The magnificent new novel by the winner of the 'Best of the Booker'.
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 Uzbek 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?
“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”
“Vintage Rushdie...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”
“Mesmerising, picaresque ... It is a boisterous tale piled high with sex and adventure and fantasy”
“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... a haul of stories, gathered with magpie glee, arranged to glitter”
“(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”
“My first desire on finishing it was to go back and re-read it. Like all of Rushdie's work, the playfulness, the passion, the erudition and the sensuousness go hand in hand. It's immensely rich and waiting to be unpacked on a whole number of levels...it's one of his best”
“With its richly sensual descriptions, larger-than-life characters and playful humour, Rushdie's latest contains much to delight his fans”
“Effervescent and bewitching”
“From the sea of stories our master fisherman has brought up two gleaming, intertwining prizes ... brilliant, fascinating, generous novel ... the essential compatibility of the realistic and the fantastic imagination may explain the success of Rushdie's sumptuous, impetuous mixture of history with fable. By in the end, of course, 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. We English-speakers have our own Aristo now, our Tasso, stolen out of India. Aren't we the lucky ones?”
Ursula le Guin, Guardian