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The Enchantress of Florence (2008)

by Salman Rushdie

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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3,1211283,323 (3.61)196
A tall, yellow-haired young European traveller calling himself "Mogor dell'Amore," the Mughal of Love, arrives at the court of the real Grand Mughal, the Emperor Akbar, with a tale to tell that begins to obsess the whole imperial capital. The stranger claims to be the child of a lost Mughal princess, the youngest sister of Akbar's grandfather Babar: Qara Köz, 'Lady Black Eyes', a great beauty believed to possess powers of enchantment and sorcery, who is taken captive first by an Uzbeg warlord, then by the Shah of Persia, and finally becomes the lover of a certain Argalia, a Florentine soldier of fortune, commander of the armies of the Ottoman Sultan. When Argalia returns home with his Mughal mistress the city is mesmerised by her presence, and much trouble ensues. But is Mogor's story true? And if so, then what happened to the lost princess? And if he's a liar, must he die?--From publisher description.… (more)
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» See also 196 mentions

English (123)  German (2)  Dutch (2)  French (1)  Portuguese (Portugal) (1)  All languages (129)
Showing 1-5 of 123 (next | show all)
Wonderful. I had for a while searched for a book that would reproduce the reading experience of “Seven Gothic Tales” by Isak Dinesen, but I never thought that Salman Rushdie would be the author to do it.

So much is said about Rushdie’s magic realism. But on "The Enchantress of Florence" he goes a step farther, mixing fables and history, story lines leading into story lines, creating a fantastic and sensual universe somewhere between East and West. The writing is gorgeous, but the magic narrative is what grabbed me and would not let me go.

Rushdie is undoubtedly an academic, whose writing is full of metaphor and questionings, but in this book he handles those with a master’s approach, mixing adventure and sorcery with questionings about power and love in such a perfect dose. Not that the characters don’t duel in philosophical considerations, just the opposite, but Rushdie manages to embed these rationalizations/meditations into the narrative without making them forceful or tiring – truly an amazing feat.

On the book jacket someone defines it as “a naughty fairy tale for grow-ups” and I could not agree more.
( )
  RosanaDR | Apr 15, 2021 |
Very much Rushdie's Mason & Dixon, researched so to the hilt that it can read like a comic book. Maximum educational usefulness cloaked in stoner speculation and lowbrow dialogue. This is how s0-called "historical fiction" should be done! To me it was almost too easy, I would've liked a little more bottom, but I guess after he put together something as intense and beautiful as Shalimar the Clown he may have just wanted to have fun with all his research, and his teachers and their teachers would say well, just do a fairy tale, so I get that. In the same way, though, I appreciate that he never gets the professor cape on like, this is how the mogul empire was. The text instead is irreverent and inviting. After wikipedia, there's no excuse not to get prepared and enjoy this one! ( )
  EugenioNegro | Mar 17, 2021 |
A truly magnificent epic, a tale spanning continents and yet never losing sight of the smaller details that convey the heart of the story. The characters are magnificently realised, and the prose is sublime. ( )
  soylentgreen23 | Mar 9, 2021 |
Delightful. Just delightful. One might even say, enchanting. ( )
  heggiep | Sep 11, 2020 |
My experience so far with Salman Rushdie is that he is a writer for whom the whole is much less than the sum of its parts. You can be sure, too, that in a Rushdie there are always a lot of parts because, like some other contemporary writers (Jonathan Franzen comes to mind) he has a habit of throwing anything and everything into the mix. Read a history of the Medicis? Add some of that! Learn some facts about dentistry in the Ottoman Empire? Why not?! As a result, The Enchantress of Florence is a convoluted, bloated, and unfocused mess of a novel.

The story is outwardly quite simple. A strange European makes his way into the court of the Mughal king Akbar, claiming to be an emissary from Queen Elizabeth I. There are some oddities about the stranger's story, however, and as his story unfolds questions are raised about who he really is.

