Best Book Ever: Midnight’s Children vs. Faust

Midnight's Children versus Faust.

The story of Indian independence told through the eyes of a sniveling superhero against the story of an esteemed German philosopher wandering down the wrong path -what a tizzy. While at first glance these novels may not have much in common, the discussion on freedom can provide a common thread. With one modern marvel against a genre creating classic, who will win this week?

Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie

Midnight's Children by Salman Rushdie.

Saleem laments his life story to his lover while anguishing over the day he believes he will die. Saleem was born at the stroke of midnight the day India became an independent nation. Along with 1,000 other children born on this day during the witching hour, Saleem possesses special powers. But Saleem also has a secret -he is not the son he thinks he is. Deciding to deliver her own form of social justice, a nurse swapped the name tags on two bassinets that fateful night. One bassinet holding Saleem, the illegitimate son of a wealthy Englishman having an affair with his caretaker’s wife, and one bassinet holding Shiva, son of a wealthy merchant class couple.

The children are sent to their swapped homes of prosper and poverty and are left to themselves as the country develops. Alongside the growing India, is the nation of Pakistan, also newly formed on the same day. As tensions rise between the nations, the boys, now men, are drawn into their own conflict.

As a Westerner, reading Midnight’s Children offered a perspective into a world I had only vague knowledge of. Striking chords of 100 Years of Solitude, the novel uses family relations the narrate to the conflict between nations, all with Salman Rushdie’s clever prose.

  • Goodreads Score: 3.98
  • Length: 2 -As captivating as Rushdie can be, Midnight’s Children has a tendency to drag on.
  • Readability: 3.5 -See above. On top of the layered relationships and with the expectation you know something about the torrid history of modern Indo-Pakistani relationships, you’ll often find yourself wading through a section uncertain about what’s actually going on.
  • Language: 4 -Earnest and sparring with its postmodern prose, Rushdie knows his way around writing a page.
  • Characters/Plot: 4 -In striking contrast to it’s contender, Midnight’s Children gleams with creativity. The children of a new nation getting super powers during the witching hour, one of the being the ability to smell emotions? Oh yes, I’ll take it.

Overall Score: 17.48

Faust by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Faust by Goethe.

You’d think life would be going alright if you’re an esteemed scholar who’s reached the highest levels of knowledge and wisdom, but some people just always want more. When Faust laments he wants a moment of true happiness to add to his worldly riches, the Devil decides to offer him some otherworldly ones. Creating a story which will be told again and again, the Devil , here named Mephistopheles, offers his powers -he bets Faust that he can bring him perfect happiness, and, if he does, Mephistopheles gets his soul.

At first, Faust abuses his new advantages, seducing a young girl and destroying her honor. But along the way, Faust questions his actions and behavior. Will he be saved or is he doomed? Only reading the dramatic play will tell! A hats off to Goethe, however, for being ahead of his time -offering salvation through God as the divine feminine.

  • Goodreads Score: 3.96
  • Length: 5 -Typically the classics are seen as a chore because of their dowdy lengths, but Faust offers a pleasant surprise. Set as a dramatic play, the focus on narration speeds up the read.
  • Readability: 2 – Turns out, a dramatic play from the early 1800s Germany can be a little taxing to get into. Who knew?
  • Language: 4 – Much like reading Meditations by Marcus Aurelius, I read Faust with the framing of my modern world and as an educated and thoughtful woman think, “Damn son, that is still how it be.”
  • Characters/Plot: 3.5 – You’d think a classic would rank higher here, and perhaps it’s that I’m jaded, but the creativity of a worn out soul selling himself to the devil is a tale I’ve heard too often.

Overall Score: 18.46

The Verdict

If ever I lie down in idleness and contentment, let that be the end of me, let that be final. If you can delude me into feeling pleased with myself, if you good things ever get the better of me, then that will be my last day. That is my wager.

Faust in Faust

What a battle cry for an indigent teenage wishing for more than a dreary high school life. Which is precisely what I was when I read Faust at 16. Nowadays I’m slightly more tapered, a little more “Go with the flow” and “C’est la vie”, but still, in moments of greatest peril, I like to keep Faust as my guiding light. With part of its strength being its condensed package, I simply insist you read Faust.

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