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Thursday, August 1

The Enchantress of Florence by Salman Rushdie

Power in its various forms is much intoxicating and forever pursued. Of all shapes power materialises itself in, the power of good storytelling is mesmerising and nothing compares to a silver tongue with a good story to tell. Or how intriguing is a shrewd recounter of stories whose cunning words wrap kings around his little finger and win the hearts of mysterious beauties?

Salman Rushdie obviously knows business or, at least, is a master in the business of storytelling. The story of three boys from Florence in the age of Lorenzo de Medici- Il Machia, Ago Vespucci and Nino Argalia, the last of whom is an adventurer in the Orient- intertwines with the story of Akbar, the greatest of the Mughal emperors and two worlds are bound by the tale of  a "tall, yellow-haired young European traveller". The man in a coat of many leathered pieces claims to be Akbar's lost great-uncle and descendant of the most beautiful and powerful enchantress, the lost princess, Qara Köz. I love a good story that invites you to be part of a great adventure and makes you build yourself out of it. In an outstanding journey where East meets West and love conquers it all, Salman Rushdie clothes a beautiful fable in historical attire and uses subtle phrases to melt your heart. Every sentence is well-knit and feels like honey running through your fingers. For instance, when describing his native town, the traveller says: “Imagine a pair of women’s lips puckering for a kiss. That is the city of Florence...with the Arno flowing through between.” Then, there is this incredible mixture of magic and real life in some marvellous concepts: Qara Köz's slave becomes a "memory palace", a living statue comes to life in Italy and the story within the story structure offers the reader multiple layers and subplots bound in mysterious ways. According to Rushdie's traveller, the beauty of our world resides not in the differences but rather in the incredible stories that bring us closer: "Not that we are so different from one another, but that we are so alike."

This novel filled with powerful, magical women- witches, enchantresses, sorceresses- is Salman Rushdie's ode to femininity and the beauty that lies within every creature ever to have haunted man's dreams and loins. Some female characters are alive through the stories and paintings of other characters, an invention of their secret fantasies and hidden desires- Queen Jodha is Akbar's perfect lover, and Qara Köz, the Enchantress, is his mother's embodiment of beauty and magic. His subjects fear them and accept their presence among themselves as these mighty ghosts walk the royal venues. In this magical world, humans, spirits, mysterious creatures live only to share their stories and reinvent themselves.

Lev Tolstoy used to say that “All great literature is one of two stories; a man goes on a journey or a stranger comes to town.” In Salman Rushdie's The Enchantress of Florence great journeys and mysterious strangers join hands to create one exotic novel that will forever win your heart. Even though power is fleeting by nature, the power of great storytelling is forever alive in the thousands of tales that live and die in the minds and hearts of avid readers only to be born again.