The Enchantress of Florence

The Enchantress of Florence

by Salman Rushdie

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Overview

The Enchantress of Florence is the story of a mysterious woman, a great beauty believed to possess the powers of enchantment and sorcery, attempting to command her own destiny in a man’s world. It is the story of two cities at the height of their powers–the hedonistic Mughal capital, in which the brilliant emperor Akbar the Great wrestles daily with questions of belief, desire, and the treachery of his sons, and the equally sensual city of Florence during the High Renaissance, where Niccolò Machiavelli takes a starring role as he learns, the hard way, about the true brutality of power. Profoundly moving and completely absorbing, The Enchantress of Florence is a dazzling book full of wonders by one of the world’s most important living writers.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780679640516
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 01/06/2009
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 368
Sales rank: 300,896
Product dimensions: 8.02(w) x 5.26(h) x 0.77(d)

About the Author

Salman Rushdie is the author of nine previous novels: Grimus; Midnight’s Children (which was awarded the Booker Prize in 1981 and, in 1993, was judged to be the “Booker of Bookers,” the best novel to have won that prize in its first twenty-five years); Shame (winner of the French Prix de Meilleur Livre Etranger); The Satanic Verses (winner of the Whitbread Prize for Best Novel); Haroun and the Sea of Stories (winner of the Writers Guild Award); The Moor’s Last Sigh (winner of the Whitbread Prize for Best Novel); The Ground Beneath Her Feet (winner of the Eurasian section of the Commonwealth Prize); Fury (a New York Times Notable Book); and Shalimar the Clown (a Time Book of the Year). He is also the author of a book of stories, East, West, and three works of nonfiction– Imaginary Homelands, The Jaguar Smile, and The Wizard of Oz. He is co-editor of Mirrorwork, an anthology of contemporary Indian writing.

Hometown:

New York, New York

Date of Birth:

June 19, 1947

Place of Birth:

Bombay, Maharashtra, India

Education:

M.A. in History, King's College, University of Cambridge

Read an Excerpt

The Enchantress of Florence by Salman Rushdie
Chapter 1
In the day’s last light the glowing lake

In the day’s last light the glowing lake below the palace-city looked like a sea of molten gold. A traveler coming this way at sunset –this traveler, coming this way, now, along the lakeshore road–might believe himself to be approaching the throne of a monarch so fabulously wealthy that he could allow a portion of his treasure to be poured into a giant hollow in the earth to dazzle and awe his guests. And as big as the lake of gold was, it must be only a drop drawn from the sea of the larger fortune–the traveler’s imagination could not begin to grasp the size of that mother-ocean! Nor were there guards at the golden water’s edge; was the king so generous, then, that he allowed all his subjects, and perhaps even strangers and visitors like the traveler himself, without hindrance to draw up liquid bounty from the lake? That would indeed be a prince among men, a veritable Prester John, whose lost kingdom of song and fable contained impossible wonders. Perhaps (the traveler surmised) the fountain of eternal youth lay within the city walls–perhaps even the legendary doorway to Paradise on Earth was somewhere close at hand? But then the sun fell below the horizon, the gold sank beneath the water’s surface, and was lost. Mermaids and serpents would guard it until the return of daylight. Until then, water itself would be the only treasure on offer, a gift the thirsty traveler gratefully accepted.

The stranger rode in a bullock-cart, but instead of being seated on the rough cushions therein he stood up like a god, holding on to the rail of the cart’s latticework wooden frame with one insouciant hand. A bullock-cart ride was far from smooth, the two-wheeled cart tossing and jerking to the rhythm of the animal’s hoofs, and subject, too, to the vagaries of the highway beneath its wheels. A standing man might easily fall and break his neck. Nevertheless the traveler stood, looking careless and content. The driver had long ago given up shouting at him, at first taking the foreigner for a fool–if he wanted to die on the road, let him do so, for no man in this country would be sorry! Quickly, however, the driver’s scorn had given way to a grudging admiration. The man might indeed be foolish, one could go so far as to say that he had a fool’s overly pretty face and wore a fool’s unsuitable clothes–a coat of colored leather lozenges, in such heat!–but his balance was immaculate, to be wondered at. The bullock plodded forward, the cart’s wheels hit potholes and rocks, yet the standing man barely swayed, and managed, somehow, to be graceful. A graceful fool, the driver thought, or perhaps no fool at all. Perhaps someone to be reckoned with. If he had a fault, it was that of ostentation, of seeking to be not only himself but a performance of himself as well, and, the driver thought, around here everybody is a little bit that way too, so maybe this man is not so foreign to us after all. When the passenger mentioned his thirst the driver found himself going to the water’s edge to fetch the fellow a drink in a cup made of a hollowed and varnished gourd, and holding it up for the stranger to take, for all the world as if he were an aristocrat worthy of service.

