writing and publication history of Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children

There is a history of the writing and the publication of Rushdie’s magnum opus Midnight’s Children. Salman Rushdie, as a novelist, began his venture in the literary world with the publication of his first novel entitled Grimus in 1975After the publication of his debut novel, he was given seven hundred pounds by the publishing house as the author-honorarium. He was planning to write a book based on India, his native land. So, he planned to travel back to India to sharpen his old memories about his birthplace and the people he used to know in his early life. He was planning a novel entitled The Antagonist with a minor character named Saleem Sinai who was born at the midnight of the Indian independence. Later, he changed the title of the book and decided to  to write the stories of both Saleem Sinai and India together in a new book to be entitled Midnight’s Children. In his original plan, both Saleem and India are considered twin brothers who started their journeys at a midnight of the year 1947. Saleem is also considered a human geography in the novel who grew up with India simultaneously.

History of the year 1975

To Salman Rushdie, the year 1975 was full of many historical incidents which turned the world full of havoc particularly in the field of politics. It was the year when:

  • India became a nuclear power
  • Margaret Thatcher was elected the leader of the Conservative Party
  • Sheikh Mujib, the founder of Bangaldesh, was murdered
  • The Baader-Meinhof Gang was on trial in Struttgart
  • Bill Clinton married Hillary Rodham
  • The last Americans were evacuated from Saigon (it was done by the People’s army of Vietnam)
  • Generalissimo Franco died  (Spanish general )
  • David’s Mamet’s American Buffalo was published in this year
  • Eugenio Montale won the Nobel prize.
  • Mrs. Gandhi declared emergency in India

Rushdie’s Experience of Writing Midnight’s Children

After returning from India, Rushdie decided to write the novel Midnight’s Children. But it was not easy for him to become a permanent writer at that time as his financial condition was not good. So, he was compelled to take a job in an advertising company. He worked there for a year. While working there, he began to write the novel. He says, “on Friday nights, I would come home to Kentish Town from the agency’s offices near Waterloo Bridge, take a long hot bath, wash the week’s commerce away, and emerge – or so I told myself – as a novelist”. (Midnight’s Children, xi).

The naming of the Novel

Rushdie was very confused about the naming of his new novel. He was not sure about the name of his new upcoming novel that he started writing on Indian independence and a boy who was born at midnight of the day of its independence. He contemplated on various titles for his book but later, came to a conclusion with two titles- Midnight’s Children and Children of Midnight. But still, he was not sure which would go better with his new novel. Finally, he concluded thinking that Children of Midnight is a banal (ordinary) title and Midnight’s Children would be a good one. His comment about the title is that:

“To know the title was also to understand the book better, and after that it became easier, a little easier, to write”.

In this way, he finally found out a suitable title for his new book which earned fame and name for him throughout the whole world.

Salman Rushdie’s Debts for Writing the Novel

Salman Rushdie expresses his debts to many scholars and writers from whom he got his inspiration for writing his great novel Midnight’s Children. First of all, he expresses his great gratitude to the Indian oral history which he uses widely in his novel. Moreover, he admits that he is indebted to the great Indian writers from whom he borrows many literary aspects for using in his novel. He also admits that he is indebted to Jane Austen for “her portrayal of the brilliant women caged by the social convention of their time” (xii). In addition, Dickens left an unending impression on him for “his great rotting Bombay like city and his ability to root his larger-than-life characters and surrealist imagery in a sharply observed background out of which the real world comes out” (xii).

Intended Language for Writing the Novel

He wants to create “a literary idiolect that allowed the rhythms and thought patters of Indian languages to blend with the idiosyncrasies of “Hinglish” and “Bambaiyya”, the polyglot (multilingual) street slang of Bombay”. (xii)


Rushdie has taken the characters mostly from his surrounding world he knows better. He says, he has taken the characters from the original people, “my family, my ayah, Miss Mary Menezes and my childhood friends” (xii). It is to be mentioned here that he travelled back to India to revive his memories that he encountered in his childhood. After coming to India, he met his old friends, travelled to the places he used to visit, encountered those memories he used to enjoy. Thus, he collected the real-life characters for his novel.

Reactions of his own people

After the publication of his novel, his father reacted severely for the character Ahmed Sinai as he found many similarities between them. He reacted so severely that he did not talk to him for several months. Though his father was educated at Cambridge, he could not comply with the fictional existence of Ahmed Sinai because of his resemblance with the character.

Though his mother was not as educated as his father, she accepted Amina’s character as a fictional one. Rushdie says, “I had been more worried about my mother’s reaction to the book, but she immediately understood that it was ‘just a story – Saleem isn’t you, Amina isn’t me, they’re all just characters,” (xii). On the other hand, Rushdie’s sister Sameen did not mind for calling her ‘the brass monkey’ as she was called so in her early life.

Reactions of his friends and school teachers

Rushdie is not sure about their reactions but grateful to them for their contributions to the novel. He is indebted to Arif Tayabali, Darab, Fudli Talyarkhan, Keith Stevenson, and Percy Karanjia who share many aspects  with the fictional characters Sonny Ibrahim, Eyeslice and Hairoil, Fat Perce, Glandy Keity. Moreover, Burns has resemblance with an Australian girl named Beverly Burns, the first girl he kissed. In addition, Masha Miovik shares the qualities of Alenka Miovic who is from Serbia. Mary Menezes was his step mother who was illiterate and he never came to know about her reactions. But she was happy that the book was successful.

Publication history

He finished the book at the end of 1979. After that, he sent the manuscript to Liz Calder at Jonathan Cape. The first impression was negative and he was advised to write short stories. Liz Calder had a second editing which saved Rushdie. It was very positive. Finally, the novel was published in early April of 1981.


Let me conclude the historiography of the publication and writing of the novel Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie with his own saying:

” Midnight’s Children is a product of its moment in history, touched and shaped by its time in ways which its author   cannot wholly know. I am very glad tat it still seems like a book worth reading in this very different time. If it can   pass the test of another generation or two, it may endure. I will not be around to see that. But I am happy that I saw it leap the first hurdle”. (xvii)

All Quotations are taken from the introductory part of the novel Midnight’s Children.


Abdur Rahim
Abdur Rahim

Assistant Professor, and Member of the Proctorial Body
Department of English Language and Literature (DELL), Premier University, Chattogram,
& Doctoral Fellow, English Department, Jahangirnagar University, Savar, Dhaka.

Phone: +8801715638298

Email: ar.dell.pu@gmail.com

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