Salman Rushdie, in his newest novel, weighs in on modern global events and even the American election. But he entertains us in his usual insightful way by couching his commentary in a Jinn-Jinnia War of the Worlds, which is quite a helpful conceit when you are trying to talk about people who want to send the world reeling into the 12th century or obliterate it altogether. It’s apocalyptic fun with a Persian/Arabian flavor.
The Jinni and the Jinnia live in a parallel world usually sealed against all interaction. But the Jinni and especially the four powerful male Grand Ifrits did not count on a jinnia with daddy issues. On one of the rare occasions when the seals between the worlds opened up a Jinnia fell in love with a human, Îbn Rushd (perhaps the author). She became Dunia and produced thousands of offspring, humans with a bit of jinn hidden inside. They became the Duniazat.
The title of Rushdie’s book is Two Years, Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights (or 1001 Nights). Although it is a sort of allegory, it is not an allegory with animals; it is one with the inhabitants of Peristan/Fairyland. And it is not a one-to-one allegory, or perhaps I was just not able to find a one-to-one equivalency in every case, but there were enough times when direct connections could be made and these are where the most potent commentary could be found. Perhaps a few quotes will help convince you:
“The Grand Ifrits’ contempt for their subjects was only increased by the ease with which they recruited human beings to assist them in the maintenance of their new empire. ‘Greed and fear’, Zummurrud told his three fellow leaders, who met, as was their custom, on a dark cloud circling earth at the Equator, from which they watched and judged the mere mortals below them, ‘fear and greed’ are the tools by which these insects can be controlled with almost comical ease,” (pg. 229)
“The enemy is stupid, he replied. That is the ground for hope. There is no originality in tyrants, and they learn nothing from the demise of their precursors. They will be brutal and stifling and engender hatred and destroy what men love and that will defeat them. All important battles are, in the end, conflicts between hatred and love, and we must hold to the idea that love is stronger than hate.” (Pg. 234)
A conversation between two human philosophers:
“Faith is our gift from God and reason is our adolescent rebellion against it. When we are adult we will turn wholly to faith as we are born to do.”
“You will see, as time goes by,” said Ibn Rushd, “that in the end it will be religions that will make men turn away from God. The godly are God’s worst advocates. It may take a thousand and one years but in the end religion will shrivel away and only then will we begin to live in God’s truth.”
I guess I see Salman Rushdie as sort of a Buddha or Dalai Lama, albeit with a reputation for womanizing, who takes a long view of human history. I always admire the long view. I cannot tell you who wins the war between Peristan and Earth, the jinni and jinnira, or the humans and the Lightening Princess, because it will ruin the tale Rushdie tells. Does the Lightning Princess, that prolific mother, represent any human we know? I will have to leave that for you to decide.
Although Salman Rushdie is immersed in a culture miles away from ours, he has also spent lots of time in England and Europe and so if you are new to Salman Rushdie you should have no fears about diving right into this novel or you can go back and begin at the beginning if you like chronology. Some of his books seem somewhat interconnected. This novel is more of a stand-alone and, although it may meet the tests of time it is also of this particular moment, right now, at the beginning of the 21st century.
By Nancy Brisson