Salman Rushdie’s ‘Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights’

Marcel Theroux in The New York Times:

SalmanSalman Rushdie’s literary immortality is assured. His second novel, “Midnight’s Children,” lit up fiction in English with the exuberance of a Diwali firework. It was uniquely honored, winning both the prestigious Man Booker Prize and the Booker of Bookers, for the best novel in the prize’s history. With his fourth novel, “The Satanic Verses,” Rushdie, like the sorcerer’s apprentice, inadvertently conjured a jinni of intolerance.

…As the storytelling grows more manic, what comes through clearly — much too clearly — is the novel’s controlling theme: an allegory about humanity’s struggle between superstition and reason. “The battle against the jinn was a portrait of the battle within the human heart, which meant that the jinn were somehow abstractions as well as realities, and that their descent to the lower world served to show that world what had to be eradicated within itself, which was unreason itself.” The book’s title is a nod to “One Thousand and One Nights,” but this kind of overt commentary is a long way from the ­authorlessness and economy of fairy tales, which never lecture and whose bareness — envious stepmother, noble prince, dark forest — extends a more subtle invitation to the reader. The most felt things in the book are about Geronimo the gardener, lonely and aging in an unfamiliar city. He is doubly uprooted, separated both from the earth itself and the Indian birthplace that he loved. The prose quickens with specific detail when he mourns the loss of his childhood home: “He wished he had never become detached from the place he was born, wished his feet had remained planted on that beloved ground, wished he could have been happy all his life in those childhood streets, and grown into an old man there and known every paving stone, every betel-nut vendor’s story, every boy selling pirated novels at traffic lights.” It’s a huge relief when Geronimo finds himself back on more solid ground; it will be an ever bigger one when his author does too.

More here.