Midnight’s Children

I’m reading Midnight’s Children – have been reading it for a few weeks now, couldn’t find much time to read from work.

From the first few pages, I noticed a similarity to Elif Shafak’s The Bastard of Istanbul: in characterisation, in tone, in the emphasis on genealogy and birth, and the topic of nationhood. Obviously it’s Shafak who was inspired by Rushdie, but I have to say that the way she employs the former two elements in her work appears as technical flaws: the characters merely two-dimensional, and the humour element not mature enough.

Then I remembered that Midnight’s Children and The Bastard of Istanbul were translated into Turkish by the same translator: Aslı Biçen. That made me really curious now, I wonder if that was a conscious decision, and I want to go compare the two translations.

I’m at page 153, the labour scene: the book’s protagonist, Saleem Sinai, will be born at the same time as the independent India:

Suddenly everything is saffron and green: Amina Sinai in a room with saffron walls and green woodwork. In a neighbouring room, Wee Willie Winkie’s Vatina, green-skinned, the whites of her eyes shot with saffron, the baby finally beginning its descent through inner passages that are also, no doubt, similarly colourful. Saffron minutes and green seconds tick away on the clocks on the walls. Outside Dr Narlikar’s Nursing Home, there are fireworks and crowds, also conforming to the colours of the night – saffron rockets, green sparkling rain; the men in shirts of zafaran hue, the women in saris of lime. On a saffron-and-green carpet, Dr Narlikar talks to Ahmed Sinai. “I shall see to your Begum personally,” he says, in gentle tones the colour of the evening, “Nothing to worry about. You wait here; plenty of room to pace.” […]

It’s twenty-nine minutes to midnight. Dr Narlikar’s Nursing Home is running on a skeleton staff; there are many absentees, many employees who have preferred to celebrate the imminent birth of the nation, and will not assist tonight at the birth of the children. Saffron-shirted, green-skirted, they throng in the illuminated streets, beneath the infinite balconies of the city on which little dia-lamps of earthenware have been filled with mysterious oils; wicks float in the lamps which line every balcony and rooftop, and these wicks, too, conform to our two-tone colour scheme: half the lamps burn saffron, the others flame with green.

Salman Rushdie, Midnight’s Children, Vintage, pp. 153-54.

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