The narrative style of the book immerses readers in the visual landscape of the falling Raj and allows them to step into the minds of the great actors of this time. This sort of narrative history also contains drawbacks that limit our understanding of this important moment. The book compresses the story to a tight one-year time frame. They are represented here as isolated personages who hold the fate of the Indian people in their hands. The people themselves are often lost in this depiction, appearing as faceless masses helplessly reacting to political machinations.
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No worse luck could have befallen a book recalling the deeply moving story of India's achievement of freedom from an outside ruler than for it to make its appearance so soon after that freedom had suddenly and brutally been destroyed from within. There is a very cruel irony in this that no one could have possibly foreseen. It is probably too soon to say that India's democracy died untimely in its 28th year.
It is also dearly too late to hope that it can survive and grow uncrippled, because what happened to Mrs. Gandhi's India between the conception of this book and its birth would have rocked even the most mature political society, and India's was always fragile and insecure.
All this gives an especial poignancy, and perhaps even importance, to the hook in question, whose very title now has unintentionally sad undertones of mockery. Those of us who have been ineradicably involved in India for generations—including the very period this hook defines—must now read it less critically than nostalgically, as though that Midnight of had been a century ago.
Indeed to me, who personally shared that moment of hope, it almost seems as though that were so. However, this is a book and not a lament.
Their subject is the end of the British Raj and the birth of indefiendent India and Pakistan. It is a stupendous subject, The independence of India from the British. New York. Simon and Schuster. Raj was, indeed, the cue for the unbelievably rapid disintegration of all European colonial domination everywhere. British, French, Dutch, Portuguese; within 25 years all that red on the map had diminished to a handful of trifling pinpoints.
It is fair to say that if India had not forced its freedom in the world would he a very different, and certainly even more troublesome, place than it is.
Those of us on the scene at the time wondered if human ingenuity could possibly cope, and whether we should not, as the Muslims proposed, chuck the whole political onus back onto God. We didn't; we loaded it onto Sir Stafford Cripps and Lord Mountbatten, which was the next best thing. The investigation takes us from London's Downing Street at the moment when Clement Attlee decided to cut the Gordian knot and sent out Lord Mountbatten with superplenipotentiary powers to conclude the whole thing within the year, and then moves into the Indian Raj he was committed to liberate whether it liked it or not.
They have had the greatest cooperation from the personal records of one of the few major survivors of that time. Lord Mountbatten himself, and have made good use of them.
The facts are: by the end of the World War 11 the whole Indian Raj principle was no longer tenable; the Gandhi charisma and the Nehru logic, the mobilization of an enormous population into satyagroha, or passive resistance, could no longer be controlled by the spent force of the Empire, and, in fact, the game was up.
By the time the Labor Government took office, the English were as tired of argument as the Indians, and Clement Attlee insisted on finishing up the whole epoch. There would have been no problem had we been dealing solely with the Congress Party of Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru. Basically the theme of the Collins Lapierre book is the story of these intricate and perilous negotiations.
They tell it well. They do not miss an incident, a nuance, or a trick. But they reproduce history in a style that some might find irritating, as though the real and terrible drama of the time were not enough and had to be embellished with journalistic tricks and who of us can cast the first stone?
Walking barefoot across the tiger, panther and antelope skins that covered the floor. The vermeil teapot set upon it gave off the delicious fragrance of the mixture flown twice a month from London by Fortnum and Mason. This represents the Maharaja Patiaia being served his morning tea. Indeed there is no single passage in this profoundly researched book that one could factually fault. Having been there most of the time in question and having assisted at must of the encounters except, perhaps, serving the Maharaja his morning tea I can vouch for the accuracy of its general mood.
Not at 7, feet under the Himalaya. Or better still stick to the record. It is so easy for us old Indiaphiles to criticize works of scholarship such as this—and it is a work of scholarship, of investigation, research, and of significance—because its technique is that of a Time magazine file resurrected in haste, by those who have read too many books about India, and God knows, there are too many hooks about India. On that August night 28 years ago, the first Prime Minister of India, Jawaharlal Nehru, announced his nation's apotheosis.
At the midnight hour, while the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom. Today Nehru's daughter, Indira Gandhi, has inherited that great office, Prime Minister of what was once the vastest democracy on earth. A thousand of her political opponents are in prison. And her censorship has forbidden the Indian press to publish the words of her own father.
Archives Freedom at Midnight. See the article in its original context from October 26, , Page Buy Reprints. View on timesmachine. TimesMachine is an exclusive benefit for home delivery and digital subscribers. To preserve these articles as they originally appeared, The Times does not alter, edit or update them.
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Freedom at Midnight by Dominique Lapierre and Larry Collins (1975)
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Freedom at Midnight
No worse luck could have befallen a book recalling the deeply moving story of India's achievement of freedom from an outside ruler than for it to make its appearance so soon after that freedom had suddenly and brutally been destroyed from within. There is a very cruel irony in this that no one could have possibly foreseen. It is probably too soon to say that India's democracy died untimely in its 28th year. It is also dearly too late to hope that it can survive and grow uncrippled, because what happened to Mrs.
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It describes events around Indian independence and partition in , beginning with the appointment of Lord Mountbatten of Burma as the last viceroy of British India , and ending with the death and funeral of Mahatma Gandhi. The book gives a detailed account of the last year of the British Raj , the princely states' reactions to independence including descriptions of the Indian princes' colourful and extravagant lifestyles , the partition of British India into India and Pakistan on religious grounds, and the bloodshed that followed. There is a description of the British summertime capital Shimla in the Himalayas and how supplies were carried up steep mountains by porters each year. On the theme of partition, the book relates that the crucial maps setting the boundary separating India and Pakistan were drawn that year by Cyril Radcliffe , who had not visited India before being appointed as the chairman of the Boundary Commission. It depicts the fury of both Hindus and Muslims , misled by their communal leaders, during the partition, and the biggest mass slaughter in the history of India as millions of people were uprooted by the partition and tried to migrate by train , oxcart, and on foot to new places designated for their particular religious group.