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Midnight's Children, a Bildungsroman

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Midnight's Children, a Bildungsroman by Cristina Nuta -

When Rushdie wrote Midnight's Children, India was not yet a subject vogue or important in the West. The opening of the novel is arresting and there is a fine introduction to it: 'I was born in the city of Bombay…once upon a time'. It begins like a fairy tale, suggesting the level of fantasy, but this is rejected in favour of actual historical dates and facts, suggesting a responsibility to history. At the simple level, the novel is the story of Saleem Sinai, a Bildungsroman, and, at a deep level, the story of his country. Saleem is important as an individual, a representative of Independence and a literary mechanism. The humour does more than produce the dominant tone of the novel. Rushdie's wit and humour are unpredictable and destabilize the reader a nd, thereby, open up new areas of perception, like T.S. Eliot and unlike his heir, Shashi Tharoor, whose humour tends to run along predictable lines. Rushdie said: Midnight's Children was written as a comic novel. It seemed to me that the comic epic was the natural form for India, and it was amazing that nobody was writing it then, not just in English, but in any language that I know of in India. It was as if the richest soil was virgin.' Rushdie, then is both innovator and, in a way, a pioneer.

The history Saleem records, is that of himself and his family and that of his country to which the personal history in linked. Saleem feels the mantle of greatness has fallen upon him; the country's aspirations are soaring. The hopes in both spheres are impaired as the histories unfold; Midnight's Children is postmodern in that, 'in general terms, postmodernism takes the form of self-conscious, self-contradictory, self-undermining statement.' From one perspective, the book is a fiction about fiction, an allegory about writing, a deconstruction of the text. Saleem is writing his novel and he relates it to Padma. She is not a reader but a listener, an audience. She is a pickle-maker, and such a woman, in an Indian context, would be illiterate, at least in regard to reading in English. The story is always told to her, the transmission always oral. Hence, it appears the presence of retrospective and prospective summaries of the narrative at regular intervals. Padma is a non-intellectual, but not unintelligent; the author is a formidable intellectual. Her judgements are comments not to be accepted as valid assessements, but sometimes they serve as a critique of Saleem's views and actions. Her credo as a critic is 'whatnextism', conventional, yet not to be discounted. She keeps the actual reader of the novel alert, critical, and prevents him/her from getting absorbed into the world of the novel.

Moreover, the consciousness of India's history is imposed subtly on the reader. The final note is pessimistic, not regarding the future of India, but in respect of the writer. Fate will soon give a different version of India to the Indians. Generation after generation of writers must reinterpret India for the Indians. The writer is both master and victim; he reinterprets and suffers. He, as a martyr, is not a private person, but must identify with masses. He saves the others but himself he cannot save. In course of time, he will be obliterated.

Midnight's Children, a Bildungsroman written by Cristina Nuta for FamousWhy.com
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Tags: midnight children, rushdie, bildungsroman

Category: Education  - ( Education Archive)

Date Added: 18 February '07

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