Salman Rushdie is the author of nine previous novels: Grimus; Midnight's Children (which was awarded the Booker Prize in 1981 and, in 1993, was judged to be the "Booker of Bookers," the best novel to have won that prize in its first twenty-five years); Shame (winner of the French Prix de Meilleur Livre Etranger); The Satanic Verses (winner of the Whitbread Prize for Best Novel); Haroun and the Sea of Stories (winner of the Writers Guild Award); The Moor's Last Sigh (winner of the Whitbread Prize for Best Novel); The Ground Beneath Her Feet (winner of the Eurasian section of the Commonwealth Prize); Fury (a New York Times Notable Book); and Shalimar the Clown (a Time Book of the Year). He is also the author of a book of stories, East, West, and three works of nonfiction- Imaginary Homelands, The Jaguar Smile, and The Wizard of Oz. He is co-editor of Mirrorwork, an anthology of contemporary Indian writing.
Much like Rushdie himself, the mysterious yellow-haired stranger we meet in the opening pages of this magical and haunting new novel is a teller of tales, "driven out of his door by stories of wonder." This young man, straddling the worlds of 16th-century Florence and Mughal India much as he stands astride a bullock cart and enters the emperor's domain in Sikri, is driven to this new land with a story that can either make him his fortune or cost him his life. Appearing before the Emperor Akbar, the young man presents himself as an emissary of Queen Elizabeth I. When Akbar challenges his identity, the storyteller begins to weave the dangerous tale of Qara Koz, the enchantress of Florence, whom he claims is his mother. Parading through this tale of two worlds are Niccoli Machiavelli and Amerigo Vespucci's cousin, Ago. Koz's power, like the power of many beautiful women in Rushdie's novels, is often realized through her relationships with the men in her life, so her story often becomes one-dimensional. Nevertheless, Rushdie's lushly evocative creation of the mysteries and intrigues of a medieval world and his enchanting and seductive stories captivate and transport us in ways reminiscent of his early novels like Midnight's Children and The Satanic Verses. Highly recommended.--Henry Carrigan, Evanston, IL Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.
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.
"A romance of beauty and power from Italy to India . . . so
delightful an homage to Renaissance magic and wonder."
-Michael Dirda, The Washington Post Book World
"This is 'history' jubilantly mixed with postmodernist
-Joyce Carol Oates, The New York Review of Books
"A baroque whirlwind of a narrative . . . [Rushdie helps] us escape from the present into a dreamlike past that ultimately makes us more aware of the dangers and illusions of our everyday lives."
-Alan Cheuse, Chicago Tribune "Brilliant . . . Rushdie's sumptuous mixture of history and fable is magnificent."
-Ursula K. Le Guin, The Guardian (London) "For Rushdie, as for the artists he writes about, the pen is a magician's wand. . . . One of his best [novels]."
-John Sutherland, Financial Times "[A] prodigious fever dream of a book."
-Lisa Shea, Elle "Beyond its magical razzle-dazzle lays a work of steely contemporary resonance, rich in slyly metafictional allusions."
-Hephzibah Anderson, Bloomberg News