Two Indian actors, Gibreel and Saladin fall from an exploding air plane over England and survive. Gibreel discovers he has a halo, while Saladin has grown horns and hoofs. How can it be?
What follows is a crazy trip in present and past tense, stories from the Quran, the (fictitious) real-life and dream-life. There are a million (or it feels like) characters, and many have names from both the Bible and the Quran, although they are set in a more modern world. And I’m sure it’s a significance behind it, but I got lost in the various characters and couldn’t follow the plot as much as I’d like to. I put that down to not having enough knowledge of religious texts and a brain not able to follow crazy plots.
But that doesn’t necessary mean that the book is bad. It certainly has its strong points – like the present-day story of Gibreel and Saladin. That story is also the easiest to follow and also the story that I found most interesting. But some of the historical stories were entertaining too, especially that one about the brothel. Rushdie writes with a satirical wit, so when I get the jokes I laughed, but most of them probably went over my head.
Is it possible to mention this book without saying something about the controversy? I don’t think it is. Salman Rushdie was issued a fatwa because of its blasphemy. I think it’s important to read controversial books, because I believe in the freedom of speech. But I doubt this book would be famous without the controversy.
Is it a book worth reading? I find that question difficult to answer. I put this down as a book you should read, but that is because of the context, and not because of the story itself. I’d rather recommend Midnight’s Children than this. Rushdie has written many books throughout his career, and I’m glad I’ve got a lot of them on my shelves.
“Who what am I? My answer: I am everyone everything whose being-in-the-world affected was affected by mine. I am anything that happens after I’ve gone which would not have happened if I had not come. Nor am I particularly exceptional in this matter; each ‘I’, every one of the now-six-hundred-million-plus of us, contains a similar multitude. I repeat for the last time: to understand me, you’ll have to swallow the world.”
Saleem Sinai is born at the strike of midnight when India gained its independence, and then he is switched at birth. He discovers that he has a superpower, telepathy. He can communicate with the other children with superpowers whom are born in the midnight hour of India’s independence. Saleem’s life is influenced by the events that shape India’s history.
The book is high up on the list of the most difficult books I have read. I spent nearly three months on the 650 pages, and many pages had to be read over and over so I could decipher some meaning from it. But it was definitely worth it! There’s a myriad of characters, a large dose of magic realism and you will learn a lot about the history of India.
It’s one of those books which are impossible to explain what it is about and why it is so mesmerising. I guess you have to read it yourself to discover what’s so great about it. I’m actually proud of myself for finally completing a Rushdie. I tried years ago to read the Satanic Verses, but I was way too young. I still don’t think I’m ready for that one yet, but I also have more to choose from on my shelves (and a new one to be published this year).
This was the November read(!) in Line’s 1001 books reading circle.
“I am the sum total of everything that went before me, of all I have been seen done, of everything done-to-me. I am everyone everything whose being-in-the-world affected was affected by mine. I am anything that happens after I’m gone which would not have happened if I had not come.”