Tuesday, 22 September 2015


ENGLISH LITERATURE: MIDNIGHT’S CHILDREN- SALMAN RUSHDIE: Midnight's Children is a 1981 book by Salman Rushdie that deals with India's transition from British colonialism to independ...


Midnight's Children is a 1981 book by Salman Rushdie that deals with India's transition from British colonialism to independence and the partition of British India. It is considered an example of postcolonial literature and magical realism. The story is told by its chief protagonist, Saleem Sinai, and is set in the context of actual historical events as with historical fiction.
Midnight's Children won both the Booker Prize and the James Tait Black Memorial Prize in 1981. It was awarded the "Booker of Bookers" Prize and the best all-time prize winners in 1993 and 2008 to celebrate the Booker Prize 25th and 40th anniversary.  In 2003, the novel was listed on the BBC's survey The Big Read. It was also added to the list of Great Books of the 20th Century, published by Penguin Books.

Background and plot summary

The novel has a multitude of named characters; see the List of Midnight's Children characters.
Midnight's Children is a loose allegory for events in India both before and, primarily, after the independence and partition of India. The protagonist and narrator of the story is Saleem Sinai, born at the exact moment when India became an independent country. He was born with telepathic powers, as well as an enormous and constantly dripping nose with an extremely sensitive sense of smell. The novel is divided into three books.
The book begins with the story of the Sinai family, particularly with events leading up to India's Independence and Partition. Saleem is born precisely at midnight, August 15, 1947, therefore, exactly as old as the independent republic of India. He later discovers that all children born in India between 12 a.m. and 1 a.m. on that date are imbued with special powers. Saleem, using his telepathic powers, assembles a Midnight Children's Conference, reflective of the issues India faced in its early statehood concerning the cultural, linguistic, religious, and political differences faced by a vastly diverse nation. Saleem acts as a telepathic conduit, bringing hundreds of geographically disparate children into contact while also attempting to discover the meaning of their gifts. In particular, those children born closest to the stroke of midnight wield more powerful gifts than the others. Shiva "of the Knees", Saleem's nemesis, and Parvati, called "Parvati-the-witch," are two of these children with notable gifts and roles in Saleem's story.
Meanwhile, Saleem's family begin a number of migrations and endure the numerous wars which plague the subcontinent. During this period he also suffers amnesia until he enters a quasi-mythological exile in the jungle of Sundarban, where he is re-endowed with his memory. In doing so, he reconnects with his childhood friends. Saleem later becomes involved with the Indira Gandhi-proclaimed Emergency and her son Sanjay's "cleansing" of the Jama Masjid slum. For a time Saleem is held as a political prisoner; these passages contain scathing criticisms of Indira Gandhi's overreach during the Emergency as well as a personal lust for power bordering on godhood. The Emergency signals the end of the potency of the Midnight Children, and there is little left for Saleem to do but pick up the few pieces of his life he may still find and write the chronicle that encompasses both his personal history and that of his still-young nation; a chronicle written for his son, who, like his father, is both chained and supernaturally endowed by history.

Major themes

The technique of magical realism finds liberal expression throughout the novel and is crucial to constructing the parallel to the country's history.  Nicholas Stewart in his essay, "Magic realism in relation to the post-colonial and Midnight's Children," argues that the "narrative framework of Midnight's Children consists of a tale – comprising his life story – which Saleem Sinai recounts orally to his wife-to-be Padma. This self-referential narrative (within a single paragraph Saleem refers to himself in the first person: 'And I, wishing upon myself the curse of Nadir Khan.' and the third: 'I tell you,' Saleem cried, 'it is true. ...') recalls indigenous Indian culture, particularly the similarly orally recounted Arabian Nights. The events in Rushdie's text also parallel the magical nature of the narratives recounted in Arabian Nights (consider the attempt to electrocute Saleem at the latrine (p.353), or his journey in the 'basket of invisibility' (p.383))." He also notes that, "the narrative comprises and compresses Indian cultural history. 'Once upon a time,' Saleem muses, 'there were Radha and Krishna, and Rama and Sita, and Laila and Majnun; also (because we are not unaffected by the West) Romeo and Juliet, and Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn," (259). Stewart (citing Hutcheon) suggests that Midnight's Children chronologically entwines characters from both India and the West, "with post-colonial Indian history to examine both the effect of these indigenous and non-indigenous cultures on the Indian mind and in the light of Indian independence.


Midnight's Children was awarded the 1981 Booker Prize, the English Speaking Union Literary Award, and the James Tait Prize. It also was awarded the Best Of The Booker prize twice, in 1993 and 2008 (this was an award given out by the Booker committee to celebrate the 25th and 40th anniversary of the award).
In 1984 Indira Gandhi brought an action against the book in the British courts, claiming to have been defamed by a single sentence in chapter 28, penultimate paragraph, in which her son Sanjay Gandhi is said to have had a hold over his mother by his accusing her of contributing to his father's Feroze Gandhi's death through her neglect. The case was settled out of court when Salman Rushdie agreed to remove the offending sentence.


