Sir Salman Rushdie is a prize-winning British-Indian writer best known for his novels “Midnight’s Children” and “The Satanic Verses,” the latter of which led to accusations of blasphemy against Islam in 1988, sending him into hiding for several years.
Nonetheless, he never stopped writing; since his first book in 1975, Rushdie has written eleven novels, as well as children’s books, a collection of short stories, and four non-fiction books. His twelfth novel, “Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights,” was published in September by Random House.
In “Two Years,” the sky splits open and a war between the jinni and the humans breaks out, raging on for two years, eight months, and 28 nights – or, in other words, 1,001 nights. Stories unfold to reveal other stories and weave into and around one another, defying proper summarization. The book opens with Ibn Rushd, a Muslim philosopher from the twelfth century, for its outermost layer, and at the center of it all lies Dunia the jinni, the Lightning Princess, blending history and mythology together.
Rushdie’s work of magical realism brings “One Thousand and One Nights” into the modern world, drawing on its narrative frame structure, the struggle of life and death, and folktale storytelling. The novel combines satirical wit with unflinching thoughtfulness to create a tone of intimacy with the reader, like a story told between close friends. The story invokes Arab, Persian, and Indian mythology and spans across millennia and cultures to reach out to as many audiences as will answer its enchanting call.
Newcomers to Rushdie’s fiction may have a difficult time deciphering some of the messages and images he implants into his conflict between good and evil, faith and reason; Rushdie suggests that human imagination relies upon hate and violence – that the balance between humanity’s ability to create and ability to destroy is a crucial facet of the human experience, both individually and collectively. Many other such philosophical and spiritual ponderings are subtly imbedded deep into the prose. The disorganized story-within-story structure may also turn away those who prefer a straightforward plotline.
“Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights” is a captivating novel with layers of satire, philosophy, theology, and symbolism. Whether the reader is a devoted follower of Rushdie delving into his ideological depths or only wants to pick up a unique experience to pass the time, the novel is an entertaining and captivating read.