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Book: Midnight's Children

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Various quotations in the extended text. This book will stand up well to a second reading, in part because of the quality of writing, and in part because of the non-linearity of Rushdie's writing style. Of course, it might be years before I have the time to read this again ;).

p. 23

So gradually Docter Aziz came to have a picture of Naseem in his mind, a badly-fitting collage of her severally-inspected parts. This phantasm of a partitioned woman began to haunt him, and not only in his dreams. Glued together by his imagination, she accompanied him on all his rounds, she moved into the front room of his mind, so that waking and sleeping he could feel in his fingertips the softness of her ticklish skin or the perfect tiny wrists or the beauty of the ankles; he could smell her scent of lavender and chambeli; he could hear her voice and her helpless laughter of a little girl; but she was headless, because he had never seen her face.

p. 42 [...] I don't know how my grandmother came to adopt the term whaatsitsname as her leitmotif, but as the years passed it invaded her sentences more and more often. I like to think of it as an unconscious cry for help... as a seriously-meant question Reverend Mother was giving us a hint that, for all her presence and bulk, she was adrift in the universe. She didn't know, you see, what it was called.

A Public Announcement p. 75

[...] But there was a difficulty: Amina, her mind clogged up with Nadir Khan and his insomnia, found she couldn't naturally provide Ahmed Sinai with these things. And so, bringing her gift of assiduity to bear, she began to train herself to love him. To do this she divided him, mentally, into every single one of his component parts, physical as well as behavioural compartmentalizing him into lips and verbal tics and prejudices and likes... in short, she fell under the spell of the perforated sheet of her own parents, because she resolved to fall in love with her husband bit by bit.

All-India Radio p. 197

Reality is a question of perspective; the further you get from the past, the more concrete and plausible it seems -- but as you approach the present, it inevitably seems more and more incredible. Suppose yourself in a large cinema sitting at first in the bacck row, and gradually moving up, row by row, until your nose is almost pressed against the screen. Gradually the stars' faces dissolve into dancing grain; tiny details assume grotesque proportions; the illusion dissolves -- or rather, it becomes clear that the illusion itself is reality... we have come from 1915 to 1956, so we're a good deal closer to the screen... abandoning my metaphor, then I reiterate, entirely without a sense of shame, my unbelievable claim: after a curious accident in the washing-chest, I became a sort of radio.

The Kolynos Kid p. 293

[...] According to Mary, the country was in the grip of a sort of supernatural invasion. "Yes, baba, they say in Kurukshetra an old Sikh woman woke up in her hut and saw the old-time war of the Kurus and Padavas happening right outside! [...] And I, wide-eyed, listening; and although my uncle Hanif roared with laughter, I remain, today, half-convinced that in that time of accelerated events and diseased hours the past of India rose up to confound her present; the new-born, secular state was being given an awesome reminder of its fabulous antiquity, in which democracy and votes for women were irrelevant... so that people were seized by atavistic longings, and forgetting the new myth of freedom reverted to their old ways, their old regionalist loyalties and prejudices, and the body politic began to crack. As I said: lop off juts one finger-tip and you never know what fountains of confusion will unleash.

Drainage and the Desert p. 359

As a people, we are obsessed with correspondences. Similarities between this and that, between apparently unconnected things, make us clap our hands delightedly when we find them out. It is sort of national longing for form -- or perhaps simply an expression of our deep belief that forms lie hidden within reality; that meaning reveals itself only in flashes. Hence our vulnerability to omens... when the Indian flag was first raised, for instance, a rainbow appeared above that Delhi field, a rainbow of saffron and green; and we felt blessed. Born amidst correspondence, I have found it continuing to hound me... while Indians headed blindly towards a military debacle I, too, was nearing (and entirely without knowing it) a catastrophe of my own.

The Buddha p.379

Early attempts at ordering: I tried to classify smells by colour -- boiling underwear and the printer's ink of the Daily Jang shared a quality of blueness, while old teak and fresh farts were both dark brown. Motor-cars and graveyards I jointly classified as grey... there was, too, classification-by-weight: flyweight smells (paper), bantam odours (soap-fresh bodies, grass), waterweights (perspiration, queen-of-the-night); shahi-korma and bicycle-oil were light-heavyweight in my system, while anger, patchouli, treachery and dung were among the heavyweight stinks of the earth. And I had a geometric system also: the roundness of joy and the angularity of ambition; I had elliptical smells, and also ovals and squares... a lexicographer of the nose, I travelled Bunder Road and the P.E.C.H.S.; a botanist, I snared whiffs like butterflies in the net of my nasal hairs. O wondrous voyages before the birth of philosophy!... Because soon I understood that my work must, if it was to have any value, acquire a moral dimension; that the only important divisions were the infinitely subtle gradations of good and evil smells. Having realized the crucial nature of morality, having sniffed out that smells could be sacred or profane, I invented, in the isolation of my scooter-trips, the science of nasal ethics.

Midnight p. 507

We, the children of Independence, rushed wildly and too fast into our future; he, Emergency-born, ,will be is already more cautious, biding his time; but when he acts, he will be impossible to resist. Already, he is stronger, harder, more resolute than I: when he sleeps, his eyeballs are immobile beneath their lids. Aadam Sinai, child of knees-and-noses, does not (as far as I can tell) surrender to dreams.

Abracadabra p. 548

My special blends: I've been saving them up. Symbolic value of the pickling process: all the six hundred million eggs which gave birth to the population of India could fit inside a single, standard-sized pickle-jar; six hundred million spermatozoa could be lifted on a single spoon. Every pickle-jar (you will forgive me if I become florid for a moment) contains, therefore, the most exalted of possibilities: the feasibility of the chutnification of history; the grand hope of the pickling of time! I, however, have pickled chapters. Tonight, by screwing the lid firmly on to a jar bearing the legend Special Formula No. 30: "Abracadabra*", I reach the end of my long-winded autobiography; in words and pickles, I have immortalized my memories, although distortions are inevitable in both methods. We must live, I'm afraid, with the shadows of imperfection.

p. 549

[...] In the spice bases, I reconcile myself to the inevitable distortions of the pickling process. To pickle is to give immortality, after all: fish, vegetables, fruit hang embalmed in spice-and-vinegar; a certain alteration, a slight intensification of taste, is a small matter, surely? The art is to change the flavour in degree, but not in kind; and above all (in my thirty jars and a jar) to give it shape and form -- that is to say, meaning. (I have mentioned my fear of absurdity).

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This page contains a single entry from kwc blog posted on January 1, 2005 8:50 PM.

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