Salman Rushdie’s narrator, Saleem, in Midnight’s Children is prone to reading history in associative terms and it is perhaps fitting that we hereby bring the final paragraph of the novel in close proximity to a scatological moment — an almost castaway waste of a moment — that occurs near the end…
Midnight, or thereabouts. A man carrying a folded (and intact) black umbrella walks towards my window from the direction of the railway tracks, stops, squats, shits. Then sees me silhouetted against light and, instead of taking offence at my voyeurism, calls: ‘Watch this!’ and proceeds to extrude the longest turd I have ever seen. ‘Fifteen inches!’ he calls, ‘How long can you make yours?’ Once, when I was more energetic, I would have wanted to tell his life-story; the hour, and his possession of an umbrella, would have been all the connections I needed to begin the process of weaving him into my life, and I have no doubt that I’d have finished by proving his indispensability to anyone who wishes to understand my life and benighted times; but now I’m disconnected, unplugged, with only epitaphs left to write. So, waving at the champion defecator, I call back: ‘Seven on a good day,’ and forget him.
Saleem may be modest about his production of shit but magnificent in the scope of multitudes that his writing pours out onto the page in those final epitaphs. He spirals off into the untold.
Yes, they will trample me underfoot, the numbers marching one two three, four hundred millions five hundred six, reducing me to specks of voiceless dust, just as, all in good time, they will trample my son who is not my son, and his son who will not be his, and his who will not be his, until the thousand and first generation, until a thousand and one midnights have bestowed their terrible gifts and a thousand and one children have died, because it is the privilege and the curse of midnight’s children to be both masters and victims of their times, to forsake privacy and be sucked into the annihilating whirlpool of the multitudes, and to be unable to live or die in peace.
Enormous. Flood of human essence. Appropriate for a novel where the principle interlocutor is called by our narrator his dung lotus, Padma. We as readers are still focalized by this one point, this interlocutor, but we are bereft of her response. Stuck. Having to refigure in a Saleem-like fashion the connections between the untold story of the one unabashed shit producer and the multitudes whose stories are foreshortened and come to figure a return of the same but not same sons which morph into the genderless children. Privacy is forsaken. Peace unattained.
And so for day 1091