Abhrajyoti Chakraborty in The Guardian:
The inspiration for Midnight’s Children came to Salman Rushdie on a backpacking trip around India. It was 1974, and he had just received an advance of £700 for his debut novel, Grimus. But he still saw himself as an apprentice novelist who worked part-time for an ad agency in London. He stretched out his advance over four months of travel, roughing it in 15-hour bus rides and humble hostelries, reacquainting himself with the country he had known as a child. The homecoming made him reconsider a minor character in an old story: a snot-nosed Bombay boy, Saleem Sinai, born at the exact moment of India’s independence, whose destiny aggressively mirrored the timeline of major events in the subcontinent. The new novel would tell the story not of a life, but a nation.
Rushdie has previously written here and there about his rookie years, and he writes about them again in his new collection of essays, Languages of Truth. He prefaces the story this time with a memory of having lunch with the American writer Eudora Welty in London, one year after Midnight’s Children won the Booker prize. During the meal, Rushdie ended up asking Welty about William Faulkner. How did she perceive the Nobel laureate, who had lived out his life in Mississippi like Welty? Did she think of him as one of the writers closest to her? Welty’s response was caustic: “I’m from Jackson,” she said. “He is from Oxford. It’s miles away.”