Midnight’s Children was epic. Salman Rushdie is a literary god. I can understand why it has received so many accolades and awards. Reading this novel was more work than I expected, and very much worthwhile.
To some, Rushdie’s stylistic choices may seem scattered and disorganized. He jumps from style to style, employing countless literary devices. Basically, if it’s a literary device, it’s used somewhere in this book. You would think that this kind of writing would result in a fragmented reading experience, but this is not the case at all. Rushdie seamlessly transitions from pages-long sentences (“3 pages, 1 sentence!!” I yelled at my husband at one point), to brief exclamations. He navigates from heavy, flowery prose, to slang, to philosophical musings. He does this so expertly that you barely recognize the shift in narrative technique, if at all.
This book is simultaneously fiction, historical fiction, and fantasy. It is daring us to just try to pigeon-hold it.
With this kind of writing, the author often sacrifices story for form, prioritizing the medium over the message. The story suffers so that the author can fully employ all of the desired techniques. This kind of trade-off is much easier to spot in movies; When the cinematic quality of a film outweighs that of the plot, audiences get bored quickly. This happens in books too, but since books often require a reader to ‘grind’ through some exposition to progress in the plot, readers are not as hyper-sensitive to it and might not realize it right away.
Midnight’s Children could have easily been an example of this. It’s not. The story holds up to the writing. This is one of those rare cases where the story is just as strong as the CRAZY impressive writing.
At times, I got the impression that Salman Rushdie was having fun. He was exploring, playing with the language and his craft. Just having a ball, employing different techniques and devices, using whatever struck him as neat, or interesting, or maybe simply fit his mood at the time. Sometimes you read something and you think “wow, the author put a lot of work in to this.” With Midnight’s Children, I found myself thinking “wow, the author had a blast writing this.” His passion comes through. He is wicked talented, and he knows it, and he has fun with it. His writing screams “look what I can do” and then he blows your mind.
I get it, Salman, everything they said about you is true. Bravo, sir, well played.
Favourite quotes to come…