Weekend Reading

Recollections of books carried back and forth on the elevated train -- in a long-term, though belated, attempt to learn something about the world.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Salman Rushdie : Midnight's Children

So far, there have only been three books over the past ten years that I could not finish -- and this one is the third.

The second was "1001 Nights" -- and I haven't finished that one because there seems to be no point in reading its catalog of disconnected stories all at once - but rather, like a box of sweets, it seems better when consumed piecemeal at long intervals.

One such interval ended today, when having abandoned Rushdie, I picked up the story of Abu Muhammad "the sluggard" beginning in night #301. Like many other central characters in Scheherazade's stories, Abu reminded me so much of Rushdie's Saleem -- with the action centered around an utterly worthless narrator surrounded by fantastic events which often show him favor but over which he has no control.

But while Scheherazade's world is full of beauty, love, and wonder (as well as violence, hatred, and cruelty) --- Rushdie's world is just disgusting -- and after a few hundred pages, I had to ask myself, can I spend one more minute with this wretched character with the big, dripping nose, who's been swept up by a flow of events that resembles water going inexorably down a drain?


Or, to put it another way, some people will always find their world confusing and hopeless, regardless of time and place. What they have to say does not interest me, regardless of how clever and articulate they might be.

And regardless of how curious I am about their world - and I am quite curious about Muslim India and Pakistan.

There is more than a small chance that the most disastrous consequences of the 1947 Partition have yet to occur, and I've yet to find another novelist who addressed it as directly as Rushdie.

If only he had not withdrawn into such a personalized fantasy.