Another View of Rushdie's Magic Realism in Midnight's Children

George P. Landow, Professor of English and Art History

In his review of a recent collection of essays on Indian literature in English, Siddhartha Deb credits Jon Mee with an important reinterpretation of the significance of Rushdie's magic realism:

The publication of Midnight's Children in 1981, usually understood as heralding a boom in the Indian novel, may in fact have been the last gasp of a particular way of conceiving the relation between writer and nation. After this, it was to a great extent a question of advances, celebrity value and reception in the West, rather than how the work imagined India. Rushdie's own work, following Shame, could be defined not to much by what it has to say about politics and the nation as by its preoccupation with the superficial tropes of magic realism and metropolitan hybridity. . . . Putting Midnight's Children at the end of the old era rather than at the beginnings of the new helps us understand some other things as well. It shows us why magic realism quickly became a dead weight to the writers immediately following Rushdie, and why the liberal politics many of the carried over to subsequent novels became a liberalism in search of a politics, a subject, even a nation. [6]

In what sense -- and to whom -- might "magic realism and metropolitan hybridity" appear "superficial"? To whom, in contrast, might questions of metropolitan hybridity appear crucial? Does the significance of Rushdie's novel change if he is considered to be a Anglo-Pakistani (or Anglo-Pakistani-American) author rather than an Indian (or South Asian) one?

How would you prove or disprove Deb's last point?


Deb, Siddhartha. "Around Midnight." [Review of Mehrotra's A History of Indian Literature in English.] Times Literary Supplement (30 January 2004), 6.

History of Indian Literature in English, A. Ed. Arvind Krishna Mehrotra. London: Hurst, 2003; New York: Columbia UP, 2003.

Rushdie, Salman. Midnight's Children. Penguin Books: New York. 1980.

Postcolonial Web Pakinstan OV Rushdie OV

Last modified 7 February 2004