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Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight…
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Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights

by Salman Rushdie

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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We tell this story still as it has come down to us through many retellings, mouth to ear; ear to mouth, both the story of the poisoned box and the stories it contained, in which the poison was concealed. This is what stories are, experience retold by many tongues to which, sometimes, we give a single name, Homer, Valmiki, Vyasa, Scheherazade. We, for our own part, simply call ourselves "we." "We" are the creature that tells itself stories to understand what sort of creature it is. As they pass down to us the stories lift themselves away from time and place, losing the specificity of their beginnings, but gaining the purity of essences, of being simply themselves. And by extension, or by the same token, as we like to say, though we do not know what the token is or was, these stories become what we know, what we understand, and what we are, or, perhaps we should say, what we have become, or can perhaps be.

[a: Salman Rushdie|3299|Salman Rushdie|https://d.gr-assets.com/authors/1440718419p2/3299.jpg]'s new book is a story about stories. In the same vein of [b: At Swim-Two-Birds|97333|At Swim-Two-Birds|Flann O'Brien|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1330416040s/97333.jpg|983387], the narrative is continued through manifold layers. As other reviewers have noted, it is possible to separate the story into two separate tales. The first is that of the jinnia Dunia, who fell in love with a man many, many years ago. Their affair spanned the titular [b: Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights|24292310|Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights|Salman Rushdie|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1428082821s/24292310.jpg|43872842] and resulted in the birth of new hybrid race, which over the ensuing centuries spread over the face of the globe. At the start of the book these half-jinn are beginning to come into their heritage, woken by the old matriach, to be recruited for a grand purpose and a great war.

The cause of the war forms the crux of the second, underlying story. This is a philosophical battle between two great philosophers - Al-Ghazali and Ibn Rushd. This clash of belief over the centuries - that of fear of God over reason, and reason over God (or rather as a way of understanding God) spreads through the whole narrative though the actual philosophical arguments between the two philosophers are rarely directly addressed.

The book is full of gorgeous passages, as the quote that I began this review with shows. It's written at turns in a traditional folk tale sense (much repetition, rather overt symbolism being used, irony, etc.) and in an almost text-book like simplicity. As I read through it I found myself eager to reach more text-book like explanations of the worlds. I'm certain that my lack of familiarity with Arabian myth and folklore hurt my understanding of some of the text, but anyone who is familiar with it will likely take away a great deal.

Even though I didn't like this book quite as much as I loved [b: At Swim-Two-Birds|97333|At Swim-Two-Birds|Flann O'Brien|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1330416040s/97333.jpg|983387] I'm quite glad that I read it. I will most definitely be going on to read [b: Midnight's Children|14836|Midnight's Children|Salman Rushdie|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1371063511s/14836.jpg|1024288] and [b: The Satanic Verses|12781|The Satanic Verses|Salman Rushdie|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1281988101s/12781.jpg|1434467] at some point. [a: Salman Rushdie|3299|Salman Rushdie|https://d.gr-assets.com/authors/1440718419p2/3299.jpg] is a gifted writer, and there's much beauty to be found in this book. If you can set aside some annoyance at a bit too much repetition, it's great and quite a few spots should make you laugh.

Also, I greatly appreciate the love of [a: John Keats|11978|John Keats|https://d.gr-assets.com/authors/1198548090p2/11978.jpg].


