At the start of Book 2 everything that the blurb said about the book has materialised. The Midnight’s Children are born, the babies are swapped at birth. Saleem began to doubt the authenticity of his own narration, Padma interrupted more often. Things are beginning to look up, more childhood pranks, more humour and more horrific revelations to come, that some readers agreed that the book seems to get easier and easier to read. Perhaps Rushdie novice like some of us have gotten use to his play of words, perhaps Book 2 of the book is a comparatively more delightful read, I would like to hear what the rest of you think! 🙂
In response to Week 2 discussion questions, my response is this..
I think Saleem is a self-conscious boy who has a big nose. Saleem is also telepathic and serves as a hub to connect the Midnight’s Children through his mind. Saleem is also an observer and embodiment of India’s history, who was born as the country is born, fought at war, when the country is at war. In contrast with Shiva, I found Saleem mild-mannered and honourable (refer sacrificial act for Parvati-the-witch), he tolerated every chaos and misfortunes that befall on his life without lament. Saleem is sentimental and does not easily forget persons and places that he loved, i.e. Bombay, Mary Pereira, Jamila, Kashmir etc..
Methwold represents the psyche of British Colonial rule and the sadness of having to let go. Although India is given the independence, the colonist still has a strong emotional attachment to the land and perhaps wanted a piece of British colonial glory to be maintained in the estate.
I speak from my own experience. I suppose the value of uncertainty opens one up to many possibilities. It is great to be sure about certain things, but to be certain in everything seems to imply a dogmatic approach to life. Constantly allowing ourselves to be challenged by new experience or new things we see motivates one to take the first step towards an unknown adventure. It might pay off and it might not, if it does, it is usually worth it. Saleem feels this way because his most basic life anchor of knowing who your families are, is shaken.
It doesn’t have any effect of me that Saleem tells us about his ancestors who are not biologically his. His current family is all that he grew up with, and it is all he ever known. It is given. Not a minute I felt Saleem shouldn’t be or shouldn’t have the authority to talk about his adopted relations. However, I was slightly taken back when Saleem mentioned that he is in love with Jamila, the brass monkey. Having seen him as part of his adopted family through my eyes, I found it slightly offensive that Saleem should have the nerve to fall in love with the brass monkey! 😉
This is what I think, but…
What do the rest of you think? Here are some thoughts, in order of publication dates:
Besides painstakingly trying to understand every foreign words he came across, Wilfrid would cross reference the numbers to the historical events and attempt verify where those segments of the story are based upon. I thought this must be really painful, but if anyone was to gain any value from this read, it would be Wilfrid, Wilfrid is reading deep into the background and the history as well as being swept up by Saleem’s life story.
Wilfrid stopped his progress numerous times to research further on the buildings – such as Chandni Chowk, Red Fort, and Meenakshi Temple; and even took time to admire the images of these buildings – and geographic locations mentioned in the book as well as the historic background that is foreign to Wilfrid. He now grasped the history of Burma Campaign, the Rowlatt Act, and the birth of Pakistan and India. From the historical perspective, the Rowlatt Act enacted by the British has led to the Jallianwala Bagh massacre. Rushdie tells a story of the same massacre through one character – the grandfather of Saleem Sinai, Aadam Aziz – in a rather comical manner. I must admit that just by reading what Wilfrid had research, I gain a lot more too. Nothing like pinning a vivid image of the background with the words of a book.
and then Wilfrid went on to answer the 5 questions posted in week 1 dutifully and pre-empted that as his reading progresses, he may change his mind about his response to these questions. Don’t we all, don’t we all Wilfrid. I think a lot of things will become clearer as we come closer to the end of the read-along and I have reserved plenty more of discussion questions towards the end of the read-along.
Wilfrid posted the first week wrap-up and some interesting thoughts here.
“For ignorance is the first requisite of the historian—ignorance, which simplifies and clarifies, which selects and omits, with a placid perfection unattainable by the highest art. Concerning the Age which has just passed, our fathers and our grandfathers have poured forth and accumulated so vast a quantity of information that the industry of a Ranke would be submerged by it, and the perspicacity of a Gibbon would quail before it.” Lytton Strachey
Mel U of The Reading Life will be using these lines above from Micheal Holroyd’s magisterial biography of Lytton Strachey, as kind of a coda for his reading of Midnight’s Children. What Mel liked best about The Enchantress of Florence was the sheer beauty of the prose and the presentation of Indian history in the work. Mel also wants very much to increase the depth of my knowledge of the history of India and who better to learn from than Salman Rusdie.
Mel raised an interesting analysis about being “handcuffed by history”. The narrator of the story, Saleem, says he is “handcuffed by history”. Mel thinks the notion of handcuffs of history is contrary to the basic tenants of Hindu metaphysics. Why is that so? Do hop off and read what Mel has to say about this!
I like the fact that Mel is leading us to comparative literature of Midnight’s Children with Lytton Strachey and James Joyce’s Ulysses and he hope that the reason for this comparison will become clear and emerge as not just literary name dropping.
It is not a literary name dropping Mel and I just love what Mel said about “In part Saleem wants to escape from what he sees as historical determinism, in part from cultural bonds.” I think it is so true. Thank you Mel!
See the rest of Mel’s thoughts here.
And for everyone else out there, are you still with me? Are you still reading along? Did you love the book? Did you hate it? Drop me a comment, we would like to know! 😀
Now here’s what we will do for next week, besides pondering upon past weeks questions:
These are the discussion questions for this week (350 to 500 page (pages only serves as guidance)):
- What is the role of the 1001 children?
- “There is no magic on earth strong enough to wipe out the legacies of one’s parents” (p. 402). Saleem is speaking here of an injury; but has he inherited anything more positive? Is there anything inherited which aids rather than hinders him?
- “…is not Mother India, Bharat-Mata, commonly thought of as female?” asks Saleem; “And, as you know, there’s no escape from her” (p. 404). Elsewhere he speaks of “…the long series of women who have bewitched and finally undone me good and proper” (p. 241). To what extent are women “held for blame” for Saleem’s misfortunes?
- Why did the author give so many characters two names?
- In a nation separated by religion, what role does religion play in the lives of the characters?
- Medicine is an integral part of the events and personalities of this novel. In what ways? Can you recall one of the many medical incidents that have changed the lives of the characters?
- What did Saleem mean by the “crack” in his body?
Enjoy the rest of the week. I’ll see you at Week 3 wrap-up next Friday, on the 3rd of Decmber!
If you like to share your thoughts or reviews at this point, share it on Mr. Linky!