The War of Worlds

Anumeha Verma
Published: October 2016

In his latest literary escapade, Rushdie takes refuge in the supernatural with Two Years, Eight Months and Twenty Eight Nights

salmanReason and logic are the tenets by which we are tutored to spend our lives. So, what happens when humans find themselves confronting events beyond the realms of logic and begin a rendezvous with a series of mysterious occurrences? Ask Salman Rushdie. The master craftsman has once again spun a tale that Publisher’s Weekly terms as ‘an intellectual treasure cleverly disguised as comic pop culture apocalyptic caprice’. Indeed the 286 page novel titled Two Years, Eight Months and Twenty Eight Nights – A Novel by Salman Rushdie does at times seem to be a tangled web of the author’s vagaries but it is just a camouflage for the chaos that can be perpetrated by rigid ideologies. The title no doubt is an adroit spin of the One thousand and One Nights and the novel has a very Arabian Nights feel with jinns and Peristan.

books-qHe enmeshes the jinn and human world to create the pantomime recounting a War of Worlds, that the author claims has been long forgotten to the humankind. The stage is set for this upheaval in 1195 with a discord between the ideologies of two philosophers, though one of them, Gazhali and Ibn Rushd. The latter was exiled for blasphemy when he pits a more reasonable notion to Gazhali’s time honoured philosophy. In his exile he is visited by Dunia, the princess of the jinn. She hides her true identity from Ibn Rushd, lives with him and mothers several children who later come to be known as duniazat. Ibn Rushd’s character has been inspired by the philosopher existing at the end of 12th century.

It all begins in the glittering city of New York like many a Hollywood movies based on apocalypse. A lightning storm strikes the city and throws the carefully constructed theories based on reasoned analysis by human beings right out of the window. Laws of gravitation no longer apply and a gardener finds himself floating above the ground rather than walking on it. A baby barely in cradle is blessed with the capacity to fish out liars. Anyone who utters a lie in front of her immediately develops boils and lesions on their skin. A gold digger discovers she can command lightning at will and a graphic novel artist finds himself face to face with his own unpublished creation.

Foreshadowing these developments, the dark jinns have entered earth through the weakening of separations between the human world and Peristan (Fairyland). Zumurrud, Ra’im Blood-Drinker and Shining Ruby wreak havoc on human beings of every stature and country in the world. Zumurrud is instigated by none other than the philosopher Gazhali who calls to the jinn from his grave to put the fear of God in men.

books-q1Duniya, once again returns to the human world to stop the chaos by rallying her forces and fortifying it with her descendants who possess special powers. The War of the Worlds ensues with good and evil superheroes fighting as the mortals of the world scurry to make way. Everything and anything finds its way to the chaotic scene that Rushdie paints, and yet the author never loses the plot. The effect is that of an artistically dishevelled setting featuring giant serpents, cities running out of medical and food supplies as the political structures around the world dismantles. Cameos bow in and out in the form of U.S President, South American dictators and Al Qaida from our very own world.

The characters are well etched. Apart from fighting alongside Duniya to win the War of the Worlds, Rushdie’s characters are engaged in their own personal struggles. The graphic artist longs to be acknowledged as an interesting person despite his drab existence. But, it is Mr. Geromino, Ibn Rushd’s look who touches the sympathetic chords. He struggles with longing that he harbours for his home country. “He wished he had never become detached from the place he was born…”

Invariably sarcastic and intermittently philosophic, the tale proves Rushdie’s prowess as a raconteur once again. He spins a tale of exuberance and sheer fantastical possibilities and adds to this recipe a visual treat of Peristan and giant serpents. A must read for Rusdhie fans!


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 - Anumeha Verma is at present working with Jain University and believes that strategic communication plays a major role in solving development issues.