To repeat: only one human being ever returned in good shape, the hero Hamza, and the suspicion remains that he may have been part jinni himself. So when Dunia the jinnia, aka Aasmaan Peri the Lightning Princess of Qaf Mountain, suggested to Mr. Geronimo that he return with her to her father's kingdom, suspicious minds might have concluded that she was luring him to his doom like the sirenuse singing on the rocks near Positano or Lilith the night monster who was Adam's wife before Eve, or John Keats's merciless beauty.
( )
  Lepophagus | Jun 14, 2018 |
Caveat, I am a big Rushdie fan.
That said, this is the best book I've read this year. It's shorter than his novels typically are, but still twice teh length of a Patterson.
The story is fast paced and presented as an aural history from our ancestors one thousand years in teh future. The cast of characters is held to a small enough number that you can easily remember who everyone is, while still large enough to allow Rushdie some wordplay with names.
There is plenty of magic in this magical realistic novel. Magical realismistic novel? You get my point.
If you have never read Rushdie before, I think this would be a very accessible jumping off point (also you might try Shalimar the Clown). ( )
  Eric.Cone | Sep 28, 2017 |
A fine little piece of fantasy. My first Rushdie book, and I confess disappointment. Like much of Tolkien, the unfurling of the setting was more majestic than the plot. There were so many details and yet so much ground left unexplored that I could easily imagine a stable of writers penning dozens of novels within the universe, much like the Star Wars series of books or Dragonlance. It made me want to play Dungeons and Dragons more than it made me want to keep reading. ( )
  jscape2000 | Sep 13, 2017 |
The title is an indicator, clearly alluding to a famous collection of tales of wonder, promising (as it then does) exotic happenings, digressions, meanderings and stories within stories. Yet it is also somehow unmistakably Rushdian. Exotic but recognisable, aslant but accessible. In any case, I doubt any other present day author would invite comparison to such a well-known set of stories as the Arabian Nights. But the conceit doesn’t come from nowhere. If he perhaps hasn’t addressed the supernatural quite as directly in most of his previous novels there has nearly always been more than a hint of the strange, brushes with the uncanny, in Rushdie’s work. So here we have jinn (not genies, no, we don’t use that word any more) the Grand Ifrits, Zumurrud the Great, Zabardast the Sorcerer, Shining Ruby the Possessor of Souls - so slender he disappears when he turns sideways - Ra’im the Blood-Drinker, the source of all the world’s vampire stories, and the jinnia Dunia, otherwise known as Aasmaan Peri, aka the Sky Fairy and the Lightning Princess of Mount Qâf.

The narrative is couched as a looking back at the legendary time when the seals between the worlds eroded, a great storm struck the Earth and the Strangenesses began. Yet the story begins over 800 years earlier, in 1195, with the arrival at the house of the philosopher Ibn Rushd (Averroes) of a young homeless girl. This was Dunia, indulging her fascination with human men and her capacity for love. For two years eight months and twenty-eight nights they lived as man and wife and produced numerous offspring, whose descendants, all characterised by their lobeless ears, became the Duniazát. Not named after him as, “To be the Rushdi would send them into history with a mark upon their brow.” Ibn Rushd’s dispute with the philosophy of a predecessor, Ghazali, “Only fear will move sinful man towards God,” and who stated that things happen only because God wills them, provides us with disquisitions on God’s nature, “God is a creation of human beings; the clap-hands-if-you-believe-in-fairies principle.” These differences are played out on a grander scale during the war between the worlds that followed the Strangenesses.

During that time rationality crumbled. Some found their feet didn’t touch the ground and might float away so high that they died, others were weighed down so that they became crushed. A baby born during the storm caused outbreaks of sores on anyone corrupt or dishonest into whose vicinity she came. The irrational became commonplace. The Duniazát had inherited some of Dunia’s jinn powers and were invaluable in the final confrontations with the Grand Ifrits. The whole time of Strangeness lasted, of course, two years, eight months and twenty-eight nights.

Lines like, “If I get hurt in this putative affray of yours then I’m not an innocent bystander?” to a policeman from a musician at risk from the incitements of a rabid preacher show that the events of Rushdie’s life so far have contributed mightily to this - as, I assume, theirs must necessarily do for all but hack authors. Yet while the novel contains all Rushdie’s strengths, it also manifests and perhaps magnifies his faults. There is not much restraint here, there is a lot of telling, the treatment is, as ever, consciously literary and full of word play (Lebanonymous; “all the gold, men, in your sacks will not save you.”) Yet the retrospective narrator defuses any tension in the reader as to the eventual outcome. Rushdie also feels it necessary to define FTL despite name-checking eleven masters of the golden age of science fiction.

However, the book is mainly a meditation on the nature of story. “All our stories contain the stories of others and are themselves contained within larger, grander narratives.” “The first thing to know about made-up stories is that they are all untrue in the same way,” (which feels Tolstoyan but is certainly debatable.) “To tell a story about the past is to tell a story about the present.” That stories tell us what we are; we tell them in order to understand ourselves. Quite where the incursion of the supernatural leaves us with that one is rather problematic. “To recount a fantasy is to tell a tale about the actual.” Well, maybe. “If good and evil were external to Man, it became impossible to define what an ethical man might be,” is closer to the mark.

