The Chutnification of History

  • Ralph J. Crane


Salman Rushdie’s novel Midnight’s Children covers the years from 1915 to 1978, and spans three generations of Saleem Sinai’s family, though the main interest of the novel lies in the post-Independence period, which is closely linked to the life of the narrator, Saleem Sinai. In this respect it is something of an autobiographical Bildungsroman of epic proportions, probably the first Indian Bildungsroman, albeit one in which the author sabotages the very form in which it is written.2 The shape of his novel, however, owes as much to the Indian oral tradition as it does to the literary traditions of the West. Rushdie himself states that, ‘one of the major roots of Midnight’s Children lies in the oral narrative’.3 And in this respect the novel shares common ground with Raja Rao’s Kanthapura. The frequent digressions and summaries Rushdie describes as characteristic of the oral tradition are characteristic of Midnight’s Children, too. The novel also owes much to the language and form of the Bombay cinema. Rushdie uses film metaphors throughout, and the novel is laced with film titles (including some western film titles, such as I Confess). Further, as Michael Harris explains: ‘Rushdie takes the language popularized by Hindi cinema with its street-slang, fast pace, melodrama, romance, and action, and fuses it into his narrative to render a surprisingly modern, energetic view of India’.4


Newspaper Headline Indian History Perforated Sheet Fictional Truth Verifiable Fact 
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Notes and References

  1. 1.
    Salman Rushdie, Midnight’s Children, (1981; rpt, London: Picador, 1982), p.461.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Salman Rushdie, ‘Midnight’s Children and Shame’, Klmapipi, 7, no. 1 (1985), p. 9.Google Scholar
  3. 4.
    Michael Harris, ‘“Transformation without End”: Salman Rushdie’s India’, Meridian, 8, no. 1 (1986), 21.Google Scholar
  4. 5.
    Dieter Riemenschneider, ‘History and the Individual in Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children and Anita Desai’s Clear Light of Day’, Kunapipi, 6, no. 2 (1984), 58.Google Scholar
  5. 6.
    Bernard Bergonzi, ‘Fictions of History’ in The Situation of the Novel, 2nd edn (London: Macmillan, 1979), p. 232.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. 9.
    Rukmini Bhaya Nair, ‘The Voyeur’s View in Midnight’s Children and Shame’, ACLALS Bulletin, 7th Series, no. 1 (1985), 62.Google Scholar
  7. 13.
    Richard Cronin, ‘The Indian English Novel: Kim and Midnight’s Children’, Modern Fiction Studies, 33, no. 2 (1987), 205.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Ralph J. Crane 1992

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ralph J. Crane

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