“I am the swallower of lives” and other gems in Midnight’s Children

I admittedly did a terrible job of keeping track of favourite passages as I was reading Midnight’s Children. I’ve gone back and re-discovered a few here to share.

The first one, and my overall favourite from the entire book, was on the very first page: “I have been a swallower of lives…” (p. 11).

There is this excerpt which I think is a great anecdote for religion:

‘Blue,’ the young priest said earnestly. ‘All available evidence, my daughter, suggests that Our Lord Jesus Christ was the most beauteous, crystal shade of pale sky blue.’ The little woman…fell silent for a moment…Then: ‘But how, Father? People are not blue. No people are blue in the whole big world!’…

    The Bishop had said, ‘Problems with recent converts…when they ask about colour they’re almost always that…important to build bridges, my son. Remember,’ thus spake the Bishop, ‘God is love; and the Hindu love-god, Krishna, is always depicted with blue skin. Tell them blue; it will be a sort of bridge between the faiths; gently does it, you follow; and besides blue is a neutral sort of colour, avoids the usual colour problems, gets you away from black and white: yes, on the whole I’m sure it’s the one to choose.’” (p.103)

And this one, found later on, which recalls the quote from the first page:

“Who what am I? My answer: I am the sum total of everything that went before me, of all I have been seen done, of everything done-to-me. 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…I repeat for the last time: to understand me, you’ll have to swallow a world.” (p.370)

There is a lot more in this book which I loved which appear and reappear throughout the novel, and there is just too much to quote without quoting nearly the entire book. How Saleem (the protagonist and narrator) associates smells with emotions and colours, for example. It reminds me of Kandinsky’s Impressions and Compositions series. Then how alcoholism is described as a fight with djinns. Who would win in a fight against a genie?! And the M.C.C.! And ghosts!

Aladdin Jafar Genie

see, would you want to fight this genie?

It’s a great book. If you, Anonymous Post Reader, do decide to pick it up, if you are anything like me there will be many times when you want to give up. You may even walk away from it for a little while, hitting a wall in your reading. It’s just too much! Too much historical references you don’t understand, too much writing, too much going on. Push through, put the work in to read this one. Grind through it. It’s worth it!

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