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Ian Baucom And Midnight's Children, Wild Thorns, And Reading In The Dark

1190 words - 5 pages

In "Among the Ruins", Ian Baucom points out that, ."..if the nation is an imagined community, then the English nation is a community in mourning." As Baucom uses V.S. Naipaul's The Enigma of Arrival repeatedly as an example, the reader becomes aware of a couple of points: that the state of nationalism within the individual is predictably the state of melancholy for a culture which has disintegrated, or changed to the point of near non-recognition, and that the longing and nostalgia for what has been lost creates problems in the individual's identity. Issues of identity and memory seem to plague the main characters of the last three novels we read in class: Aadam Aziz's nostalgia for the Kashmiri of his youth and problems constructing his European-Kashmiri identity, Usama's failure to comprehend the adjustments his fellow Palestinians have made to living under occupation, and Deane's anonymous character's issues in overcoming the secrets of his family in relation to the history of his nation. In each story the character's feel a sense of separateness from their community either due to changes which have occurred inside them as individuals, or changes which have occurred in the community. This essay will examine how memory is profoundly shaped not only by the historical identity of the community but also that of self.

The first novel I will look at in regards to these issues is Salman Rushdie's Midnight's Children. As I previously mentioned, I feel it is Aadam Aziz's nostalgia for the Kashmiri of his youth and also his difficulty reconciling his newly acquired European ideals with his former Kashmiri lifestyle which complicates his identity. I will begin by looking at the historical identity of Aziz's community. Using the points raised by Baucom we can see that Kashmiri has not disintegrated, the culture in fact remains as intact as when Dr. Aziz left five years prior. The only change that can be noted is his father's stroke and his mother's "enormous strength" to run the family business in the meantime. Yet, Dr. Aadam Aziz continues to experience melancholy upon his return and, "noticed the narrowness, the proximity of the horizon; and felt sad to be at home and feel so utterly enclosed."

The change then, is not so much that Kashmiri has altered, but that his travels and experiences have changed Dr. Aziz so that he is not really nostalgic for the Kashmiri of his youth but rather the Aadam baba he once was. In this instance we see how the historical memory of self shapes the identity of the nation or community. Even though Aziz tries to reconcile his recently acquired European ideas and customs with that of his time-honored Kashmiri lifestyle in order to blend a new identity for himself, he fails: "attempting to re-unite himself with an earlier self which ignored their influence but knew everything it ought to have known...But it was no good, he was caught in a strange middle ground, trapped between belief and disbelief..."

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