A tall, yellow-haired, young European traveler calling himself Mogor dellAmore, 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.
The Enchantress of Florence is the story of a woman attempting to command her own destiny in a mans world. It is the story of two cities, unknown to each other, at the height of their powersthe hedonistic Mughal capital, in which the brilliant 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.
Vivid, gripping, irreverent, bawdy, profoundly moving, and completely absorbing, The Enchantress of Florence is a dazzling book full of wonders by one of the worlds most important living writers.
In the days last light the glowing lake
In the days 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 - 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 ...
Rushdie's larger points that literature (storytelling) should be the agent for understanding and that people are essentially the same is well heard and, after 500 pages, well-explained, but the novel contemplates little else. The plot circulates around itself, and though some scenes (sections in Italy and Akbar's palace come to mind) are lucid and engaging, the nonlinear sections are so frequent and so confusing that they undermine any brilliance the clearer narrative sections possess. One finds oneself anxiously looking forwards and backwards in the narrative for a point of reference; and the slog is difficult. There are clear, beautiful moments to be found; and some of the characters, The Enchantress for one, jump off the page. Yet, the plot and the connection between the characters is unclear. By the end, it seems that the novels objective is simply to confuse, providing neither the benefit of a satisfying conclusion or the key to the central riddle.
Overall, there are some brilliant moments and those fond of Rushdie's earlier works might be interested in wading into this one. (Reviewed by Sarah Sacha Dollacker).
Full Review (461 words).
Akbar the Great
Salman Rushdie did a tremendous amount of research before writing The Enchantress of Florence, as evidenced by its six-page bibliography. Many of the characters are drawn from history, the most interesting and prominent being Akbar the Great.
As in the book, Akbar the Great was known to be a wise and benevolent ruler. He ruled the Mughal Empire (map), founded by his grandfather, from 1556 to 1605, taking the throne at just 13 years of age. He was ...
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