Copyright © Louise Bostock 2007-2013. Please give credit where credit is due.

Friday, 23 May 2008

Book Notes No. 7 : The Enchantress of Florence, Salman Rushdie

Twenty-four degrees at 10am. Bright sunshine, and warm enough to take a pavement table for AJ's Friday caffe' breakfast. But I think the rain clouds have not gone but are hiding round a corner, sniggering as we all put away our sou'westers and wellies. They'll be back!

Now.

Salman Rushdie.

You remember him...the one who wrote The Satanic Verses, acquired the rarest of all literary honours, a fatwa, and was subsequently in hiding for nine years (where he managed to lose one wife, gain another and make a baby...interesting place, Hiding).

Salman Rushdie KBE. Salman Rushdie, the man with no less than eight honorary doctorates. Salman Rushdie, an honorary professor in humanities at MIT, and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.

Salman Rushdie. Britain's answer to Umberto Eco (perhaps?).

The The Enchantress of Florence is a book whose main theme is storytelling. The various tellers weave their tales from the Florence of the Renaissance to the capital of the Mughal empire. It is a book about the ability to bring into being events and characters simply through the power of storytelling. And conversely about how past events and characters can be changed as their stories are told and retold, shaped and then reshaped.

The central character is a woman, the enchantress of the title. As her story is told at court it begins to suffuse the whole of the emperor's capital city, just as in the story itself she enchants Florence with her presence.

Or perhaps the central character is the Mogol d'Amore, the mysterious teller of the tale. Or perhaps it is Akbar the Great, the person to whom the story is being told, and a man who understands the power of the imagination to create. Or perhaps it is Rushdie, who is telling everybody's story, criss-crossing expertly from East to West as has been his wont in other of his works.

I was captivated by this book, I have to say (although I see the literary reviews were mixed). Rushdie's language is rich and seductive. Much of his subject matter is exotic or erotic or both. And his storylines for the most part hold together in a cohesive whole, offering illuminating parallels and reflections, echoes and interjections. At some point I came to the realisation that the enchantress had a lot in common with Diana, Princess of Wales (even down to her being named the "people's princess"), and this added further depth to Rushdie's insights into the nature of storytelling and its connection, perhaps, with the creation and demise of 'characters' in today's mass media.

When The Satanic Verses hit the headlines back in 1989, many people splashed out on a hardback edition for their coffee tables, but it seemed to me that very few actually read it. I was always glad that I did read it, and I'm glad I have read The Enchantress of Florence. It was a literary feast and an education, if not quite (we hope) such a political and religious sensation.

2 comments:

Gypsy at Heart said...

Louise, have you read Haroun and the sea of stories? It sounds a bit like the Enchantress sans the eroticism. I'll go get it. If you endorse it that is enough for me. I've noticed you are reading Versos del Capitan by Neruda. Such beauty there Louise. Is it new to you? I could recommend more by Latin American poets if you wish...

How are you doing? Is your mother still there? I have the hardest time accessing your comments page. Quite surprised I managed to get in today. Return next week and I'll catch up with you then.

Cairo Typ0 said...

I found this from your "best of the year" posts. I was excited to read your review as i bought a copy of this book when it came out. Sadly it keeps finding its way to teh bottom of my TBR pile due to its annoying hardcover-ness. (They're harder to curl up with.) But now i'm thinking of taking this with me on vacation tomorrow. Thanks!! :)

Friday, 23 May 2008

Book Notes No. 7 : The Enchantress of Florence, Salman Rushdie

Twenty-four degrees at 10am. Bright sunshine, and warm enough to take a pavement table for AJ's Friday caffe' breakfast. But I think the rain clouds have not gone but are hiding round a corner, sniggering as we all put away our sou'westers and wellies. They'll be back!

Now.

Salman Rushdie.

You remember him...the one who wrote The Satanic Verses, acquired the rarest of all literary honours, a fatwa, and was subsequently in hiding for nine years (where he managed to lose one wife, gain another and make a baby...interesting place, Hiding).

Salman Rushdie KBE. Salman Rushdie, the man with no less than eight honorary doctorates. Salman Rushdie, an honorary professor in humanities at MIT, and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.

Salman Rushdie. Britain's answer to Umberto Eco (perhaps?).

The The Enchantress of Florence is a book whose main theme is storytelling. The various tellers weave their tales from the Florence of the Renaissance to the capital of the Mughal empire. It is a book about the ability to bring into being events and characters simply through the power of storytelling. And conversely about how past events and characters can be changed as their stories are told and retold, shaped and then reshaped.

The central character is a woman, the enchantress of the title. As her story is told at court it begins to suffuse the whole of the emperor's capital city, just as in the story itself she enchants Florence with her presence.

Or perhaps the central character is the Mogol d'Amore, the mysterious teller of the tale. Or perhaps it is Akbar the Great, the person to whom the story is being told, and a man who understands the power of the imagination to create. Or perhaps it is Rushdie, who is telling everybody's story, criss-crossing expertly from East to West as has been his wont in other of his works.

I was captivated by this book, I have to say (although I see the literary reviews were mixed). Rushdie's language is rich and seductive. Much of his subject matter is exotic or erotic or both. And his storylines for the most part hold together in a cohesive whole, offering illuminating parallels and reflections, echoes and interjections. At some point I came to the realisation that the enchantress had a lot in common with Diana, Princess of Wales (even down to her being named the "people's princess"), and this added further depth to Rushdie's insights into the nature of storytelling and its connection, perhaps, with the creation and demise of 'characters' in today's mass media.

When The Satanic Verses hit the headlines back in 1989, many people splashed out on a hardback edition for their coffee tables, but it seemed to me that very few actually read it. I was always glad that I did read it, and I'm glad I have read The Enchantress of Florence. It was a literary feast and an education, if not quite (we hope) such a political and religious sensation.

2 comments:

Gypsy at Heart said...

Louise, have you read Haroun and the sea of stories? It sounds a bit like the Enchantress sans the eroticism. I'll go get it. If you endorse it that is enough for me. I've noticed you are reading Versos del Capitan by Neruda. Such beauty there Louise. Is it new to you? I could recommend more by Latin American poets if you wish...

How are you doing? Is your mother still there? I have the hardest time accessing your comments page. Quite surprised I managed to get in today. Return next week and I'll catch up with you then.

Cairo Typ0 said...

I found this from your "best of the year" posts. I was excited to read your review as i bought a copy of this book when it came out. Sadly it keeps finding its way to teh bottom of my TBR pile due to its annoying hardcover-ness. (They're harder to curl up with.) But now i'm thinking of taking this with me on vacation tomorrow. Thanks!! :)