Salmund Rushdie's new novel is a fantastical story about genies trying to take over the world. In it, a huge storm breaks the seals between the real world and the spirit world, and the rational and irrational worlds collide. In a recent interview on PRI, he explained why he chose to tell such a fantastical tale.
"I just wanted to make a portrait of a world gone wrong," Rushdie says. "I think many of us have a sense of living in a world like that, a world full of what in the novel are called 'strangenesses,' where things that don't seem to obey the normal rules of things keep happening, as if the world is playing by new rules and we don't know what they are. And I thought about, how do I tell a story like that? And I went back to these ancient nursery tales that I remember hearing as a kid from my parents about what in the West are called genies and what are originally called jinn.”
In the book, the jinn aren't really good or evil, but more demonstrations of what happens when the rational and irrational mindsets collide.
"We live in a time of very dark conflicts, and so yes I was obviously trying to echo those," he says. "But not in a kind of simple, allegorical way, because I think that's kind of dumb. The novel is about the way in which the rational and irrational collide. Not just in the world but actually within us. I think all of us have elements of reason and unreason in our characters."
Here he defends his use of the fantastic:
"Here I am as a kind of rationalist, atheist person who writes books about genies and fairies," he says. "I know that there's a contradiction there, except that this is the material I grew up with. If you grow up in India than these wonder tales are your first experience of story and literature so you think of that as normal and realism comes later."