Bursting at the seams, sizzling with unceasing fervour, unraveling, metamorphosing, churning and provoking with every page, every sentence and word, “Two Years Eight Months and Twenty Eight Nights” is Salman Rushdie’s venerable monument to human imagination. Rushdie seamlessly glides into the oeuvre of fantasy with an ease that is at once frightening and fascinating. The breathtaking story spans two worlds; earth and Peristan a luxuriant, opulent and mystique filled world inhabited by form changing, ferocious and preternaturally fornicating jinns. The Queen of the Jinns, Dunia takes a peculiar and inexplicable liking towards the more humble earthlings and hopelessly falls in love with one of them – Ibn Rushd, the disgraced once highly venerated philosopher who graced the courts of the all-conquering Caliph of Andalusia.
The union of jinn and homo-sapien breeds a plethora of descendants all distinguished or disfigured by the absence of earlobes. Eight hundred years after this singularly unique association, the world is rocked by a series of horrific incidents. Unsuspecting individuals find themselves suspended in thin air a few inches off the earth, storms the likes of which do not even dot the pantheons of fantasy and folklore rack the globe and immensely huge and grotesque monsters arise from the sea to gulp whole ships. This is the outcome of the return of the jinns to earth spearheaded by the most dangerous of the jinn clan – Zummurud the Great. Once confined to a bottle, he is liberated courtesy the arch enemy of Ibn Rushd, Ghazal with instructions to wreak vengeance upon a world that teems with heretics, atheists and rationalists. The motive to drive the fear of god into the hearts of these so called “kafirs” spawns a war between Zummurud on the one hand and Duniya and her descendants on the other.
What follows is a dizzying sequence of incantations and intoxication, magic and mystery, transformations and human thunderbolts. Rushdie gets into a zone of transcendence and invincibility embellishing what should have been a merely captivating fantasy into a dripping delight of satire and sardonic wit. Taking subtle potshots at authority, autocracy and asinine beliefs, Rushdie angers, thrills, outrages and exhilarates in an uproarious and riotous fashion. He is a human rapier cutting asunder stereotypes, blind notions and forced impositions. He also cocks a snook at the vulgar display of opulence. For instance I personally feel that the example of the tallest house in a city which has as its edifice pride and arrogance and which ultimately is destroyed by an army of trampling ants leaving it a mere exoskeleton of “anthillia” is a veiled reference to “Antilla” the architectural outcome of the billionaire Indian entrepreneur Mukesh Ambani’s untrammeled accumulation of unending wealth. The countries where Zummurud and his dark forces unleash their choicest terror is named A, P and I. It doesn’t take a genius to decipher that the countries in question are Afghanistan, Pakistan and India, three countries which are reeling under the insidious pestilence of terrorism on a daily basis.
One of the most acclaimed Science Fiction writers of all time, Ursula Le Guin has said that “Two Years Eight Months…is unlike anything which Rushdie or any other author has ever written”. Without any external influence or coercion I completely deign to concur with at least the first part of her claim!