so-we-can-get-on-with-the-story feeling. Worse is the death of Vanita in childbirth--again my only feeling was that I had none.
Then I tried to frame the book as post-modern so of course it would use distancing effects as a way to call attention to its own fictions...but again the book compares so poorly with other postmodern novels, like those of Nabokov or Barthelme, which manage to use the same distancing effects to somehow bring a reader closer to all the beauty and tragedy of the human condition. This book in contrast just distances the reader.
So I'm left with a great wonderment that this is the book that wins the Booker of Bookers. The other book that Midnight's Children compares poorly to is A Passage to India by E.M. Forster--each book has a Dr. Aziz who is central to the story, with Rushdie's Aziz comparing very poorly to Forster's in any sort of valuation I can imagine for fiction.
I am a latecomer to this book and about 2/3 through the audio version (the narrator is wonderful). This is a fascinating novel, with motley of very unusual characters and relationships and twists. There is so much to say about this imaginative and absorbing book. The main character drifts back and forth between his external world and what at times seems like a delusional internal life where he wields omnipotence and omniscience among the Midnight's children in contrast to a pathetic external world. I will savor the last 1/3 of the book. I am delighted with this recommendation. At times it is laugh out loud funny.
I had this suggested to me by my Indian-American girlfriend as her favorite book, so I figured it worth a listen. It's hard to really summarize a 24 hour listen, but I found it to be quite enjoyable. At times the asides can get a bit tiresome, and I wasn't a huge fan of his decision to speak directly to the reader as his character (as the author himself, for all intents). It reminded me a bit of opera in its reiteration of important specifics, but I think this actually helped to keep the reader oriented and able to understand the massive, highly detailed story. It is certainly not a light listen in terms of attention (not a good transition from modern spy novels, for example), but due to the occasional backtracking and repetition it allows the listener's focus to be able to drift if just for 30 seconds or a minute. All said, it is quite the epic in terms of the time frame and characters covered, not withstanding the direct and/or allegorical discussions of the young modern India and Pakistan and the struggles of becoming an autonomous state after longstanding imperial rule. But Rushdie does manage to keep it interesting with clever language, wit, and charm. Overall it is certainly a commitment to even listen to this book, but if you give it your attention (and maybe wikipedia some things to help you with context both in terms of location and time!), I think you will find it an engaging, smart, and highly enjoyable piece of historical fiction.
Apart from this being one of the most wonderfull books ever written, it is most brilliantly read. I'm sorry to find that this is the only book Mr Gregory has read. Maybe there is more to come?
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