Rushdie is known as a master of magical realism, a genre inhabited by amazing authors like Haruki Murakami and Gabriel Garcia Marquez, both of whom I prefer. I like the magical elements of Rushdie’s books and appreciate his gift for political symbolism, but sometimes he loses me in ponderous plots and a lack of character development.
This was certainly the case for his latest novel, Two Years, Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Days. A little Math will quickly reveal this as 1001 nights, a clear reference to the old Arabian Tales that kept Scheherazade safe from her murdering husband. Rushdie attempts to modernise these here, creating a series of fables for future generations in which the Jinn of old rediscover a way to enter our world and wreak havoc. The hero of the story is the Jinnia Dunia, who holds a special affection for humans. Many years ago she left her magical homeland to marry the philosopher Ibn Rushd, to whom she bore miraculous amounts of children. In order to protect humanity against her brethren, she contacts her descendants and awakens their gifts. Many of them have already been affected by the chaotic spells of the attacking Jinn. The gardener Geronimo Manezes has begun to levitate and cannot touch the ground. Jimmy Kapoor’s comic character Natraj Hero has come to life. And spurned Teresa Saca has found a way to make men pay.
These are interesting characters who aren’t really explored in any great depth. Rushdie focuses on the Jinn rather than the humans. While there is plenty of magic in this story, I think this is a real weakness. If you aren’t already a Rushdie fan, I would pick up Midnight’s Children instead of this.