The stranger then makes the most startling claim of all: that he is connected by blood to the king. His claims set the king's harem, in particular, to recovering lost memories of a forgotten princess who, along with her servant double, had been taken as a prisoner to Florence. There, the princess had become the "Enchantress of Florence," a beauty like no other. The stranger's tale also tells the story of the male side of his Florentine ancestry, which includes tales involving the Medici family and the life of Machiavelli.

One of the recurrent features of Rushdie's fiction is his use of doubles. The princess has her beautiful servant, for example, and there are so many other Doppelgangers and foils scattered through the story that it is quite impossible to follow, let alone summarize. There are also symbolic characters like The Palace of Memory, a woman so mistreated that she roams around her own shattered mind as if it is an internal palace. There also ridiculous events in the novel, such as when all the women in the city walk around naked in order to overcome their mutual enmities.

Rushdie is far too enamored with the idea that blurring the line between reality and imagination is not an inherently interesting literary device. Such novels require discipline and careful storytelling, otherwise they quickly become boring and pretentious. There is also the problem of Rushdie's sexual politics, which are just so embarrassingly misogynistic. I realize this is a historical novel, but Rushdie seems to delight in portraying women who are objects of pure, unadulterated fantasy.

Overall, I found The Enchantress of Florence to be a convoluted mess, a novel unworthy of a writer who has been repeatedly praised as one of the best of his generation. Maybe the spell only works on others, because I have yet to feel Rushdie's work on me in any way. ( )
  vernaye | May 23, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 123 (next | show all)
“The Enchantress of Florence” is so pious — especially in its impiety — so pleased with itself and so besotted with the sound of its own voice that even the tritest fancies get a free pass.
 
Salman Rushdie’s new novel, “The Enchantress of Florence,” reads less like a novel by the author of such magical works as “Midnight’s Children” and “The Moor’s Last Sigh” than a weary, predictable parody of something by John Barth.
 
The essential compatibility of the realistic and the fantastic imagination may explain the success of Rushdie's sumptuous, impetuous mixture of history with fable. But in the end, of course, it is the hand of the master artist, past all explanation, that gives this book its glamour and power, its humour and shock, its verve, its glory. It is a wonderful tale, full of follies and enchantments.
added by mikeg2 | editThe Guardian, Ursula K Le Guin (Mar 29, 2008)
 

» Add other authors (10 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Rushdie, Salmanprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bamji, FirdousNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Häilä, ArtoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Santen, Karina vanTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Vosmaer, MartineTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
"Her way of moving was no mortal thing/ but of angelic form: and her speech/ rang higher than a mere human voice.// A celestial spirit, a living sun/ was what I saw..." ~ Francesco Petrarca translated by A.S. Kline
"If there is a knower of tongues here, fetch him;/ There's a stranger in the city/ And he has many things to say." ~ Mirza Ghilab translated by Shamsur Rahman Faruqi
A few liberties have been taken with the historical record in the interests of the truth. (colophon on copyright/publication data page)
Dedication
To Bill Buford
First words
In the day's last light the glowing lake below the palace-city looked like a sea of molten gold.
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Information from the Dutch Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to your language.
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Wikipedia in English (1)

A tall, yellow-haired young European traveller calling himself "Mogor dell'Amore," the Mughal of Love, arrives at the court of the real Grand Mughal, the Emperor Akbar, with a tale to tell that begins to obsess the whole imperial capital. The stranger claims to be the child of a lost Mughal princess, the youngest sister of Akbar's grandfather Babar: Qara Köz, 'Lady Black Eyes', a great beauty believed to possess powers of enchantment and sorcery, who is taken captive first by an Uzbeg warlord, then by the Shah of Persia, and finally becomes the lover of a certain Argalia, a Florentine soldier of fortune, commander of the armies of the Ottoman Sultan. When Argalia returns home with his Mughal mistress the city is mesmerised by her presence, and much trouble ensues. But is Mogor's story true? And if so, then what happened to the lost princess? And if he's a liar, must he die?--From publisher description.

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Book description
Haiku summary
Started in Florence
Then to Muslim India
In the Renaissance
(pickupsticks)

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