"You just stand there like a grandee and I jump and scurry at your bidding," the driver said, frowning. "I don’t know why I’m treating you so well. Who gave you the right to command me? What are you, anyway? Not a nobleman, that’s for sure, or you wouldn’t be in this cart. And yet you have airs about you. So you’re probably some kind of a rogue." The other drank deeply from the gourd. The water ran down from the edges of his mouth and hung on his shaven chin like a liquid beard. At length he handed back the empty gourd, gave a sigh of satisfaction, and wiped the beard away. "What am I?" he said, as if speaking to himself, but using the driver’s own language. "I’m a man with a secret, that’s what–a secret which only the emperor’s ears may hear." The driver felt reassured: the fellow was a fool after all. There was no need to treat him with respect. "Keep your secret," he said. "Secrets are for children, and spies." The stranger got down from the cart outside the caravanserai, where all journeys ended and began. He was surprisingly tall and carried a carpetbag. "And for sorcerers," he told the driver of the bullock-cart. "And for lovers too. And kings."

In the caravanserai all was bustle and hum. Animals were cared for, horses, camels, bullocks, asses, goats, while other, untamable animals ran wild: screechy monkeys, dogs that were no man’s pets. Shrieking parrots exploded like green fireworks in the sky. Blacksmiths were at work, and carpenters, and in chandleries on all four sides of the enormous square men planned their journeys, stocking up on groceries, candles, oil, soap, and ropes. Turbaned coolies in red shirts and dhotis ran ceaselessly hither and yon with bundles of improbable size and weight upon their heads. There was, in general, much loading and unloading of goods. Beds for the night were to be cheaply had here, wood-frame rope beds covered with spiky horsehair mattresses, standing in military ranks upon the roofs of the single-story buildings surrounding the enormous courtyard of the caravanserai, beds where a man might lie and look up at the heavens and imagine himself divine. Beyond, to the west, lay the murmuring camps of the emperor’s regiments, lately returned from the wars. The army was not permitted to enter the zone of the palaces but had to stay here at the foot of the royal hill. An unemployed army, recently home from battle, was to be treated with caution. The stranger thought of ancient Rome. An emperor trusted no soldiers except his praetorian guard. The traveler knew that the question of trust was one he would have to answer convincingly. If he did not he would quickly die.

Not far from the caravanserai, a tower studded with elephant tusks marked the way to the palace gate. All elephants belonged to the emperor, and by spiking a tower with their teeth he was demonstrating his power. Beware! the tower said. You are entering the realm of the Elephant King, a sovereign so rich in pachyderms that he can waste the gnashers of a thousand of the beasts just to decorate me. In the tower’s display of might the traveler recognized the same quality of flamboyance that burned upon his own forehead like a flame, or a mark of the Devil; but the maker of the tower had transformed into strength that quality which, in the traveler, was often seen as a weakness. Is power the only justification for an extrovert personality? the traveler asked himself, and could not answer, but found himself hoping that beauty might be another such excuse, for he was certainly beautiful, and knew that his looks had a power of their own.

Beyond the tower of the teeth stood a great well and above it a mass of incomprehensibly complex waterworks machinery that served the many-cupolaed palace on the hill. Without water we are nothing, the traveler thought. Even an emperor, denied water, would swiftly turn to dust. Water is the real monarch and we are all its slaves. Once at home in Florence he had met a man who could make water disappear. The conjuror filled a jug to the brim, muttered magic words, turned the jug over and, instead of liquid, fabric spilled forth, a torrent of colored silken scarves. It was a trick, of course, and before that day was done he, the traveler, had coaxed the fellow’s secret out of him, and had hidden it among his own mysteries. He was a man of many secrets, but only one was fit for a king.

The road to the city wall rose quickly up the hillside and as he rose with it he saw the size of the place at which he had arrived. Plainly it was one of the grand cities of the world, larger, it seemed to his eye, than Florence or Venice or Rome, larger than any town the traveler had ever seen. He had visited London once; it too was a lesser metropolis than this. As the light failed the city seemed to grow. Dense neighborhoods huddled outside the walls, muezzins called from their minarets, and in the distance he could see the lights of large estates. Fires began to burn in the twilight, like warnings. From the black bowl of the sky came the answering fires of the stars. As if the earth and the heavens were armies preparing for battle, he thought. As if their encampments lie quiet at night and await the war of the day to come. And in all these warrens of streets and in all those houses of the mighty, beyond, on the plains, there was not one man who had heard his name, not one who would readily believe the tale he had to tell. Yet he had to tell it. He had crossed the world to do so, and he would.

