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Literature / The Enchantress of Florence

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"In the beginning, there were three friends, Niccolò 'il Machia', Agostino Vespucci, and Antonino Argalia."
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The Enchantress of Florence (2008) is the ninth novel of Salman Rushdie, which mixes historical facts and fantastical elements without shame or mercy. It is mostly seen as a work of Magic Realism, but with quite a dose of fantasy element. Rushdie is particularly proud of the research he's done for the novel's writing, and attached half a dozen pages of references at the end of the book—not bad for a work of fiction.

At the heights of the Mughal Empire of India, a blond traveller with a strange overcoat and, seemingly, magical prowess, came to visit Akbar the Great with a secret only a king may hear. He claimed to be under the protection of the greatest enchantress in the world: the titular enchantres of Florence. Strange things happened along the way.


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The Echantress of Florence provides examples of:

  • Art Initiates Life:
    • Jodha, the Emperor's favourite queen, was apparently conjured up by him by sheer force of will. This is among the few moments in the story which is hard to interpret in non-magical terms.
    • Inverted with Dashwant, the imperial artist, who fell so madly in love with Qara Köz that he managed to transform himself into a painting.
  • Big Beautiful Woman: A prostitute in a whorehouse in Sikri, nicknamed "the Matress". People usually hire her along with her counterpart, the Skeleton, "to explore the extremes."
  • Blasphemous Boast: Possibly. The book noted that when he says "Allahu Akbar" (God is great/akbar) he could very well mean "Akbar is God."
  • Cuckold:
    • Everyone loves Marco Vespucci's wife, although it's unclear whether they ever bedded her. Being a nice, stupid lad that he was, Marco said such a beauty should be public property.
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    • Subverted by Praise-God Hawkins, which had departed so long from his beloved that he imagined daily that she had gone for another man back home.
  • Even the Girls Want Her: Several. Qara Köz and Simonetta to name two.
    "Simonetta possessed a pale, fair beauty so intense that no man could look at her without falling into a state of molten adoration, and nor could any woman."
  • Everybody Has Lots of Sex: The reopening of the brotherls after Girolamo Savonarola gets burnt is pretty much an endless orgy in Florence. Mughal India is not far behind either.
  • Fat and Skinny: The duo of whores frequented by the main character, one being named "Mattress" and the other "Skeleton".
Flowery Insults: Oh yes.
"Why don't you go and masturbate a diseased goat?"
  • Go Mad from the Revelation: Il Machia met a slave-girl which was transformed by potent hypnosis to be a "memory palace", a kind of exotic hard disk drive. He then attempted to restore the girl to a human state, but when she did, she remembered all the perils of her life and defenestrated herself.
  • Take That!: Rushdie doesn't have a history of good rapport with religious fundamentalists (The Satanic Verses and everything). There is one such character. Not very nice things happened.


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