Thursday, April 15, 2010

The Enchantress of Florence

Title: The Enchantress of Florence
Author: Salman Rushdie
Publ: Jonathan Cape
ISBN: 978-0-224-06163-6

When I read Fury I felt it very un-Rushdie-like. More so, when you compare it with his books like Midnight's Children and The Satanic Verses which contain essentially nothing but an interesting and colourful jumble of words and ideas and don't seem to bother much about a proper structure or form for the plot itself. This book, The Enchantress of Florence is an amazing blend of the two styles of Rushdie. The story has a proper beginning and ending and has a very easy flow. It takes place between two geographies of the sixteenth century, namely the Mughal empire under Akbar and the Renaissance Florence. It is, as the author himself says and is also obvious from the book itself, Rushdie's book in the making of which he has done the most amount of research.

One fine morning, a yellow-haired Italian from Florence appears from the blue before Akbar's court and claims that he is a long-lost relative of the Mughal family, having descended from Qara Koz (the Enchantress). The story unfolds as you read on, and the suspense as to how could the two different people from two different corners of the globe, who are otherwise, i.e., in real history, far from being connected in any way, be possibly  related (blood realtion at that! (sort of)) is tightly held until last unlike many of Rushdie's novels, which makes it all the more a gorgeous read. One thing I found very different from other works of Rushdie, apart from other factors, is that it's not just the playful Rushdie all the way; one can spot Rushdie the philosopher in at least a few passages in this book, if not spread all over the place, requesting your company in his serious thoughts about love, ego and issues such as incest and troubles with relationships.

I was expecting that the story would be almost equally divided between Florence and Fatehpur Sikri, but the Florence part was found to take up more pages than the fabulous Sikri of Akbar. But I enjoyed the Indian part more than the Western narrative, probably because I could relate more to the Eastern history being from India myself than the tales of Florence of which I hardly know anything. But nevertheless no doubt this is a book of substance, and perhaps the most matured and most polished work of Rushdie so far, scrupulously chiselled to perfection. 

Valuable literature, indeed!

[Note: For a better understanding of the book, or the making of it, to be more precise, please read Rushdie's interview with James Mustich: Salman Rushdie Spins a Yarn in Barnes & Noble Review.]

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