Thursday, November 13, 2008

The Enchantress of Florence

A giant of world culture, a literary colossus, is in Edmonton tonight. Salman Rushdie opens the U of A's first ever Festival of Ideas with an appearance at the Winspear Centre at 7 pm. Even better, Rushdie will be in conversation on stage with Eleanor Wachtel, surely the best in the world at the literary interview (Kazuo Ishiguro agrees: "Eleanor Wachtel is one of the very finest interviewers of authors I’ve come across anywhere in the world." Listen to some of her interviews via podcasts of her CBC Radio show, Writers and Company.)
Rushdie comes to town with a new novel, The Enchantress of Florence. In this fantastical historical tale a traveler from Italy arrives at the court of Emperor Akbar of the Mughal empire. The traveler entertains Akbar with a story about Akbar's great aunt, Qara Kz, the 'enchantress of Florence'. As with Rushdie's other novels, it is big, full of dazzling language and requires full commitment from the reader (yes, that's a nice way of saying it is complicated, perhaps convoluted, and isn't one of those books you can read a few pages of just before you fall asleep! The Library has a copy on unabridged CD audiobook - perhaps a good approach).
This new novel and really all Rushdie's later novels are published under a cloud - not the cloud from The Satanic Verses controversy - rather the cloud of the inevitable comparison to Midnight's Children. Rushdie's second novel was a game-changer, a novel for the ages, winning the Booker when it was published but then winning the "Booker of Bookers" in 1993 and "Best of the Bookers" in 2008. Any novel Rushdie publishes will come up short next to that.

Just last week it was revealed that Midnight's Children will join the list of "books that were considered unfilmable that are now being filmed". Canadian director Deepa Mehta will direct and will co-write the script with Rushdie.
Here's a selected bibliography of Rushdie's books. The Library has all the novels but Grimus at present.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for the detailed review of Rushdie's newest book! Too Shy to Stop writer Nehla just wrote a review too. You can read her review here.

8:12 a.m.  

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