He walked with long strides and attracted many curious glances, on account of his yellow hair as well as his height, his long and admittedly dirty yellow hair flowing down around his face like the golden water of the lake. The path sloped upward past the tower of the teeth toward a stone gate upon which two elephants in bas- relief stood facing each other. Through this gate, which was open, came the noises of human beings at play, eating, drinking, carousing. There were soldiers on duty at the Hatyapul gate but their stances were relaxed. The real barriers lay ahead. This was a public place, a place for meetings, purchases, and pleasure. Men hurried past the traveler, driven by hungers and thirsts. On both sides of the flagstoned road between the outer gate and the inner were hostelries, saloons, food stalls, and hawkers of all kinds. Here was the eternal business of buying and being bought. Cloths, utensils, baubles, weapons, rum. The main market lay beyond the city’s lesser, southern gate. City dwellers shopped there and avoided this place, which was for ignorant newcomers who did not know the real price of things. This was the swindlers’ market, the thieves’ market, raucous, overpriced, contemptible. But tired travelers, not knowing the plan of the city, and reluctant, in any case, to walk all the way around the outer walls to the larger, fairer bazaar, had little option but to deal with the merchants by the elephant gate. Their needs were urgent and simple.

Live chickens, noisy with fear, hung upside down, fluttering, their feet tied together, awaiting the pot. For vegetarians there were other, more silent cook-pots; vegetables did not scream. And were those women’s voices the traveler could hear on the wind, ululating, teasing, enticing, laughing at unseen men? Were those women he scented upon the evening breeze? It was too late to go looking for the emperor tonight, in any case. The traveler had money in his pocket and had made a long, roundabout journey. This way was his way: to move toward his goal indirectly, with many detours and divagations. Since landing at Surat he had traveled by way of Burhanpur, Handia, Sironj, Narwar, Gwalior, and Dholpur to Agra, and from Agra to this, the new capital. Now he wanted the most comfortable bed that could be had, and a woman, preferably one without a mustache, and finally a quantity of the oblivion, the escape from self, that can never be found in a woman’s arms but only in good strong drink.

