Monday, 12 June 2017

Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights by Sir Salman Rushdie – Book Review

Publisher’s write-up:

‘One day in the near future, a storm strikes New York City – but it is no ordinary storm.  A down-to-earth gardener finds that his feet no longer touch the ground. A graphic novelist awakens in his bedroom to a mysterious entity that resembles his own sub-Stan Lee creation. Abandoned at the mayor’s office, a baby identifies corruption with her mere presence, marking the guilty with blemishes and boils. A seductive gold-digger is soon tapped to combat forces beyond imagining. 

Unbeknownst to them, they are all descended from Dunia, a princess of the jinn, and they will play a role in an epic war between light and dark, spanning a thousand and on nights – or two years, eight months, and twenty-eight nights. It is a time of enormous upheaval, where beliefs are challenged, words act like poison, silence is a disease and a noise may contain a hidden curse.’

This is a novel by Sir Salman Rushdie, a story involving various elements such as the idea of fear and god,  the idea of good and evil, love and lust, tyranny among many other things narrated through the author’s impeccable writing style and engaging elements of magic realism. 

The story begins in Cordoba during the period of the Almoravid Dynasty where a young jinn, meets and falls in love with the philosopher Ibn Rushd, a rationalist, who is in an ideological war against the Persian philosopher, Ghazali. The children of the jinn, Dunia and Ibn Rushd are born with the characteristic of not having earlobes. Centuries later, in modern day New York, a storm begins which lasts for 1001 nights during which; an old gardener’s feet does not touch the ground, a baby ends up in the office of the Mayor of New York which identifies corruption and the logic of the old world no longer seems to apply triggering the War of the Worlds between the world of humans and the jinn. To counter this menace, Dunia, the jinn, gathers all her descendants – the Duniazat – tribe of the world (which include the gardener, Mr. Geronimo and a few others) and the battle goes on for two years, eight months and twenty eight nights. 

I was highly interested in the book owing to the rather interesting title given to it by the author. Post that, I really enjoyed how the author dealt with a lot of timeless topics such as reason versus god, hope against fear, love and of course, he also made a lot of specific allusions, such as his highly indirect references to the Afghanistan and Taliban (as the situation created by the evil jinn under the orders of Ghazali) and also on allusions on the current western political scene.  As always,  I really enjoyed the way in which  he narrated the story, the choice of words, the flow of the story, the sequence in which they were arranged and the way in which he created the new world – Peristan (the world of the jinn) and not for once, gave the reader an impression that he was going beyond the rules of the current world. I really enjoyed the way the characters of Geronimo and Dunia were brought out, the former, a happy go lucky gardener dealing with all sorts of mundane issues with the latter having the task of saving the world from mayhem, dealing with personal tragedy, lost love and the need for love again, dealing with her emotions among other things. I also enjoyed the various diverse mythical references that the author touched upon, being Greek, Indian, Egyptian, a bit of Abrahamic myths and even a brief anecdote on a Yoruba myth. 

However, like it had various good elements of a typical novel of Rushdie, it had the very same issue I have with most of his books, being,  he took  too long to come to the point, that it took nearly a third of the book before the plot actually started taking shape and by then, he had introduced too many characters which became a challenge to the memory and even more disappointing, when most members of the Duniazat were grossly underused, barring Mr. Geronimo.  

I really enjoyed reading the novel, and as always, despite the fact that it took some time, I felt it was worth the time spent. My pencil had a lot of work while reading the novel, marking some of my favourite lines and I shall just state one of them below:

‘The enemy is stupid. That is ground for hope. There is no originality in tyrants, and the learn nothing from the demise of their precursors. They will be brutal and stifling and engender hatred and destroy what men love and that will defeat them. All important battles are, in the end, conflicts between hatred and love, and we must hold to the idea that love is stronger than hate.’

With that, I would conclude my review here that considering all the above stated aspects and also giving weight to the amount of time it took to read and also a bit of redundancy that was involved, I would award the book a rating of eight on  ten. 

Rating – 8/10

Have a nice day,

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