A Discussion on Midnight’s Children, A Fine Balance and Magical Realism


The origin of the post is the hours long thought process after reading A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry and Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie (and the origin of the thought process is not being able to write anything for my blog for a long time).

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Now comes the reason of this post and the reason of your wasting (Is it?) time on this fairly unpopular blog and its posts. The reason is this: according to me very few people have a good idea about what magicrealism means and what it is about and why the above mentioned books should not be called a hugely different books.

First of all, let me give a brief account about what the above books are about, which you can find in description section of corresponding Goodreads pages and of course we have wikipedia! And before proceeding any further, let me spell it out; if you have not read or if you have no idea or if you plan to read the above two books, then you can stop right now (and miss some arguably interesting observations).

So here are the short accounts of the books:

A Fine Balance: This is set in emergency situation in India during 1977 where we have a uncle and his nephew treading through different areas of India (both cities and villages) and experienced the awful things that people had suffered at that time.

Here, Rohinton (I’m calling him by first name because I love and respect him too much.) uses those two characters as a magnifying glass to let us see and feel what was happening at that time and how people’s mindset had been changing correspondingly. That’s all. (I now safely assure you that you have not missed much about the book if you are planning to read the same.)

Midnight’s Children: Here Salman (First name because he is admirable, funny and friendly) has apparently done something different. I’ll come to that in a moment, just hold on a bit.

Midnight’s Children is about India’s sociopolitical (mostly political) situations that shaped the nation as it is now. In this book too the central theme was the emergency situation and the happenings in that time (note: beautification, vasectomy etc you can find in the two books.) And a lot of awful events had happened with most of the characters in this book.

Now here I’ll spill the beans about magical realism and a comparison between the two books. In A Fine Balance, you’ll find a conventional, Dickentian style narrative, which is so finely (pun intended) done that it has almost universal appeal (note: just have a look at any random review of the book). It is raw, ripe and ruthless.

In Midnight’s Children, however, things gets a bit different. Here you’ll find people having flying, metamorphosizing, telepathizing and thus in total 1001 (Yes, it’s a fact.) such capabilities. Add to this happenings like dogs suddenly protecting a politician, mother visualizing all about her daughters’ dreams, monkey intentionally ruining a lifechanging deal, girl vanishing persons in her basket, a nation conspiring to make drastic changes in our main character’s life and thus affecting the fate of an entire nation. (Yes the main character is so godly and supernatural that anything happening in his life has reflected to the nation’s fate.) In short: it’s all very symbolic and extremely sarcastic. This is a new kind of writing process to hammer more boldly the same things in a new way.

Midnight’s Children could have been easily written like this: Saleem is boy born in a muslim rich family with no magical power whatsoever, and gradually with change in political situations of nation his life takes turns and he goes through an awful lot of sad things; he goes to places, always crying and invoking mercy in the reader, and can do nothing to prevent it etc etc(which actually happens in A Fine Balance).

Rather, Salman has chosen a hugely sarcastic and arrogant tone, making fun of the victims and readers and constantly referring to vast Indian mythological events. Without magical realism (A world where magic happens and none recognizes it as magic; a basic difference between fantasy and magical realism.), without assuming such outrageous and illogical facts in Rushdie’s book, could it be symbolized to depict history of a nation via merely life story of a character? Could the miseries of a nation be described in an utterly cruel and sarcastic tone by making fun of a character’s pain? It maybe possible, but it’ll be hugely boring and bigger and more difficult.

On a slightly out-of-the-track note: One Hundred Years of Solitude could never be written if there was no magical realism or perhaps, there would not be any Franz Kafka or Haruki Murakami.

The point is: Magical realism is NOT a GENRE of English literature, it is a literary TOOL, same like allegory or oxymoron. So don’t run away from a book because it is written in magical realism technique; it can be fun and it just tries to show a realistic world through a different magnifying glass so that you can recognize and understand the situation more vividly and tequilically (note: tequila is a strong alcohol).

