Midnight's Children by Salman Rushdie

To understand just one life, you have to swallow the world. I told you that.
— Salman Rushdie, Midnight's Children

Best of the Booker. Everyone agrees Midnight's Children by Salman Rushdie is an incredible book, but as I carried this around with me for the past week, I also heard messages of, 'Good luck', 'Rushdie is not an easy read', 'Once you read this book, you don't need to read any more Rushdie; you're covered'. 

It is a great book, a dense, complicated narrative that is both believable and unbelievable, and, a wonder for the real discourse it created in India. It introduces a main character, Saleem Sinai, of many names, with many fathers and mothers, a son prophesized to be both master and victim of his times, tethered to India's independence and history, before and after. He is a child swapped at birth, born among hundreds of other children between the hour of midnight and 1 am on 5 August, 1947.  It is only he and Shiva, the other child born promptly at midnight, that bear the most powerful of powers of which each of the midnight's children are bequeathed - to see into the hearts and minds of men and as god of war, respectively. 

Reality can have metaphorical content; that does not make it less real. A thousand and one children were born; there were a thousand and one possibilities which had never been present in one place at one time before; and there were a thousand and one dead ends. Midnight’s children can be made to represent many things, according to your point of view; they can be seen as the last throw of everything antiquated and retrogressive in our myth-ridden nation, whose defeat was entirely desirable in the context of a modernizing, twentieth-century economy; or as the true hope of freedom, which is now forever extinguished; but what they must not become is the bizarre creation of a rambling, diseased mind.
— Salman Rushdie, Midnight's Children

Alongside this mystical, national honor/curse, Sinai's life unfolds. A sister is born. They move to Pakistan. His parents grow distant, close, and distant again. Bombs. Death. Amnesia. War. Slums. The Most Charming Man in the World. A witch. A widow. Emergency. A son. But it's true that they seem almost inexplicably linked to the events of a country, and cannot be read without the context of those times. 

I wonder though, is that significant to him, born at midnight, or whether all of our lives play out alongside the same timeline and trajectory of where we're from? Can the two be wholly separate? Or, perhaps, is it simply that his life, and his son's, are linked in a much deeper way? The magic of Rushdie's book is that it makes us wonder, through very adult content, in a childlike way. And its 1981 publication changed the landscape of literature both in India and the world over. For that, I honor Rushdie, as the English-speaking literary community has.

But, indeed, I also anticipate a long break before I return to Rushdie again, for as literary and detailed and beautiful and mature as his stories are, they shine a light on the reader's own inadequacies - the brain power to embrace the testaments about human nature and history he makes with such ease, brilliance and expertise. You outshine us, midnight child.