A tall, yellow-haired young European traveler 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 ...
A tall, yellow-haired young European traveler 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 Koz, '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' - Niccolo 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?
How does one balance high expectations with an unbiased review? Rushdie's latest book is exemplary with superlative imagery and an awesome command of language and the (expected) inside jokes. It's a well researched (going by the bibliography) text that looks at the intersections of history between Mughal, Ottoman, Florentine and North American geographic areas during the Renaissance. it's an important juncture in history and Rushdie is adept at juggling numerous themes. However something seems to be missing from Rushdie's earlier work from the 1980's. The tricks and flourishes seem like we've seen them before and the text ends up as historical fiction...which is not bad; just far fetched (perhaps).
It's a problematic book for me because it raises so many uncertain responses. But maybe that's what good books are supposed to do?
Publishers Weekly, 2008-03-24 Renaissance Florence's artistic zenith and Mughal India's cultural summit--reached the following century, at Emperor Akbar's court in Sikri--are the twin beacons of Rushdie's ingenious latest, a dense but sparkling return to form. The connecting link between the two cities and epochs is the magically beautiful "hidden princess," Qara Kez, so gorgeous that her uncovered face makes battle-hardened warriors drop to their knees. Her story underlies the book's circuitous journey. A mysterious yellow-haired man in a multicolored coat steps off a rented bullock cart and walks into 16th-century Sikri: he speaks excellent Persian, has a stock of conjurer's tricks and claims to be Akbar's uncle. He carries with him a letter from Queen Elizabeth I, which he translates for Akbar with vast incorrectness. But it is the story of Akbar's great-aunt, Qara Kez, that the man (her putative son) has come to the court to tell. The tale dates to the time of Akbar's grandfather, Babar (Qara Kez's brother), and it involves her relationship with the Persian Shah. In the Shah's employ is Janissary general Nino Argalia, an Italian convert to Islam, whose own story takes the narrative to Renaissance Florence. Rushdie eventually presents an extended portrait of Florence through the eyes of Niccoli Machiavelli and Ago Vespucci, cousin of the more famous Amerigo. Rushdie's portrayal of Florence pales in comparison with his depiction of Mughal court society, but it brings Rushdie to his real fascination here: the multitudinous, capillary connections between East and West, a secret history of interchanges that's disguised by standard histories in which West "discovers" East. Along the novel's roundabout way, Qara Kez does seem more alive as a sexual obsession in the tales swapped by various men than as her own person. Genial Akbar, however, emerges as the most fascinating character in the book. Chuang Tzu tells of a man who dreams of being a butterfly and, on waking up, wonders whether he is now a butterfly dreaming he is a man. In Rushdie's version of the West and East, the two cultures take on a similar blended polarity in Akbar as he listens to the tales. Each culture becomes the dream of the other. (June) Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.
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