I first encountered Salman Rushdie during my senior year as an undergraduate. I was taking a contemporary literature class and we read one of his short stories, “The Free Radio.” As discussed the book, Rushdie’s name sounded so familiar to me. I suddenly remembered in class one day that I had won a giveaway for an ARC (Advanced Reader Copy) of his latest novel and it was sitting in my dorm. When I started this challenge and the novel was still unread, I bumped it to the top of the list.
Written in the tradition of Eastern “wonder tales,” Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights is the story of the jinn princess Dunia and her many children, who are part jinn, part human, with jinn powers. When the jinn world finds itself at war, Dunia calls upon her children to help her fight the battle that is spreading into the mortal realm. Rushdie blends a love story, mythology, and history into a spell-binding tale.
While the magical realism style was difficult initially, the more I read, the easier I followed the flow of the novel. Once I could accept and visualize floating gardeners and babies who can identify corruption and mark it with boils, I could appreciate the cadence of the text. The narration was smooth, carrying you on a journey without you really knowing that you’re moving. The narrators would occasionally interrupt the story to make a comment and their voice is beautiful:
This is how it has come down to us, a millennium later, as history infused with and perhaps overwhelmed by legend. This is how we think of it now, as if it were a fallible memory, or a dream of the remote past.
I hoped this book would help prep me for others on my list, particularly One Hundred Years of Solitude, which is also a magical realism novel. I have a newfound appreciation for the genre and while I still have a long way to go to appreciate it fully, I’m eager to keep exploring it.