Thursday, October 15, 2015

What We're Reading: Bestsellers

In Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights, a novel about the struggle between the jinn over the fate of humanity, Salman Rushdie mixes mythology and political commentary to give us his newest work of literary wit. In the custom of Bulgakov's The Master and Margarita, Rushdie mixes religion and satire as otherworldly characters descend onto the human world and create chaos, pitting people against each other and exposing hypocrisy and moral decay.

Many years ago, Dunia, a princess of the jinn, fell in love with the great medieval philosopher Ibn Rushd (Averroes), and though he eventually left her, she had many children with him. In the modern world, the children of Dunia live without realizing their strange parentage or their hidden powers, and will be called on by Dunia herself as she tries to save the world and the humanity she once loved.

I found this book witty and smart at first, but it seemed a bit lacking compared to his earlier works. It was at times difficult to understand where the book's message was headed. The nonlinear narrative, while a trademark of Rushdie's other novels, was confusing in this one. The book makes a little more sense after doing some research into philosophers Ibn Rushd and Al-Ghazali and Islamic theology. While Al-Ghazali believed that there was no place for philosophy in religion, Ibn Rushd believed in reconciling Aristotelian philosophy with Islam. To understand Rushdie and this book, it was also helpful to read his previous book, a memoir called Joseph Anton, in which he chronicles his decades-long strife with Muslim extremists. I would not recommend this book to anyone not yet familiar with Salman Rushdie, but those who are familiar with his writing might enjoy it.

Editor's note: Booklist magazine gave this book a starred review; but it's always good to get the opinion of someone you trust as well! On, the book has ratings from one star to five, with most (like Anush) falling in the 3-star middle of the road.

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