2009-10 AM Fictions of India - Expert Group on History

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Expert Group on History


cf. page 46: Indian Mutiny 1857-8 Indians first war of independence Result: housecleaning of the Indian administration, the direct rule

cf. page 108: The Big War 1878-1880 Second Afghan war The first of three Interventions of the British Empire in Afghanistan to save their supremacy and stop the Russian expansion = Great Game

The Great Game was an expression for the battle between Great Britain and Russia for the dominance over Central Asia during 1813 - 1947. It came into mainstream consciousness becasue of the novel.


Main character: Saleem Sinai (31), born on Midnight of August 15th, 1947, the precise instant of India’s independence from the British. Connected to the fate and history of his country, retells the lives of himself and his family members.

Events in (Indian) history with connection to the plot:

Book I

Adaam Aziz returns to Kashmir (5) Ghandi returns to India in 1915

Aadam examines his future wife through a perforated sheet (26) WWI

Sees her face when she has a headache (28) End of WWII

They marry and move to Amritzar Public and peaceful mourning over the continuing presence of the British (37) Protests against the Rowlett Act

April 13th 1919: peaceful protests, Aadam sneezes and stumbles, rescued by his nose Jallianwallah Bagh massacre. Brigadier-General Reginald Dyer and his troops open fire on unarmed crowd

Marriage of Mumtaz and Nadir Khan (72) Mumtaz’ illness coincides with… …atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki (August 1945)

Matrimony fails Failure of “Quit India”-movement

August 15th: Birth of Saleem (156) “Birth” of India / Indian Independence

Book II

Saleem’s birth celebrated by newspapers, politicians (167) Saleem popular as a baby Public enthusiasm about independence, Nehru popular

Snakes escaping all over the country, perceived as omens, religious warnings (187) Nehru announces: “We are a secular state” (187)

Saleem’s sister setting fire to shoes, compared to Nasser impeding progress of the world (207) Suez Crisis (1956)

India: “impoverished, underdeveloped country” (238) Need for Western development aid, inefficiency, corruption Social injustices: Wide gap between rich and poor (240)

Saleem “triggering off the violence which ended with the … … partition of the state of Bombay” (265-266) - Language Riots 1960

Contrary aims, ideologies, philospohies at the Midnight’s Children conference (316) Political diversity in India, Communists the largest single opposition (Election of 1957, 307) All India Congress majority party

Conference of Midnight’s Children falling apart, Saleem looses one finger (352) Rivalries and loathing among the Children of Midnight – “Mirror of the nation” (353-4) War with China (Sino-Indian War 1962)

Exile in Pakistan: at General Zulfikar’s home, Ayub Khan visiting, (commander-in-chief) announces coup, Saleem moves pepperpots in order to illustrate troop movements described by General Zulfikar (402-3) Coup in Pakistan in 1958, military takes over control, martial law

Saleem’s nose drained Ceasefire in Sino-Indian War

Saleem dreams about Kashmir, this dream becomes “common property of the nation” (457) Saleem “dreamed Kashmir into the fantasies of our rulers” (471) “Hidden purpose” of the war: to eliminate Saleem’s family (469) Sept 22nd: 3 bombs on Rawalpindi…(474) Indo-Pakistani War 1965

Book III

Purpose of the war: to re-unite Saleem with an old life (520) Second Indo-Pakistani War 1971

“On December 16th, 1971, I tumbled out of a basket in to an India in which Mrs Ghandi’s New Congress Party held a more-than-two-thirds majority in the National Assembly.” (538) Radical reforms: land reforms; tax structures, education, birth control (551). 1973: Coal-mines & wheat-market nationalized, price of oil spirals up (554).

Shiva “explodes” into the ghetto (568); May 18th, 1974: India’s first nuclear explosion (568);

Parvati´s belly grows (575); late 1974: Janata Morcha (the people’s front, opposition) is formed

“Janata Morcha grew in all kinds of bizarre directions”, wide political spectrum (582);

Parvati enters labour (for 13 days) (582); June 12th 1975: Indira Ghandi found guilty for malpractice during the election campaign of 1971 (582);

June 25th, 1975: Aadam Sinai is born and connected to history (585/586) “… Prime Minister was giving birth to a child of her own …” (585) → State of Emergency

Nearly all midnight’s children sterilized (612); Sterilization-campaign by Indira Gandhi and her son;

Postcolonial literatures writing history: Midnight’s Children and the history of India

• Central role of history writing especially in the decades of decolonization (1947-1960s) o One of the principal projects was to assert historical realities and to manifest historical consciousness in writing, often nationalist rhetoric • More recent texts: sceptical reconsideration, downright parodistic o Midnight’s Children a prime example: o Saleem’s link to history can be seen as a parody on the pervasive rhetoric of national destiny and its fulfilment in 1947 o The novel critically examines the myths of post-colonial nationhood

(Döring: Postcolonial Literatures in English, pp. 79f)