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4.0 out of 5 stars Salman Rushdie - Sorcerer for The Enchantress of Florence, 2 Jun. 2008
This review is from: The Enchantress of Florence (Hardcover)
Who breathes life into whom in Salmon Rushdie's latest book, The Enchantress of Florence, the women or the men?
Who believes whom regarding passion, incest, protocol, deceit and corruptionin the sixteenth century?

The Indian princess known as Qara Kos is a descendent of Ghengis Kahn, Timor the Lame and then a few generations later is aunt to Akbar, great military emperor of peace. Her companion is known as the Mirror and both are called Angelica. Through travels and men in the late 1500's, they bring together two far away cities, Florence and Akbar's creation of Fathepur Sikri, capital of India , an hour from Agra, both sharing debauchery, controversial power, philosophy, consciousness of reason, loss, secrets embracing a world of courtesans, wives or fictitious lovers.

Rushdie casts a spell with highly inventive fiction based on carefully documented historical data to combine fact and fable. This reader wonders if he might have been inspired by the tradition of ancient Persian tales such as Alladin's Lamp from Tales of One Thousand Nights - such storytelling perhaps part of Rushdie's heritage to make him a sorcerer like some of his characters.

Florence is the backdrop for the youthful relationship of three male friends each who embark on different lives, which leads to the arrival of Qara Kos in Florence and later supposed offspring who then seeks out his relationship with his distant relative, Akbar, Shelter of the World, Elephant King. Fatehpur Sikri comes alive during its short fifteen-year existence. Time plays a curious role in the unfolding of events.

Where lies the mystery, magic and witchcraft when Akbar, a leader without knowledge to read, searches for answers by bringing to his court some of the greatest minds around the world? Water was crucial to the existence of Sikri fortress in the desert. Sophisticated systems for reservoirs and canals were devised -even today incomprehensible, how. Then the plug was pulled, water gone and the kingdom fell to its ruin. Akbar felt deceived though was it his visitor/distant relation whom he had deceived that broke him?

Unlike Rushdie's controversial Satanic Verses - a dense labyrinth of intellectualized ideas, not so easy to follow though an example a great mind at work - this narrative feels more resolved. Sensitivity and curiosity makes one think that the writer's own fascination with the story has conjured the magic of telling it.

Renaissance Florence is around every corner, all walks of life through much political unrest. For those that have visited the magnificent ruins of Fathepur Sikri or have not, the trials of Akbar's vision for tolerance and love soar beyond conventional barriers of poetic prose, one of Rushdie's signature feats.

Not without challenge to keep wanderings of the tale centered, a full circle intrigue of dynasties unfold with a terrific pace until the final sentence....... maintaining Rushdie as among the highly respected, multi-cultural writers of our time.
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Location: Vienna, Austria

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