Later, when his desires had been satisfied, he slept in an odorous whorehouse, snoring lustily next to an insomniac tart, and dreamed. He could dream in seven languages: Italian, Spanish, Arabic, Persian, Russian, English, and Portuguese. He had picked up languages the way most sailors picked up diseases; languages were his gonorrhea, his syphilis, his scurvy, his ague, his plague. As soon as he fell asleep half the world started babbling in his brain, telling wondrous travelers’ tales. In this half-discovered world every day brought news of fresh enchantments. The visionary, revelatory dream-poetry of the quotidian had not yet been crushed by blinkered, prosy fact. Himself a teller of tales, he had been driven out of his door by stories of wonder, and by one in particular, a story which could make his fortune or else cost him his life.
Excerpted from The Enchantress of Florence by Salman Rushdie Copyright © 2008 by Salman Rushdie. Excerpted by permission of Random House, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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Enchantress of Florence 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 99 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I picked up this book on whim after I saw Rushdie on Colbert Report plugging The Enchantress of Florence. Im really glad I did because the book impressed me from start to finish. Vivid description blends history (which as the other reviewer said is heavily researched with an abridged and yet still extensive bibliography) with fable-- though the plot, and characters, even historical ones, are uniquely imagined with distinct personalities that are often bawdy, fun, and intelligent. Never read anything else by Rushdie before but if its even remotely like this I am sure that it must be great! Highly recommended for those interested in history, fairytales, and language. I read this in only a few sittings as its very difficult to put down!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I was shocked when I heard/read a synopsis after reading this book that, "The Enchantress of Florence is the story of a woman attempting to command her own destiny in a man’s world." However, after dwelling on it, I realized the difficulty I have with this statement is that the bulk of the story is told in a male voice and thus I question how can anyone say that the book is purely about a woman attempting to command her destiny when it isn't even in her own voice. While the original synopsis is correct as far as it goes ... I think a better synopsis is that it is a story from a man's perspective about a woman attempting to command her own destiny in a man's world. Which lead me to the thought that the men in this book (and maybe the author himself) are subconsciously fearful of empowered women and thus, the men in this book must explain their loss of control/power over this woman by describing her as an enchantress./seductress who sucked the life/power out of each of the men she came in contact with in this book. And in the end - it is all about each man realizing that he does not have control over all.
Guest More than 1 year ago
As a male, I found this book exceptionally enjoyable. As presented for our local book club to read within 3 weeks, I read it in a matter of hours over a few days. The breadth of material presented, including the characters & development, the scenery, and the adventures all culminated to form a great story ¿ fiction AND not. A fellow book friend and I talked about this one, and we both believe that there are some underlying current power struggles, relating to personal, religious & political gains, that Rushdie is communicating. We will be chewing on it for awhile¿ I highly recommend this book, if anything for escapism.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Rushdie¿s Enchantress of Florence is haunting and exquisite. Exceptional prose, delightfully readable. The story focuses on the fading boundary between fantasy and reality¿women from dreams become solid, men retreat into their paintings. Magic permeates the story as the novel challenges assumptions about what defines truth and even substance¿and suggests that if one cannot determine one¿s destiny, there is a finite ability to create one¿s reality. Imaginative and compelling.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have never done a review before, but honestly, Rushdie is a master, a literary genius. We read this for a book club I am in and we could have talked about it for hours -- all the layers of meaning, how the tale is told with such originality, all the ways it speaks to humanity! We are all now reading another book by him and I can't wait to talk about that one! Enjoy!
CR-Buell More than 1 year ago
The Enchantress of Florence is a novel worthy of Rushdie. That sounds redundant, but is probably the highest praise I could give a novel. This is novel of Mughal India and Renaissance Italy, of love and loss, betrayal and redemption. But more than anything this is a novel about the nature of power. With Akbar the Great and Niccolo Machiavelli in starring roles we explore the power of princes, and the right to rule. As we follow the life of Machiavelli from bright young thinker to bitter old man Rushdie draws us a historical picture of the events which likely influenced his brutal ideas on power. Meanwhile we are given a glimpse of the inner workings of Akbar the Great, dreamer and poet, who seems philosophically to be the antithesis of Machiavelli's "Prince"; a man who takes pride in his illustrious ancestry, while abhorring the bloody history of his illustrious ancestors. A man who will not hesitate to destroy those who challenge his power, yet mourns the need to do so. But in the end is philosophy enough? Is not a tyrant a tyrant, regardless of his ideology? While Akbar struggles with these questions, he (and we) are told the story of his great-aunt, the titular Enchantress, who has been erased from history for daring to follow her own path, for trying to exercise her own agency, trying to create her own power. The Enchantress of Florence is a wonderful novel (in every sense), and while it may not be quite so profound as some of Rushdie's other works, the language here really shines and the pure storytelling is unsurpassed. I don't recommend it as a starting point for Rushdie newbies, go with Midnight's Children or Shame, but those who are familiar with Rushdie will find everything they are looking for.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Although the narrative could be hard to follow at times, i enjoyed the book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Rushdie's incredible prose hardly does justice to the plot. Some of the characters, as well as the storyline, had such potential - the Sultan, his favorite wife, the Princess and the Mirror...but Rushdie never truly fully explored them, and instead ran a bit roughshod over a gem-in-the-rough story as the plot jumped forward and back in time. You'll want to keep reading just to try and figure out what's going on. The end was very interesting, fitting, I think. But I finished the read disappointed and with a headache. For a book set in the lush, colorful world of the past Middle East, India, etc., see below.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The author takes the current literary devices of '1' using different voices to tell his story and '2' going back and forth through time to such an extreme that they become thoroughly confusing and very irritating. I plowed through the book, hoping with each chapter that the next would be better, but it wasn't! None of the characters are fully drawn, and none are sympathetic or the least bit interesting.
