Salman Rushdie, The Enchantress of Florence
2008 | Label: Recorded Books
One of the literary world’s most prestigious figures delivers a gleeful swashbuckler
Sir Salman Rushdie spent the nearly three decades since publishing Midnight’s Children winning just about every literary award that a living author can collect. Now, in The Enchantress of Florence, he has delivered a tale that — its sumptuous field of historical allusions aside — actually seems designed for pleasure. It is an unabashedly heroic, swashbuckling tale infused with all the sensuality and richness of Indian, Ottoman, and Italian culture.
The storyteller is a Florentine rogue who arrives in the capital of the Mogul empire in Hindustan after a brief ocean voyage that entailed dosing the ship’s captain with laudanum, then robbing him blind. Posing as Queen Elizabeth’s emissary to the Mogul court, the Italian trickster charms his way into Emperor Akbar’s inner circle, then announces unceremoniously that he has a story to tell — and a secret that may change the emperor’s world forever. Spanning continents, traipsing casually through a number of languages (pronounced with admirable gusto and accuracy by Firdous Bamji), and encompassing historical figures like Machiavelli, Amerigo Vespucci and warlords galore, The Enchantress of Florence gleefully and fascinatingly cannibalizes all the history, Eastern and Western, that Rushdie can get his hands on. It’s a rousing, epic tale, a kitchen-sink romance that delights even when it meanders, and one of the most satisfying novels Rushdie has written in years.