Written over a thousand years in the future, this is an account of the Strangenesses which beset our ancestors in the 21st century when the slits between our world and the world of the jinn burst open with dramatic fury. This time of chaos and death, which lasted two years, eight months, and twenty-eight nights, or one thousand and one nights, was heralded by an epic superstorm of wind and lightning. And onto our unsuspecting earth stepped the Grand Ifrits and the Lightning Princess. Beings of immeasurable power made up of smokeless fire and fireless smoke.
I love magical realism and this is magical realism at it’s finest. The fantastical made logical. Like The Thousand and One Nights, Rushdie’s Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights is an epic tale within tales. This account of the War of the Worlds is made up of a complicated mesh of stories and tales woven with Rushdie’s consummate skill into an absorbing narrative.
The Philosophers’ Quarrel. Ibn Rushd, Moorish philosopher, known to us in the West as Averroes, argued against al-Ghazali and his pivotal Incoherence of Philosophers. This battle of the minds even continued into their graves when dust argued passionately with dust, literally.
The Princess and the Philosopher. One day during his exile, a young woman of sixteen showed up at Ibn Rushd’s cottage in the Jewish part of Lucena that could no longer say it was Jewish. Her “name” was Dunia. It was highly unusual for a jinnia to feel love, but Dunia fell in love with his powerful intellect. Together for two years, eight months, and twenty-eight nights, they would produce many children. Though, if he was so smart, you’d think the fact that she could bear nineteen children in one go would be a big clue that she was not a Jew who could not say she was a Jew, but something else all together.
Then there are the stories of their Children: Mother Teresa Saca, Mr. Geronimo the Gardener, Jimmy “Natraj Hero” Kapoor, Storm Fast, the baby of truth, among others.
And the legends of the four Ifrits, and the unrequited love two of them had, in their youth, for a certain Peri.
Like I said, it’s layered and complicated. Complex. At times all of this philosophizing and proselytizing gets a bit dense. And I’m pretty sure I used the dictionary function on my Kindle more with this novel than any other. Still, this was an enjoyable read.
Rating: 4.75 out of 5 stars