Guest More than 1 year ago
his best work...impeccably researched, I a student of history, I know how well he portrays the time period. Beautiful use of mythological elements and tone. Prose is flowing and exotic. A must read!!!!
drriidurab on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
'The Hindustani storyteller always knows when he loses his audience (...). Because the audience simply gets up and leaves, or else it throws vegetables, or, if the audience is the king, it occasionally throws the storyteller headfirst off the city ramparts.' (p. 120) - I got up several times but always came back, bringing a new supply of vegetables, just in case. Wonderful passages of storytelling, yet somehow unfinished.
Laurenbdavis on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Rushdie is having a great deal of fun here, bit the problem is I suspect he had more fun writing it than I did reading it. Of course, Rushdie's a wonderful writer -- one can hardly dispute that -- but this is not the most wonderful of books, no matter how dazzling and lush and sense-drunk it is. The plot is spectacularly convoluted and I admit to not being able to follow all of it. I was often lost, wondering who the hell this character was and what name they were going by now, for certainly names do get changed a lot here. It's magical and poetic, and depicts times and places that probably never really existed outside fairy tales and opera stages, which is fine, but Rushdie seems SO pleased with himself at every turn of succulent phrase, that it felt more self-indulgent than truly wondrous. At this point in his career, Rushdie can perhaps be excused a little frolic for his own pleasure and certainly if you find yourself lolling about on silk cushions on a warm afternoon wishing to be lulled into an opium-like dream, there are worse choices for the reader.
lolablossom on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
What is better than Mughal India, especially when it includes an imaginary queen, forays to Renaissance Florence and a sorceress? This book only pushed me deeper in love with Rushdie.
the_awesome_opossum on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The Enchantress of Florence is very interesting and very different, but (like all of Rushdie's work) isn't for everyone. Imagine taking a fantastic fairy tale, and weaving it into a very dense, multi-layered tapestry of a narrative. That's what this book feels like.The reader arrives with an unnamed traveler into the Mughal Empire, to the court of Akbar the Great. He tells the emperor that he has traveled a very long way to tell him this story personally; the story he relates is of the power of the enchantress of Florence. Rushdie has said that he was fascinated by the shift in society's idea of women from being "witches" to being "enchantresses." There is a new fear and fascination with female sexuality when paired with their autonomy, and in this book, that is powerful enough to keep an entire city captivated. Rushdie does not generally champion feminism, but this is a provocative read as a feminist text, when the female characters take center stage and men are the ones relegated to the "second tier," as storyteller and audience.
novelcommentary on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A tall, yellow-haired, young European traveler calling himself ¿Mogor dell¿Amore,¿ the Mughal of Love, arrives at the court of the Emperor Akbar, lord of the great Mughal empire, with a tale to tell that begins to obsess the imperial capital, a tale about a mysterious woman, a great beauty believed to possess powers of enchantment and sorcery, and her impossible journey to the far-off city of Florence.That's the summary by Amazon which can only be used to get the slightest gllimpse of this story's narrative. This imaginative novel requires some work, but I found the fact checking to be part of the pleasure, seeing how Rushdie conneected known facts with magical realism to weave an assortment of stories into the narrative. At times I had my laptop opened to Google just so I could learn some of the history of the Mughal Empire, Akbar the Great and his nine stars; then in Florence the novel contained events about the de Medici family and Machiavelli, but in all these cases they are mostly just the framework for the narrative. We become more interested n those fictional characters who either tell the tale - Mogor dell Amor or the person they are about - usually a beautiful women - Qara Kos, or Simonetta or Allesandria. I heard an interview with Rushdie about the 10 years of research that went into the background building of this novel- it is an impressive testament to his preparation. This is the first novel I have read by the author but will definately be looking to pick up Midnight's children. That book was recently awarded the distiction of being the best of the Booker Prize selections.
amandajoy30 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book was weird. I think I misunderstood the synopsis on the back, but it definitely wasn¿t about what I thought. The fantasy part made it hard to understand what was going on when. I think this is one of those books you have to read twice to really get what was going on. The writing was very good, and the images that were painted in my mind at times were extremely vivid.
ruinedbyreading on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
