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The Enchantress of Florence [Hardcover]

Salman Rushdie
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (46 customer reviews)

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Book Description

3 April 2008

A tall, yellow-haired young European traveller calling himself 'Mogor dell'Amore', the Mughal of Love, arrives at the court of the real Grand Mughal, the Emperor Akbar, with a tale to tell that begins to obsess the whole imperial capital. The stranger claims to be the child of a lost Mughal princess, the youngest sister of Akbar's grandfather Babar: Qara Köz, 'Lady Black Eyes', a great beauty believed to possess powers of enchantment and sorcery, who is taken captive first by an Uzbeg warlord, then by the Shah of Persia, and finally becomes the lover of a certain Argalia, a Florentine soldier of fortune, commander of the armies of the Ottoman Sultan. When Argalia returns home with his Mughal mistress the city is mesmerized by her presence, and much trouble ensues.

The Enchantress of Florence is the story of a woman attempting to command her own destiny in a man's world. It brings together two cities that barely know each other - the hedonistic Mughal capital, in which the brilliant emperor wrestles daily with questions of belief, desire and the treachery of sons, and the equally sensual Florentine world of powerful courtesans, humanist philosophy and inhuman torture, where Argalia's boyhood friend "il Machia" - Niccolò Machiavelli - is learning, the hard way, about the true brutality of power. These two worlds, so far apart, turn out to be uncannily alike, and the enchantments of women hold sway over them both.

But is Mogor's story true? And if so, then what happened to the lost princess? And if he's a liar, must he die?

Product details

  • Hardcover: 359 pages
  • Publisher: Jonathan Cape; 1st edition (3 April 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0224061631
  • ISBN-13: 978-0224061636
  • Product Dimensions: 3.4 x 16.5 x 24.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (46 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 406,057 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


'it is the hand of the master artist, past all explanation, that gives this book its glamour and its power, its humour and shock, its verve, its glory. It is a wonderful tale full of follies and enchantments. East meets west with a clash of cymbals and a burst of fireworks' -- Guardian Review

`(Rushdie) has a rare mastery of language, and when you read his work you cannot help but feel you are in the company of a mighty intelligence...Salman Rushdie is undoubtedly one of our greatest storytellers' -- The Daily Herald

`For Rushdie, as for the artists he writes about, the pen is a magician's wand. There is more magic than realism in this latest novel. But it is, I think, one of his best. If The Enchantress of Florence doesn't win this year's Man Booker I'll curry my proof copy and eat it' -- Financial Times Magazine

`Rushdie is the master of spinning threads across cultures, time and place' -- Psychologies

`SALMAN RUSHDIE'S new novel is a hall of mirrors. They distort and flatter, and above all, like those mirrors set by exits onto dangerous roads, they reveal what is hidden. Two great civilisations, the Moghul empire of Jalalluddin Muhammed Akbar, and the Florence of the Medicis and of Machiavelli, reflect on each other while they are linked by a series of fairytale improbabilities... It's a haul of stories, gathered with magpie glee, arranged to glitter. Self-consciousness is one of the book's main purposes. Rushdie keeps coming back to his reflections on the nature of story itself, and the way in which a human being understands himself and his dilemma through story... Rushdie brilliantly describes the imprisonment and torture of Machiavelli, and the influence of the dungeon on Machiavelli's ideas.... The Enchantress is not really about Qara Köz, or Simonetta Vespucci, or any other fabulous beauty. For all its proliferating surface dazzle, this is a book with few illusions. One after another the stories drop like masks. The solitude, harshness and illogicality of human life are accepted almost casually, without surprise' -- The Times

`The Enchantress of Florence is vintage Rushdie and reminds us, in case we may have forgotten, that he can tell a story across East and West better than anyone else in the language' -- Sunday Telegraph

`This is a rich feast of a book... richly imagined' -- The Scotsman

`carefully wrought and often exquisite' -- The Economist

`mesmerising, picaresque... It is a boisterous tale piled high with sex and adventure and fantasy'
-- Tatler

`it braids love, magic and the storyteller's teasing art into a yarn as rich as any he has spun'
-- Independent


`A less playful writer would get bogged down in this rich mix...but it is Rushdie's hands.'
--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Opulent feast of a read 14 Aug 2008
Salman Rushdie, unfortunately still seen by many as the scandal writer of "The Satanic Verses" only, has with his new book given us readers again a magnificent novel. "The Enchantress of Florence" is a beautiful and opulent reading feast. Considering that one of the books characters is Niccolo Machiavelli (1469-1527), the main time of this novel is the end of the 15th and beginning of the 16th century. A novel, which skilfully plays with the idea of "1001 Nights and Scheherazade", giving the story-telling role to a young european traveller, yellow haired, calling himself the "Mogor dell'Amore" and claiming to be the child of the lost Mughal princess Qara Koz. He tells his story to the feared Emperor Mughal Akbar, of course knowing that belief or disbelief will decide his fate. Salman Rushdie has written a (sometimes rather frivolous) fable, a wonderful book about love, trust, treachery, enchantment, the art of story-telling and the story of Lady Black Eyes. A tale of many voices, all perfectly united in one whole by Salman Rushdie, who has herewith delivered what I guess is maybe his best novel to date.
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71 of 77 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Back on form 30 April 2008
As an avid Rushdie fan, I was deeply disappointed with "The Ground Beneath Her Feet" - a jarring mis-step - and was not totally enthralled by "Shalimar the Clown". However, Enchantress is a return to form for an author I genuinely regard as without peer amongst his generation.