In the late 1990s the BBC was planning to film a five-part miniseries of the novel with Rahul Bose in the lead, but due to pressure from the Muslim community in Sri Lanka, the filming permit was revoked and the project was cancelled. Later in 2003, the novel was adapted for the stage by the Royal Shakespeare Company.

Director Deepa Mehta collaborated with Rushdie on a new version of the story, the film Midnight's Children. Indian-American actor Satya Bhabha played the role of Saleem Sinai while other roles were played by Shriya Saran, Seema Biswas, Shabana Azmi, Anupam Kher, Siddharth Narayan, Rahul Bose, Soha Ali Khan, Shahana Goswami, Anita Majumdar and Darsheel Safary. The film was premiered in September 2012 at the Toronto International Film Festival (2012-09-09)[14] and the Vancouver International Film Festival (2012-09-27).

KK Singh

Thursday, 10 September 2015

ENGLISH LITERATURE: Sailing to Byzantium

ENGLISH LITERATURE: Sailing to Byzantium: This poem was written by Yeats in 1926, marking a point in his maturity, it was part of a collection called Tower, when Yeats stayed at th...

Sailing to Byzantium

This poem was written by Yeats in 1926, marking a point in his maturity, it was part of a collection called Tower, when Yeats stayed at the home of Lady Gregory in Coole Park near Gort in Co. Galway. The title of the poem refers to the ancient city of Byzantium, capital of the Byzantine ruled by the Turkish Sultan, the city is now called Istanbul.
Stanza I: In the opening line of the poem Yeats states-: "That is no country for old men." A reference both to ancient Byzantium and post 1922 Free State Ireland. The mention of old men provides our first example of Yeats' preoccupation with old age. The stanza continues by painting a picture of teaming life, the sensuous world of youth, vitality, reproduction, decay and death. The opening statements are quickly checked by the phrase- “Those dying generations”, a recognition by Yeats of the transience of life. He suggests that despite their apparent happiness, each is condemned to death, their mortality is inescapable -: “Whatever is begotten born and dies.” This contrasts the sensual world with the world of art, best represented by the magnificence of Byzantium -: “I think that in early Byzantium, maybe never before or since in recorded history, religious, aesthetic and practical life were one.” In 1912 he had visited the city of Ravenna, in northern Italy and had seen there some examples of early Byzantium art. He recognised that many generations of people had witnessed the pictures, but that the pictures themselves had maintained their vitality and freshness, they it seemed were ageless, the figures portrayed in them also achieved a permanence that was not possible in reality. The predicament facing Yeats, is what he perceives to be a growing dicotony between his ageing body and his still youthful mind or intellect. He offers, in the opening stanza, the contrast between those who concentrate on the sensual world and those who are preoccupied with the permanent world of art.
Stanza II:, Yeats discusses an old man as something of little consequence -: “An aged man is but a paltry thing.” He uses the analogy with a scarecrow, to represent the lifelessness of someone old. It is as if the marrow has been sucked from the bones, the blood and flesh of the living have been removed, leaving behind a lifeless shell. This for Yeats is the inevitability of old age,unless- “Soul clap its hands and sing.” Unless one concentrates on the intellect of soul and by doing so seek to escape from the constraints of the human body. Consequently he has resolved to attempt such a journey, a metaphorical voyage-: “I have sailed the seas and come To the holy city of Byzantium.” Which is for him the symbol of artistic magnificence and permanence.
Stanza III: He begins by referring to a particular painting he saw in a Ravenna church, the painting depicted martyrs being burned for their faith. Yeats interpretation suggests that these martyrs were sages and that the flames represent the Holy Spirit, in other words that the moment of their deaths, was equivalent to moving from the mortal life to the immortal life and achieving a permanence through both the life of the soul and the Byzantine painting. The phrase “perne in a gyre” refers to a spinning wheel such as those Yeats would have seen during his youth in Sligo. Yeats is referring to the movement of thread through bobbin and spool, a movement that is so fast that it is imperceptible to the naked eye. The point that Yeats is highlighting is that each individual strand of thread is submerged by speed into one continuous piece, similarly each successive human life is a mirror image of a previous one, but that taken together there is a continuation, a permanence. The figures in the Byzantine mosaic have been viewed by successive generations in that Ravenna church, but have not themselves succumbed to the ravishes of time. Yeats now calls on these figures, to be his guides on his voyage to Byzantium, to help him break free from his decreped body which he now sees as a “dying animal”. The poet wants to be subsumed into the world of Byzantine art, to be like the figures in the gold mosaic. Yeats sees gold as representing an untarnished brilliance and permanence that best reflects his opinion of art.
Stanza VI: In the final stanza he begins by declaring that in this world of art, he would not take on the form of any natural thing, which like the images of the opening stanza, would be susceptible to the ravages of time, decay and death. Instead he would take the form of a golden bird - an image based on golden birds that adorned trees in the palace of the Byzantine emperor. Yeats has finally broken with the sensual mortal world, he has rejected life as we know it, in favour of an intellectual permanence produced by a work of art. However he has not fully succeeded, the use of the word drowsy, rekindles the sensuous overtones of the poem, suggesting that the poet’s intellect is limited by his human condition, that in seeking a perfect existence his intellect is unable to avoid that which appeals to his senses. This becomes more obvious in the final lines of the poem, in line 30 is the voice of the golden bird that Yeats highlights again, contradicting his purpose in the poem. It is not the beauty of the hammered gold that Yeats now refers to, but the beauty of the birds voice which cannot come from a golden bird in a painting. The final line of the poem -: “Of what is past passing or to come.” reflects the line from the opening stanza-: “Whatever is begotten, born and dies.” In an effort to represent permanence and timelessness, and in achieving a resolution to his quest, the poet, paradoxically completes the poem by dividing time into past, present and future, suggesting that his intellect remains within the bounds of his human condition. Although the poem is ostensibly about Yeats' attempts to achieve an artist’s permanence, through -: “Monuments of unageing intellect.” represented by Byzantine art. Some critics suggest that Yeats is far more concerned with his loss of sexual potency, his references in the opening stanza to “the young in one another's arms etc.” are perhaps indicating a jealousy of the young and perhaps his concentration is as a direct result of his recognition of his physical failings. The image chosen by Yeats to represent the ideal artist states that the golden bird, was only introduced to the poem in the final drafts. Earlier drafts of the poem show Yeats wishing to take on the form of Phideas - a statue in Byzantium which represented the perfect like Adonis. This shows that at least during the writing of the poem, Yeats was wishing for physical perfection. This theme is also continued in “Among School Children”, where Yeats refers to “Golden-thighed Pythagoras”, and refers to the virility of Pythagoras. Yeats juxtaposes contrasting images of the sensuous world and the world of art, thereby creating a tension and conflict which he hopes to resolve by the end of the poem. In the opening stanza, the images of the sensuous world are depicted by the phrases in a staccato-like rhythm e.g.-: “The salmon-falls, the mackerel-crowded seas, Fish, flesh or fowl, commend all summer long Whatever is begotten, born and dies.” In contrast the image which he associates with artistic permanence -: ”Caught in that sensual music all neglect Monuments of unageing intellect.” is written in a flowing style, perhaps a sense of timelessness and permanence in contrast to the transience of the previous image. There is also a noticeable contrast in the syllabic used by Yeats in the words representing the sensual and the intellectual. It is noticeable that many of the words associated with mortal life are monosyllabic or at most are composed of two syllables e.g. (a) “fish, flesh, fowl.” And (b) “An aged man is but a paltry thing, a tattered coat upon a stick.” By contrast many of the words used to reflect the permanence of the intellect are polysyllabic e.g. (a) “Monuments of unageing intellect.” (b) “Of hammered gold and gold enamelling.” The poem sets out to display the superiority of the world of art, to show that permanence can be achieved through art as in Byzantium and that human life by contrast is transient. Yeats uses symbolism throughout the poem to represent this contrast.