In general Rushdie is at his best when his flights of fancy are tethered more firmly to earthly events, more centred on his human characters which here are too thinly delineated. Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights is pyrotechnic, impressive even, undoubtedly worth reading, but, ultimately, curiously lacking in heart. ( )
  jackdeighton | Aug 18, 2017 |
Mhm. Rushdie has written three books that I like very much, and some I can't get warm with. This is one of the latter group. Too abstract for me (late in the book, the jinn are even called abstractions), I couldn't get interested in most characters.
The plot reminded me of DC Comics' 1990s crossover event "Bloodlines" (Rushie himself uses a lot of explicit comic book associations in this book, so this idea may be forgiven), which I didn't care for: Gruesome aliens attacking Earth on a grand scale, with new superheroes born through alien meddling. Plucky individuals and secret plans that I couldn't follow. ( )
  HerrRau | Jun 4, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 50 (next | show all)
What's frustrating is to see glimpses of Rushdie's very real talent. Lines stand out, a wife who "slipped out of history" when her husband abandoned her, "he took it with him when he left," an "old town of salmon minarets and enigmatic walls," a "heart filled with something that might have been happiness, but poured out of his eyes as grief." But this is his second extremely bad book in a row — consult Zoë Heller's incineration of his memoir "Joseph Anton," for further detail — and it's beginning to seem as if that talent may be in permanent arrest.
added by ozzer | editChicago Tribune, Charles Finch (Sep 2, 2015)
 

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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Salman Rushdieprimary authorall editionscalculated
Flabbi, LorenzoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
El sueno de la razon produce monstruos. The sleep of reason brings forth monsters. (Los Caprichos no. 43, by Francisco de Goya; the full caption in the Prado etching reads: "Fantasy abandoned by reason produces impossible monsters: united with her, she is the mother of the arts and the origin of their marvels.")
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Very little is known, though much has been written, about the true nature of the jinn, the creatures made of smokeless fire.
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Wikipedia in English (1)

Book description
From one of the greatest writers of our time: the most spellbinding, entertaining, wildly imaginative novel of his great career, which blends history and myth with tremendous philosophical depth. A masterful, mesmerizing modern tale about worlds dangerously colliding, the monsters that are unleashed when reason recedes, and a beautiful testament to the power of love and humanity in chaotic times.

Inspired by 2,000 years of storytelling yet rooted in the concerns of our present moment, this is a spectacular achievement--enchanting, both very funny and terrifying. It is narrated by our descendants 1000 years hence, looking back on "The War of the Worlds" that began with "the time of the strangenesses": a simple gardener begins to levitate; a baby is born with the unnerving ability to detect corruption in people; the ghosts of two long-dead philosophers begin arguing once more; and storms pummel New York so hard that a crack appears in the universe, letting in the destructive djinns of myth (as well as some graphic superheroes). Nothing less than the survival of our world is at stake. Only one, a djinn princess who centuries before had learned to love humankind, resolves to help us: in the face of dynastic intrigue, she raises an army composed of her semi-magical great-great--etc.--grandchildren--a motley crew of endearing characters who come together to save the world in a battle waged for 1,001 nights--or, to be precise, two years, eight months and twenty-eight nights.
Haiku summary
Dschinn kämpft gegen Dschinn
Chaos in unserer Welt
so wurde erzählt
(hatorikibble)

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"From Salman Rushdie, one of the great writers of our time, comes a spellbinding novel that blends history, mythology, and a timeless love story. A lush modern fairytale in which our world has been plunged into an age of unreason, Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights is a breathtaking achievement and an enduring testament to the power of storytelling"--"Once upon a time, in a world just like ours, there came "the time of the strangenesses." Reason receded and the loudest, most illiberal voices reigned. A simple gardener began to levitate, and a powerful djinn -- also known as the Princess of Fairyland -- raised an army composed entirely of her semi-magical great-great-great-grandchildren. A baby was born with the ability to see corruption in the faces of others. The ghosts of two philosophers, long dead, began arguing once more. And a battle for the kingdom of Fairyland was waged throughout our world for 1,001 nights -- or, to be more precise, for two years, eight months, and twenty-eight nights. Two Years, Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights is a masterful, playfully enchanting meditation on the power of love and the importance of rationality, replete with flying carpets and dynastic intrigue"--… (more)

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