It¿s a story where men can bring their dreams alive as well as escape into them. The story, including all the little details, is quite beautiful and I loved how it seemed like such a fairy tale.There were lots of little hidden jokes and meanings in the text. I'm sure that I didn't pick up on them all. For example, in the beginning, the Emperor fights the ruler of the kingdom of Kuch Nahin, which means "nothing". The Kingdom of Nothing. I also liked how he made the distinction between Jodha Bai and Mariam-uz-Zamani. Mariam was his real wife while Jodha Bai was a phantom. I interpret this to be Rushdie's way of pointing out how the historical figure which people call Jodha Bai was never Jodha Bai - the name was incorrectly given to Mariam-uz-Zamani much later and so this is why Jodha Bai is a fictional being while Mariam is very real.I didn't like the parts that took place in Italy. I thought they were a little boring and a little complicated. I mostly enjoyed the parts that took place in the Mughal Court.
ejm139 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Very highly recommend.
bfertig on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This was a zesty book. A yellow haired fair skinned man parades into the court of the Moghul Emperor with the claim that he is the emperors uncle. The story of his origins spans the entire known world, centering in Moghul India and Florence Italy with the focal point of CaraCuz, Lady Dark Eyes, the most beautiful enchanting princess the world has known and a cast of three loyal friends - Il Machia, Ago Vespucci, and Argalia the Turk.Beautifully written prose with epic and colorful details. Lots of fun tracing the characters heroics and paths as they criss-cross East/West.
ACQwoods on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I admit I was a bit intimidated by Salman Rushdie and expected his work to be dense and deeply philosophical. I was only partly right. I did have to focus on the read but it was a pleasure to dive into his long, swirling thoughts and richly embroidered descriptions. The power of love was at times magical in a way that reminded me of Gabriel Garcia Marquez or Laura Esquivel. The intricate story traverses hundreds of years throughout Asia and Europe and as such it can be hard to follow occasionally, but it's worth the work to unravel it.
bhenry11 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I really wanted to like this book. Rushdie is unlike any other writer; his descriptive magic realism is without peer and his stories are wholly original while remaining approachable and familiar. But what works in his earlier masterworks doesn't work here in Enchantress. The magical tendencies of the plot seem forced, as though Rushdie had two really great ideas and didn't quite know how to connect them.If this book wasn't the product of one of the best living writers of sumptuously descriptive fiction, I'd swear that the author paid a vanity press to print it.
weeksj10 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I'm a big fan of all of Rushdie's works which I have read, but this has got to be one of my favorites. It combines history, myth, and magic so well that after finishing the book I just wanted to learn more... turns out the history of it isn't nearly so exciting. All I can say is READ THIS BOOK!!! It's a masterpiece.
kaipakartik on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
An amazing book. This was the first book that I read by Rushdie and was not disappointed one bit. If anything the book exceeded my already high expectations. The book melds history and magic in an awe inspiring manner. In lesser hands the book might have turned out to be a disaster but Rushdie plays with time, characters and words effortlessly. A masterpiece to say the least. The characters stay with you long after you turn the last page. Amazingly each arc is self sufficient but all the arcs segue effortlessly into each otherLooking forward to read his other books.
RJoanna on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Magic, in his oriental mysticism. Interesting even it's historic references.
TheCriticalTimes on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
It's the first Salman Rushdie I've ever read and I had high hopes about finding a deep, meaningful and well thought out story in carefully crafted language. The opposite was true. From the first sentence of the novel you're wading in a pool of mellifluous language and are bathing in a bubbling bath of warmly poured narrative. I'm paraphrasing the type of content you will find. The choice of language neatly fits the story of the novel, in which we follow three childhood friends from Florence during the high renaissance. Each man approaches life in a very different way and we learn how each path comes with its own rewards and punishments. Throughout this ongoing rambling there is a cast of fairy tale-like characters that interweave with the main narrative. A Persian emperor contemplates his power and his many splendid wives. His wives contemplate the power of the emperor and his many splendid guests, one of which is a linguistic magician from Florence who turns out to be one of our fine adventurous friends.And then of course there is the enchantress of Florence, also the enchantress of the emperor, the enchantress of the three friends and in the end just as unenchanting and uninteresting as the rest of the people that inhabits Rushdie's world (I wonder if he wrote this after he was dumped by his supermodel wife). With this novel the author ironically falls into the same trap as many current Hollywood producers: if you go hyperbole on everything the box-office earnings will also be proportionally over the top. This might even work for the LA sharks but when it comes to a writer whom we expect to deliver amazing content, the result is rather disappointing. If you make the leading characters larger than life and spend every single sentence describing the amazing, tremendous, breathtaking, breath stopping, breath giving, life giving and most of all God/Goddess-like qualities of your protagonists, then if you want to make them seem human you will need to show an equally dark side. This Rushdie does not do and instead ends the novel by demurely describing how boring and ordinary everyone in his novel really is, something the reader has already figured out from the first page.I was so surprised by the strangely disappointing narrative and plot of this book that I started searching for other reviews. As it turns out mine is rather nice compared to other people who do not have many nice words to say (I'm thinking of the New York Times review) It is almost as if Rushdie is either tired of writing or so over-confident that he now thinks he can get away with using all the tropes we're told we should never be using in our own writing. Weeks after I finished the book I still remember a sentence from the New York Times review in which the reviewer wondered if there was still anyone who used sentences that described someone as having a 'silvery tongue'.