The Enchantress of Florence

enchantress-of-florenceI invariably enjoy Salman Rushdie’s novels, largely for his deep, rich prose and his commitment to storytelling (even if he does sometimes seem to get carried away by the rich prose at the expense of the storytelling. The Enchantress of Florence is an ambitious novel, but of the kind that Rushdie seems to revel in and manage so well. It is an epic book, spanning generations, cultures amd continents and yet all contained within the single oral narrative of one man. A young, yellow-haired European traveller arrives at the court of Emperor Akbar, the Grand Mughal. There is mystery surrounding who the stranger is, but the story he tells is that he is the son of a lost Mughal princess, who travelled to Florence, enchanted the city, before being cast out as a sorceress and escaping to the New World. But there is doubt as to whether his story can be true – the story he brings with him echoes the stories of the princess told by the Mughals, but he is too young to be the son of the princess, who was born over one hunderd years previously and the events he relates are too fantastic to be believed.But it is this world of fantasy, fairy tale and myth that binds the different worlds together. As has come to be expected from a writer of Rusdie’s stature, it is a complex book that alludes to many things – the relationship between myth and reality, fantasy and history, life and storytelling. It is also a book that speaks of what happens when cultures meet, belief-systems collide and generations cross. It is, I found, also a remarkably honest book – it is sensuous, erotic, violent, at times sickening, but also lavish and elaborate, speaking, as ever, to the big issues of our own times.

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