The Enchantress of Florence

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The Enchantress of Florence
Enchantress of florence.jpg
Cover of the first edition
AuthorSalman Rushdie
CountryUnited Kingdom
PublisherRandom House
Publication date
April 11, 2008
Media typePrint (hardback)
Pages352 pp. (first edition, hardback)
ISBN0-375-50433-8 (first edition, hardback)
Preceded byShalimar the Clown 
Followed byTwo Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights 

The Enchantress of Florence is the ninth novel by Salman Rushdie, published in 2008.[1] According to Rushdie this is his "most researched book" which required "years and years of reading".[2]

The novel was published on 11 April 2008 by Jonathan Cape London, and in the United States by Random House.[3]

Plot outline[edit]

The central theme of The Enchantress of Florence is the visit of a European to the Mughal emperor Akbar's court and his claim that he is a long lost relative of Akbar, born of an exiled Indian princess and an Italian from Florence. The story moves between continents, the court of Akbar to Renaissance Florence mixing history, fantasy and fable.[2]

Part one[edit]

The tale of adventure begins in Fatehpur Sikri, the capital of Mughal emperor Akbar the Great, when a stranger arrives, having stowed away on a pirate ship captained by the Scottish Lord Hauksbank, and sets the Mughal court talking and looking back into its past.

Part two[edit]

The stranger begins to tell Akbar the tale, going back to the boyhood of three friends in Florence, Il Machia, Ago Vespucci and Nino Argalia, the last of whom became an adventurer in the East.

Part three[edit]

The tale returns to the mobs and clamour of Florence in the hands of the Medici dynasty.

An eight-page bibliography follows the end of the story.[4]

Major themes[edit]

The book relates a succession of interweaving stories by a variety of storytellers, travellers and adventurers and of course touches on the histories and cultures of the various settings including the Mughal and Ottoman Empires, the earlier Mongols, and Renaissance Florence. There is a strong theme of sex and eroticism, much of it surrounding the Enchantress of the book's title, who was inspired by the Renaissance poem Orlando Furioso. There is also a recurring discussion of humanism and debate as opposed to authoritarianism, and Machiavelli is a character in the book.[5] Like Rushdie's previous works, the book can be considered a work of magic realism.

Fictional characters[edit]

  • Qara Köz, Lady Black Eyes, whom Rushdie cites as having been inspired by the (fictional) character Angelica in the epic poem Orlando innamorato.
  • Hauksbank – fictional character may be based on Sir John Hawkwood, an English mercenary or condottiero in 14th century Italy.

Historical characters[edit]

Mughal Empire[edit]

Safavid dynasty[edit]

  • Shah Ismail – Shah from 1501 to 1524 and victor of the battle of Marv, Turkmenistan

Ottoman Empire[edit]

  • Sultan Mehmed II – Sultan of the Ottoman Empire for a short time from 1444 to 1446, and later from 1451 to 1481. He conquered Constantinople, bringing an end to the medieval Byzantine Empire.
  • Bayezid II – Sultan of the Ottoman Empire from 1481 to 1512
  • Selim I "the Grim" – son of Bayezid II and Sultan of the Ottoman Empire from 1512 to 1520
  • Janissaries – infantry units that formed the Ottoman sultan's household troops and bodyguards




  1. ^ "Freshnews article".
  2. ^ a b "Imagining the self and the world". The Hindu. Chennai, India. 13 April 2008.
  3. ^ David Gates, "A World of Marvels", Sunday Book Review, The New York Times, June 8, 2008. Accessed 3 December 2017.
  4. ^ "A Woman's Struggle: Rushdie's 'Enchantress'", All Things Considered, NPR, June 9, 2008. Accessed 3 December 2017.
  5. ^ "Salman Rushdie Spins a Yarn – a Barnes and Noble interview with the author".

External links[edit]