Monday, October 27, 2008

Rushdie's Children

It was 1998, my first year after graduation. I remember crouching to examine one of the books on the bottom rung of the shelf titled 'Matured Readers' in a bookshop with a strange name, Bookazine (long since closed) in Section 14 next to Jaya SuperMart, also closed earlier this year.

My saturation with theology and apologetics made me want to read something new, something 'thick', something which would 'come at me' from an angle I'd have completely no reason to anticipate.

I only knew Salman Rushdie's name from the famous fatwa associated with Satanic Verses, a book whose thirtieth page I could barely reach without giving up (at the time - I've since read and talked about both the book and the controversy to many friends and students).

But here was a book with a strange name and sufficiently intimidating thickness, Midnight's Children. I must've turned it around a few times, contemplated exchanging with another book, felt the smoothness of its cover and imagine what it would be like to actually finish a book like this. It would be my second attempt at Rushdie. And besides, the book cover included a line about it winning the Booker Prize (in 1983). It also won the Booker of Bookers in 1993.

Now, 27 years after its publication, 25 years after it won its first Booker, 15 years after it established itself as a 'best of the best' and 10 years after my buying it in Bookazine, Midnight's Children has won yet another Booker of Bookers. Its shortlist rivals were:

  • The Ghost Road by Pat Barker (1995) - never heard of the author nor the book...

  • Oscar and Lucinda by Peter Carey (1988) - bought the book about THAT for a coincidence?

  • Disgrace by JM Coetzee (1999) - a little too disturbing for my taste...

  • The Conservationist by Nadine Gordimer (1974) - heard of the author, not the book.

  • The Siege of Krishnapur by JG Farrell (1973) - never heard of either

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