You remember him...the one who wrote The Satanic Verses
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
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.