Salman Rushdie’s new introduction to the novel Midnight’s Children, 25 years after the novel was originally published:
IN 1975 I PUBLISHED MY FIRST novel, Grimus, and decided to use the £700 advance to travel in India as cheaply as possible for as long as I could make the money last, and on that journey of 15-hour bus rides and humble hostelries Midnight’s Children was born. It was the year that India became a nuclear power and Margaret Thatcher was elected leader of the Conservative Party and Sheikh Mujib, the founder of Bangladesh, was murdered; when the Baader-Meinhof Gang was on trial in Stuttgart and Bill Clinton married Hillary Rodham and the last Americans were evacuated from Saigon and Generalissimo Franco died.
I remember buying a pirated copy of Midnight’s Children and attempting to read it when I suppose I was in class 9. I could not go beyond page 7. It was too complex for me to make any sense of it.
Later when I read it on the recommendation of a friend, I had already read Garcia Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude and also Gunter Grass’s The Tin Drum. Hence in terms of literary techniques Midnight’s was now a cakewalk and even gave the feel of deja vu.
However, I was still mesmerized by the sheer sweep and depth of the novel. I then lived close to Delhi and visited the city a number of times- and must have passed by some of the places that Rushdie describes in his novel at least a few times.
Yet, it was only when reading the descriptions of Delhi in the novel, that I truly experienced the city.
Only in The Moor’s Last Sigh– with its lively portrayal of Bombay that Rushdie was to be as exuberant and naturally flamboyant as he was in Midnight.