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Bowdoin Reads

Isaac Jaegerman '16 is reading...

Midnight's Children
by Salman Rushdie

At the end of this summer I began reading the novel Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie. I’d read The Satanic Verses as well as Rushdie’s memoir, Joseph Anton, last year, and I instantly loved his style and storytelling method. The Satanic Verses focuses on two main characters who struggle to come to terms with their natural identities and the identities that seem to be projected onto them. It’s a story of good against evil in the realm of religion and the supernatural, but it blurs the distinction between the two sides. Rushdie demonizes his human characters and humanizes his demonic ones, and he does it in a way that leaves the reader with 'sympathy for the devil' and skepticism of what is popular, glorified, and seen as ‘good.’

In Midnight’s Children, Rushdie turns his focus from the complexities of religion and faith to the moral questions and the issues of identity that revolve around the birth of nations. He looks (semi autobiographically) through the lens of a child born at midnight on August 15th, 1947, the exact time when India gained independence from Great Britain. Rushdie’s protagonist is endowed with a supernatural ability that ties him to his country and its people. The plot is historically interesting, but I mostly enjoy reading Rushdie’s novels because I can see so much of him in his characters. What appear to be absurd fictional events in some cases actually took place. Rushdie’s trick, however, is blending the absurd with the supernatural. Ultimately, I think that is what makes his books so compelling and powerful.

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