Autobiography, Magical Realism, Postmodernism
This clearly isn't your everyday autobiography. It's not linear, no one expects you to think it's true, and there's not even anyone named Salman in the novel. We are not trying to say that you should believe that Salman Rushdie had magical telepathic powers as a child, was sterilized by Indira Gandhi, or was crushed to death on his 31st birthday. We're just saying that, albeit in a kind of strange way, Saleem's story is also Rushdie's story.
How? We'll prove it to you. Just like Saleem's family, Rushdie's family are Kashmiri Muslims. Even though he wasn't born at the stroke of midnight, Rushdie was born just three months before India's independence. He had an ex-wife named Padma, and his own first name is Ahmed, the name of Saleem's dad. Just like Saleem, Rushdie grew up in Bombay, and you can thank Rushdie's dream of being an actor for all the film references. We think that's enough proof.
Now for the hard stuff. Postmodernism is a literary style that came about after World War II. It's nonlinear, self reflective, and ambiguous. Magical realism is a type of postmodern literature, so the two genres share a lot of the same characteristics. But just remember that even though a magical realist novel is postmodern, a postmodern novel doesn't have to be magical realist.
Let's see: postmodern novels often have ambiguous endings. Check. We don't know what really happens at the end of the novel. Does Saleem die? What happens to his kid? Both magical realism and postmodernism tend to be meta-fictional, meaning that they examine the impact of the reader on fiction, and vice versa. Double check, because we keep having Padma interject with her opinions about the literature that Saleem is creating. Postmodernism and Magical Realism also tend to display hybridity, which means that they mix things together (you know, like how a hybrid car works on electricity and gas), like urban and rural settings. Triple check, because the spittoon was meant to merge high and low culture together, and Saleem is constantly mixing Western and Indian cultures together, never mind all the religions that he intertwines.
We could go on, but you're probably wondering if postmodern literature and magical realism have so much in common, how can you tell one from the other? Simple. Look for magic. Not all postmodern literature with magic in it is magical realism, but if there's tons of magic in it and nobody seems to be surprised by it then you're probably looking at magical realism.