Published by Random House
Publication date: September 8th 2015
Salman Rushdie is back with Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights, a story about the strangeness that resulted from a seam being opened between the world of humans and the world of the supernatural, as embodied by jinns and their female counterparts, jiniri. Of the jiniri there was none more powerful than the Lightning Princess, a spirit who back in the 1100s coupled with a human and produced a prodigious amount of children, all who went on to reproduce throughout the centuries—without knowing that they carried some small superpower of their own. Now, the two worlds are colliding and they, as well as their immortal ancestor, will be called upon to battle with some of the most fearsome and devious creatures of the spirit world.
As the slits between the worlds broke open the mischief of the dark jinn began to spread. At first, before they began to dream of conquest, the jinn had no grand design. They created havoc because it was in their nature. Mischief and its senior sibling, real harm, they foisted without compunction upon the world; for just as the jinn were not real to most human beings, so also human beings were not real to the jinn, who cared nothing for their pain, any more than a child cares for the pain of a stuffed animal she bangs against a wall.
Two Years begins with a hurricane and continues in the same way with plots, characters and places creating a swirling chaos that makes holding one’s attention difficult. Rushdie is one of the most gifted storytellers I’ve ever read but in this novel it feels as if he can’t corral the elements to make them work together. There are simply too many and with a timeline that shifts unexpectedly and doesn’t always seem to add up it means there’s no place to grab hold and become entrenched enough to care about what’s happening.
Diehard Rushdie fans will make it through Two Years simply for the joy of his words and his writing but for anyone not familiar with his work this is going to be one of the more difficult of his novels because he unleashes the full force of his story telling mind and utilizes so many mythological, phantasmagorical beings and events. Or (not to abuse the hurricane metaphor), the struggle to stay afloat in a torrent of words, timelines and characters is exhausting. After picking up and putting down the book over several weeks, when I did get to the final sentence Rushdie once again beautifully encapsulated a tender and wistful sentiment but the effort to get to it may be too much for many readers.