P.S. My future endeavors in literature may cross a line or two with magical realism.

 

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Steam by Anirban Nanda


Disclaimer:

*Provocative words are used with vivid implications.

*Do not read if you are easily offended by abusive words.


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I am invincible, I am invisible, and I am everywhere. You can find me in morning while making tea, while taking tea and while fucking your secretary. It is a steam, a steam of prickly conscience. It accumulates on your face and that’s why it is moist when you fuck your secretary (and not to mention, you are moist the whole body, especially because of your thirsty shaft thrusting and drinking sexblood from the infinite pit). I’ll not take the whole credit of moistening your face; it was wet partly because of sweat. But your face is so hot that, the perspiration boils up and turns into steam, me; a prick in your mind, a constantly nagging presence of a thorn whose existence can only be felt in future. Funny it is though; recognising something’s presence in past. But actually, if you think that you can dry yourself in your fancy ac room after the sex, thinking that sweat will vanish and you will be same again like before the sex, then you are a miserable imbecile. Don’t you know I am invincible? While you are drying yourself in your ac room, I sneak past your body right into your soul. And you fool; you think I am gone just in a flick! You deceive yourself assuming that you’ve defeated me by sitting few minutes in your ac room and watching your naked secretary dressing herself, fully concentrated on the dressing procedure, without any expression. Each time you take her in, a small part of your soul will be replaced by me. From today, you won’t be having a sound sleep.

Above all, a fresh soul is my favourite dish. I roam from people to people in search of a palatable soul. Once I see someone doing a thing he shouldn’t do, I enter into his body and wait, I‘ll wait for that wrong step, that one slip from conscience and my dish will be ready. I take a piece and eat it ravishingly, munching the crunchy thing. You should actually thank me, because the part I eat will soon be rotten and that one rotten piece will soon contaminate the whole thing, your entire soul. I eat a part, depending how much your soul is wasted, and then replace it by steam, me. So basically I save your soul. You can call me SOS too. Ha ha ha. Just kidding. The steam is just a fake replacement. Because you know, you can’t touch or see me; I take an empty place, exactly similar to air. And I forget one thing to tell you that, as you are enjoying your secretary and then you’ll return home and again enjoy your wife, a part of me in your soul will ooze out and enter into hers too. No matter, how much precaution you take, with each day of deception, I’ll cloud your wife’s soul little by little.

Do you know I have a twin brother? We are so much connected that; we can exist in one form, in one body. Ever heard of Schrödinger’s cat? No? It is a theory where one can be dead and alive at the same time. My brother is just like that. Let’s play a game. I will give you clue and you’ll try to identify my brother. Will you play? Yeah? That’s the spirit. Yes spirit means soul you moron, I am not in mood to praise you. Okay, clue number one; we can be both present in one form. I mean, you will either able to detect me, or my bro, not both of us at the same time. Got it? Now guess. Anger? No you fool. Let me give you another clue, there is fine line between he and I, we can convert into one another within moment. Still, we have many differences; we are quite opposite. Can you guess? It’s becoming boring. Either you give me the answer or today is the last day you fuck your secretary. Cool down, cool down. Don’t panic. Think and give the answer. Fear? You are quite close buddy. But rules are rules. You are done. Actually it is suspicion. You thought that? Yes you asshole, I know you got it because I am in your soul. You’ve forced me to call you an asshole. Yes you are a big arsehole. You can’t believe it is suspicion, because you are overconfident. Now take that and go home and there you will find your wife, suspicious. Do you think you can find another family in this age, at fifty? You had a complete family; a loving wife, two adorable daughters. Now you have exchanged them for another young body. What? You want to give penance. Okay what penance? Money? Shove that in your arse you and we’ll meet in hell. Give it to me then, you smugfuck. Today the cloud acquired in your wife’s soul for so many days will be converted into suspicion. And you will lose your family. Best of luck! You are to spend rest of your days alone and nights in restless, sleepless wandering.

THE END

©Anirban Nanda