Midnight's Children: From Communalism to Community
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Peer reviewed article. Salman Rushdie has been the epitome of diasporic writing since his seminal work in Midnight's Children. While it is arguable that the question of what constitutes the identity of an immigrant (in an already existing diaspora) is first fully articulated in The Satanic Verses, it is already in his Booker Prize Winning novel that Rushdie tackles the questions typical for diasporic individuals and communities. The novel indeed takes place in the subcontinent, but it was written at the time when Rushdie was heavily negotiating the terms of his own identity in relation to his double cultural heritage. His character, Saleem Sinai, is something of an immigrant when he moves to Pakistan, but then when he goes back to Bombay, the sense of being-out-of-place remains. The most pertinent question for him seems to be that of authentic identity. In fact, as a writer in diaspora, Rushdie seems quite influenced by variegated European philosophies on selfhood and identity, in particular some Existentialist thought that constituted a part of a certain Zeitgeist in the 60s and 70s. Midnight's Children indeed explores the issue of authenticity in the culturally specific setting of post-Partition Bombay, but the influences from European culture on Rushdie are hardly negligible. The novel puts in dialogue Existentialism's discourse on individual authenticity and subcontinental nativism, or communalism.