What makes Rushdie so great? His use of language is simply staggering. He can construct the most dizzying, dense and multi-dimensional sentences. His prose is certainly convoluted, but it is not at the expense of the story. Far from that, the narrator is often as beguiling a character as any of the main protagonists. If you love the English language, history, theology, philosophy, etymology, art... in fact, anything which might pique a curious mind, Rushdie offers a cocktail of wonderment for the senses.

I see no reason to explain the premise or the storyline - you can read that in Amazon's description, and equally, it is only half the reason to read this novel and is, as always with Rushdie's work, an allegory for deeper philosophical and geo-political theses.

Rushdie's books are something of a challenge to read - his prose is not light and economical - but the challenge is well-worth taking. Nothing good ever comes easy. This is such an enjoyable book - I hope it's a lasting return to form.
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24 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a must read 19 Jun 2008
By tregatt
Years ago (more than I'd like to think about), one of my tutors recommended that I read Salman Rushdie's "Haroun and the Sea of Stories." I tried to finish the novel but have to confess that I didn't. I probably lacked the sophistication back then to appreciate the exquisite prose style and painstaking craftsmanship that went into creating that award winning novel. And truthfully speaking I rather thought that Salman Rushdie was going to be one of the many winning authours that would never make to my reading pile. But something about "The Enchantress of Florence" beckoned, and I decided to give it a go. And I'm truly glad that I did. What an exceptionally enthralling and compelling read "The Enchantress of Florence" turned out to be.

The Mughal Emperor, Akbar, is ready for a diversion away from the woes of family and ruling a vast nation, when a mysterious yellow-haired stranger arrives at his court in Fatepur Sikri, claiming to be an ambassador from England. The stranger has many tales to tell about the distant European city of Florence, and the enchantress from the East that enraptured the people of Florence with her beauty and grace, and soon everyone in Sikri is enthralled by the young storyteller's tales. But will these stories prove the undoing of the court, and will Akbar's growing affection for the storyteller cause even more strife amongst his family?

When I was a child, my mother used to subscribe to an Indian magazine for women that had recipes, articles, sewing tips and vignettes about Akbar and his wise advisor Birbal. Reading "The Enchantress of Florence" transported me back to those wonderful carefree days.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A novel about imagination 30 July 2008
By Sonia
Imagine a king, a foreigner, a lost princess and a queen who does not really exist but has a mind of her own, and talks, makes love and has her own servants. The latest novel by Salman Rushdie, which I believe to be one of the greatest author of our time, is full of enchantment, stories, and imagination.
This is once again a complex novel by Rushdie, and I believe that I need to read it again to fully comprehend the meaning hiding between the lines. At this point I would say it is an ode to imagination. Rushdie shows that imagination helps us see beyond the borders and what is directly in front of us. It can even bring people to life, such as King Akbar's imaginary wife Jodha, and it can bring us wisdom and tolerance of other worlds. Too much imagination, however, may cause us to lose all touch with reality.
What also stands out in this novel is the issue of religion. Not so much a religion in particular, but religion in general. Rushdie seems to critique monotheism as detrimental to one's imagination, as well as polytheism as imagination run amok.

I give it a tentative 4 stars because the language was once again amazingly beautiful, but I'm not fully convinced I like this novel. It is too Arabian nights for my taste, that is to say, full of princes and kings, giants and warriors, jealous queens and princesses, enchanted pictures and omens, castles and dungeons, etc., etc. While some readers might feel that this adds value to the novel I can't help but feeling it is a bit cliché. Because even though Rushdie is an icon of magical realism, I believe his previous books have a magical quality that has evolved far beyond that of Arabian nights.
But I'm still willing to believe that if I read it again I might appreciate it better.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars You simply shouldn't rush a Rushdie
I read it twice and may read it again, and possibly once more. I have had to do that with another of his books. Read more
Published 11 days ago by abbas virji
5.0 out of 5 stars A joy to read
This was the second book I have read by Salman Rushdie (the other being Haroun and the Sea of Stories).
It is a book to treasure. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Zen Kite
2.0 out of 5 stars Don't judge a book on its cover.
I had this book lying around for a few years before I committed myself to reading it. I say committed, because I did try reading when it arrived but I wasn't gripped. Read more
Published 10 months ago by one a day
5.0 out of 5 stars World-encompassing
I love all of Rushdie's books, but this one most of all, for its poetry, philosophy and magic. Such a tale of adventure, love and deceit, story-telling at its best. Read more
Published 14 months ago by Sabine Woods
5.0 out of 5 stars A great read
Rushdie's use of language is superb. This is a great story and one which leaves you feeling you've experienced something special. Read more
Published 19 months ago by Vincent D
4.0 out of 5 stars A Weaver of Tales

I have not read very much Rushdie and I was not sure what I would make of this book. Going by the reviews it seems to divide opinion, but I loved it. Read more
Published 19 months ago by Zoe Brooks
3.0 out of 5 stars Orgasm, arousal, attraction, beauty, redemption, loss, pain,...
Few stories end with six pages of bibliography. So why does this one? Rushdie weaves an allegorical tale onto historical hooks ranging from Genoa and Florence to Mughal Delhi, via... Read more
Published 20 months ago by Milo di Thernan
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic escapism!
This was a book club book and it proves what I love about book clubs, that you try books you never thought you would like and you absolutely love them. This is the case here. Read more
Published 22 months ago by maryscot0509
5.0 out of 5 stars Utterly brilliant
I'd never read any Rushdie before this, but certainly will again. This is a complex but highly readable novel with a cast of characters that includes the Medici, Savonarola,... Read more
Published on 14 Mar 2012 by daisyrock
3.0 out of 5 stars Drowning in detail
I can see why people like Rushdie's fiction. This novel is a feast of meticulous research, a tapestry of people and places, a kaleidoscope of magic and enchantment all held... Read more
Published on 24 Jan 2012 by LittleMoon
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