It’s probably disheartening for any tortured would-be novelists to hear Salman Rushdie announce, as he did earlier this year, that the writing of his latest novel, Two Years Eight Months & Twenty-Eight Nights, was a relative breeze, or, as he put it, “like clearing my throat”.
Admittedly for an author whose most well-known books, Midnight’s Children (which earned him the Booker of Bookers) and The Satanic Verses (which earned him a fatwa), both clock in around 500 pages, his latest, at 280 pages or so, is relatively slim. But still.
You might also expect a smaller novel to mean a less ambitious set-up, but underestimate Rushdie at your peril. Not only is he reinterpreting the premise of the One Thousand and One Nights, in which Scheherazade told her jealous husband an epic series of cliffhanging bedtime stories to stop him executing her in the morning, he’s also weaving in the language of philosophy, history and comic books in his own delightedly sardonic style to tell a multi-generational story of genies (or more correctly, jinn), scholars, apocalyptic storms, missing earlobes, and slits in the space-time continuum.
But we expected nothing less.
Two Years Eight Months & Twenty-Eight Nights by Salman Rushdie is out on 10 September (Jonathan Cape)