Skip to main content

New Yorker Fiction Review: "The Duniazat" by Salman Rushdie

Issue: June 1, 2015

Story (novel excerpt): "The Duniazat" by Salman Rushdie

Rating: $$

Review: Rushdie is another one of those contemporary authors that I'm embarrassed to say I had zero exposure to prior to reading this story. The first and best thing I can say about this "story" -- really an excerpt from his upcoming novel Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights (1,001 nights, in case you're counting) -- is that it makes me want to read more Rushdie.

Set in Spain in the year 1195, the story involves the philosopher Ibn Rushd, who gets exiled from the royal palace and has to go live in a small town. There he is visited by a "jinni" (genie) in disguise as a young woman named Dunia. The two fall in love and start having children. Because she's a jinni, she has multiple children at a time, a sort of "tribe" in fact, which Rushd dubs the "Duniazat". Ultimately, Dunia disappears into a puff of smoke and Rushd is allowed back to the royal palace. His ideas and his children live on and span the globe.

Leather Jacket
Now, do not let the paltry, excessively revisionist summary I've just written there distract from the touching elegance and humor of Rushdie's writing. There's a lot packed into a small space here, and I can only imagine if he keeps this up for 300 or so pages it will be an incredibly fun novel. Apparently the novel's conceit is built upon stories -- like this one -- of jinnis like Dunia visiting humans throughout history.

Especially "cute" in the story is how the jinni Dunia, even though she's a supernatural being temporarily inhabiting the body of a young woman, takes on so many of the characteristic (or at least stereotypical) traits of a young wife married to an older man. She seems to wear her new-found human-hood pretty well.

Also notable is Rushdie's sentimental finale to the story in which he writes about how the Duniazat end up covering the globe, concentrating (ultimately, after centuries) in a few specific places like North America and the Indian subcontinent. Personally, I love it when an author can whimsically span years, or decades or centuries in a few paragraphs, taking the sort of mile-high view on human existence which is necessary sometimes so as not to get caught up in the minutiae (and seeming futility) of the life of a single human being.

I feel a little hamstrung here because of my lack of Rushdie knowledge, so I'm just going to quit while I'm ahead and say based on this tiny glimpse of his work, I'm bound to correct this gap in my literary education very soon.


Popular posts from this blog

New Yorker Fiction Review #146: "Three Short Moments in a Long Life" by John L'Heureux

Issue: May 9, 2016

Story: "Three Short Moments in a Long Life" by John L'Heureux

Rating: $

Review: I feel like this is a somewhat tired technique, straight out of Creative Writing 101: write a story consisting of three or four different snapshots or snippets out of a character's life at different ages, sort of like a series of written photographs. Fun perhaps, but strikes me as a bit amateurish. However, I also think L'Heureux succeeds here by pushing it a bit further, playing with the character's tentative attempts at something close to faith -- in childish, adult, and mature adult ways -- and tying all three "Short Moments" together in a subtle and readily decipherable way.

L'Heureux's prose and his frank humor and his ability to glorify and find the meaning in the mundane events and thoughts of every day life, and thereby turn the life of an ordinary person into a drama with meaning and significance puts me in mind of John Irving. As well a…

New Yorker Fiction Review #151: "The Bog Girl" by Karen Russell

From the June 20 issue...

My loyal readers (if there are still any, which I doubt) will know I'm usually not a fan of Magical Realism, which, as you may also know, is Karen Russell's stock in trade. That said, there's nothing I love more than having my antipathy for magical realism shattered by an awesome story like "The Bog Girl."

Briefly, an Irish teenager discovers the body of a young woman who as been buried in a bog for over 2,000 years and begins to date her. What more do you need, right? If I'd read that one-line description somewhere else, and wasn't on a mission to review every New Yorker short story, I doubt I'd have read "The Bog Girl." But maybe I should start doing a George Costanza and do the opposite of everything I think I should do.

Where Russell succeeds here is in two main areas: 1.) Making us really love Cillian, the teenager who falls in love with the bog girl, and 2.) pulling the unbelievable trick making the characters…

Water Review: San Pellegrino 250ml Bottle

Damn you, tiny little bottle of San Pellegrino. So little. So cute. But what are you really good for other than to make me wish I had a full bottle of Pellegrino? 
Good as a palate cleanser after a nice double espresso, I will give it that. But little else. The suave yet chaotic burst of Pellegrino bubbliness is still there, but with each sip you feel the tragedy of being that much closer to the end of the bottle, that much faster.

This is a bottle of water made specifically for the frustrated, for the meticulous, for the measurers among us with a penchant for the dainty. This water does not love you in the wild, on a sunny porch or with the raucous laughter of friends. No...much the opposite. Whatever that may be.

Best drunk in tiny, tiny sips, while forcing oneself through an unreadable and depressing Russian novel one does not want to read but feels one should, on a cold, wet day in December that promises four months of gloom and depression...or in pairs or threes and poured over …