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by RAY FLEMING
SALMAN Rushdie's Midnight's Children was named the “Booker of Bookers” yesterday to mark the 40th anniversary of the prestigious annual prize for the best novel of the year by a British, Commonwealth or Irish author.

Midnight's Children won the annual award in 1981 and was named “Best of the Bookers” on the prize's 25th anniversary in 1993. Almost 8'000 members of the public voted through libraries, book clubs, retailers and the internet and according to the organisers about half of these were readers below the age of 30 - testifying to the lasting appeal of Rushdie's magic-realist novel about Saleem Salai who is born at midnight on August 15 1947 as India becomes independent and whose life loosely reflects the early years of the new nation. It is a brilliant concept and Rushdie's exuberant writing brings India alive in all its colours, tastes, smells, passion, misery and ambition. A remarkable feature of the shortlist for this award was that five of the six titles dealt with aspects of life in the British Empire or its later independent nations - in Australia, India and South Africa. Only Pat Barker's The Ghost Road, the last of her trilogy of World War novels, is set in Britain. There have been Booker winners about contemporary Britain but on the whole Commonwealth and Irish authors writing about their own countries have been the more successful. Will anything come along in the next ten years to stop Midnight's Children winning the 50th anniversary award of the Booker?