Tuesday, 14 August 2012
The Enchantress Of Florence by Salman Rushdie
Of all the characters the best drawn is Akbar, who is a mass of contradictions, a bloody tyrant who meditates on the role of kingship, religion and identity. The yellow-haired Italian stranger is less well drawn with good reason because we are viewing him through Akbar's eyes and Akbar cannot tell whether the stranger's story is true or not and he and we never know. We are shown at the beginning of the book how ruthless the stranger can be in pursuing his own interests. Rushdie has been criticised by some readers as being anti-women in this book, defining women by their sexuality, as whores or sexual enchantresses. Although a feminist and a liker of strong women characters this aspect of the book did not bother me. Rushdie is accurately depicting the world of the Mughals and Renaissance Italy and the place of women in it. The enchantress of the title uses her sexual beauty and force of will to bind men to her. The book closes with her saying to Akbar, "And now, Shelter of the World, I am yours." And Akbar thinking "Until you're not, my Love. Until You're not" for the Enchantress had always moved on from one man to another as their power to protect her fails. The power of men is shown throughout the book to be fragile and short, even Akbar's great palace is brought to dust. Perhaps, one wonders, the only power that survives is that of the illusion of the perfect woman.