Symbolism: The use of symbolism is very important throughout the poem. The title of the poem “Sailing to Byzantium” contains 2 important symbols-: (a) Sailing which depicts a metaphorical journey and gives substance and a physical aspect to what Yeats is trying to achieve. (b) Byzantium symbolizes a world of artistic magnificence and permenance, conjuring up in the mind of the reader, a rich and inclusive culture such as that associated with the Byzantium empire. The images of birds, fish and young lovers used by Yeats in the first stanza symbolises transience and mortality. Yeats highlights this aspect of the world he lives in, so that the world which he seeks i.e. Byzantium, becomes more clearly focused. In the second stanza Yeats uses the symbol of a scarecrow to represent the decrepitute of old age. The scarecrow is a repulsive lifeless image symbolising everything that Yeats wants to reject in his mortal existence. The symbol of music and song runs through the poem providing a unified motif between the worlds of intellect and sensual worlds. In the opening stanza the song is that of the birds in the trees, a sensual though transient song. In the second stanza he projects an image of “a singing school” a suggestion that the joy experienced in this artistic paradise is more comporable than the joy of song. This idea is again repeated in stanza three. In the final stanza the song of the golden bird which entertains the lords and ladies of Byzantium represents the intellectual joy to be experienced by Yeats. The golden bird of the final stanza is a chosen image of the permenant form Yeats wishes to take, in essence it represents durability which one associates with the untarnishing quality of gold , by virtue of it’s physical permenance there is the understood contribution of its song, thereby providing what Yeats hopes will be the representation of the artistic existence he yearns for.



Wednesday, 9 September 2015

ENGLISH LITERATURE: The Canterville Ghost

ENGLISH LITERATURE: The Canterville Ghost: The Canterville Ghost"   is a   short story   by the Irish author   Oscar Wilde which contains elements of both   horror   and comedy...