The ‘strangenesses’ have begun: Geronimo Manezes has started to levitate and graphic novelist Jimmy Kapoor suddenly finds himself face-to-face with his own fictional creation. Meanwhile, an abandoned baby displays miraculous powers of perception and a jilted socialite launches thunderbolts from her hands. They do not realise it yet but they are all descended from the jinn, that race of mythical creatures we normally associate with exotic fairy stories but which are, in fact, far more complicated and deadly.
Countless centuries ago, a beautiful jinn princess called Dunia fell in love with a mortal man and bore him a seemingly inexhaustible parade of children. Now the descendants of those children are discovering they possess fantastical powers, and not before time – the veil between our world and Fairyland is separating and four ‘dark jinn’ have broken through, intent on causing chaos and destruction. Only Dunia and her children can prevent the apocalypse that threatens to destroy us, but are they already too late?
Salman Rushdie’s latest book is not only a beautifully written satire-as-fairytale but the subject matter is bang on trend. For those of us who are interested in the paranormal, the Jinn are becoming a familiar subject - soldiers have returned from the Middle East talking about the jinn and the suspected supernatural aid they may be giving to IS and there has even been speculation that jinn and demons might be the same thing.
Although he avoids those kind of comparisons, and the powers his jinn children demonstrate are more akin to the X-Men than the occupant of Aladdin’s lamp, Rushdie’s cleverly-titled take on the famous ‘1001 (Arabian) Nights’ (Two Years Eight Months & Twenty-Eight Nights adds up to 1001) is a very different but no less compelling re-imagining of what the jinn might be. It is also a wonderful Chinese box of storytelling that evokes not only 1001 Nights but also The Manuscript Found at Saragossa and Cervantes’ Don Quixote, reminding us that intricately woven multiple narratives overloaded with a tremendous cast of memorable characters and suffused with humour, romance and drama aren't purely the domain of long dead authors.
It's a shame that when many people think of Salman Rushdie they only remember the controversy surrounding his 'Satanic Verses' and the accompanying fatwa (and gags like "how fat is your wa going to be? Will I have to widen the doorway so they can get in?" (yep, this writer wrote that gag for a long forgotten BBC radio series called Week Ending and is still using it - pitiful) but he's a prolific author whose work has often tiptoed the tightrope between the real and the phatasmagoric, and his 2003 Booker Prize winning novel Midnight's Children was declared 'the Booker of Bookers' - the most deserving winner of the previous 25 years. That Rushdie should still be writing so potently and still be continuing to push back the frontiers, when he could easily pull up a deck chair and languish on the frontiers he already owns is wonderful, inspirational and profoundly (but only in the best way) terrifying.
Rub the lamp all day long, the genie will always give a precocious flick of her Barbara Eden-inspired pony tail and reply: 10/10, Master.
TWO YEARS EIGHT MONTHS & TWENTY-EIGHT NIGHTS / AUTHOR: SALMAN RUSHDIE / PUBLISHER: VINTAGE / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW