Salman Rushdie's novel Midnight's Children and Anita Desai's Clear Light of Day are essentially concerned with man's quest for his identity, and both authors relate the quest of their individual hero or heroine to the past of their lives. However, Rushdie and Desai proceed very differently as a glance at their understanding of the terms 'history' and 'the past' shows. The former makes his narrator, Saleem Sinai, move in time and space: Covering the years from 1915 to 1978, Saleem narrates the fate of his family over three generations. Along with his grandparents he takes us from Kashmir via Amritsar to Agra where their five children are born. His parents settle temporarily in Delhi, move to Bombay where Saleem is born exactly on the stroke of midnight of India's independence, and finally emigrate to Rawalpindi in Pakistan where they perish in the 1965 India-Pakistan war. Saleem subsequently lives in the border area of Pakistan, is sent to Bangla Desh just before East Pakistan declares its independence in 1971, returns to Delhi, is taken to Benares by force and finally settles in Bombay to write his book because, as he says, he wants to preserve memory and save it 'from the corruption of the clocks'.
Riemenschneider, Dieter, History and the Individual in Salman Rushdie's Midnight's Children and Anita Desai's Clear Light of Day, Kunapipi, 6(2), 1984.