Book Beginnings + Friday 56 · Life

Book Beginnings & Friday 56

Book Beginnings on Friday is hosted by Rose City Reader: share the first sentence (or so) of the book you’re currently reading (or interested in reading) and post it. It’s often combined with The Friday 56, hosted by Freda’s Voice: turn to page 56 and share a sentence or few.

Current read: Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie.

Description on back cover:6795129

Born at the stroke of midnight on August 15, 1947, at the precise moment of India’s independence, the infant Saleem Sinai is celebrated in the press and welcomed by Prime Minister Nehru himself. But this coincidence of birth has consequences Saleem is not prepared for: telepathic powers that connect him with 1,000 other “midnight’s children”–all born in the initial hour of India’s independence–and an uncanny sense of smell that allows him to sniff out dangers others can’t perceive. Inextricably linked to his nation, Saleem’s biography is a whirlwind of disasters and triumphs that mirror the course of modern India at its most impossible and glorious.

Ebullient, operatic, comic, and serious, this novel is a wild, astonishing evocation of the maturity of a vast and complicated land and its people–a brilliant incarnation of the universal human comedy, Indian-style.

The excerpts:

Book Beginnings:

I was born in the city of Bombay . . . once upon a time. No, that won’t do, there’s no getting away from the date: I was born in Doctor Narlikar’s Nursing Home on August 15th, 1947. And the time? The time matters, too. Well then: at night. No, it’s important to be more . . . On the stroke of midnight, as a matter of fact. Clock-hands joined palms in respectful greeting as I came. Oh, spell it out, spell it out: at the precise instance of India’s arrival at independence, I tumbled forth into the world.

I love this. The narrator starts off like he’s telling a fairy tale (hinting at the magical realism that will be woven through the story), and slowly admits that he is wholly connected to the independence of his country, of India. It feels like he is basically fighting with himself, trying to avoid this important detail because he doesn’t want to be important.

Friday 56:

Using my nose (because, although it has lost the powers which enabled it, so recently to make history, it has acquired other, compensatory gifts)–turning it inwards, I’ve been sniffing out the atmosphere in my grandfather’s house in those days after the death of India’s humming hope; and wafting down to me through the years come a curious melange of odours, filled with unease, the whiff of things concealed mingling with the odours of burgeoning romance and the sharp stink of my grandmother’s curiosity and strength . . . while the Muslim League rejoiced, secretly of course, at the fall of its opponent, my grandfather could be found (my nose finds him) seated every morning on what he called his “thunderbox,” tears standing in his eyes.

This is about exactly what you think it’s about. It’s once again putting the narrator’s magical properties front in center, while he tells his family’s history.

And, did you notice? — it’s all one sentence. Rushdie is a wizard of sentence construction.

 

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