Salman Rushdie’s new novel is a powerful reminder of his vital role in the endless battle for free speech

Christian Kriticos in Quillette:

Salman Rushdie found his voice in 1975. His first novel, Grimus, published earlier that year, had been ignored by the public and derided by the critics. At the same time, Rushdie was watching younger contemporaries such as Ian McEwan and Martin Amis cement their places among the British literary elite, while he remained saddled with his day job as an advertising copywriter.

Despite these setbacks, Rushdie still felt that he had a fresh, authentic literary voice to discover. He travelled back to his native India in search of it, knowing only that he wanted “to write a novel of childhood.” It was on this trip that he began to conceive Midnight’s Children, a novel he would write against the tradition of British literature set in India. While he admired some of these classic works, such as E. M. Forster’s A Passage to India, he took issue with the voice. The British style was cool and collected. The India that Rushdie knew was anything but. It was hot and “noisy and vulgar and crowded and sensual.” And it needed a voice to reflect that.

It was this unique migrant’s voice that catapulted Rushdie to literary stardom. His narrator in Midnight’s Children was loud and frenetic, reflecting not only the energy of a post-independence India, but also the magic-realist style that would become a trademark of his fiction.

More here.