28 February 2009

Sir Salman, the Enchantress and جلال الدین محمد اکبر

Akbar and Tansen visit Haridas

I heard Sir Salman Rushdie speak recently ("Public Events, Private Lives: Literature and Politics in the Modern World") and after reading The Enchantress of Florence- it all fascinates me. The author, the book, the history.

Rushdie began by saying- why assume a writer can speak? Rushdie CAN speak: his topic rarely strayed- but he spoke just as he writes in a multifaceted and complex context.

"One of the extraordinary things about human events is that the unthinkable becomes thinkable." SR

"A book is a version of the world. If you do not like it, ignore it; or offer your own version in return." SR

"It is very, very easy not to be offended by a book. You just have to shut it."SR

"Writers and politicians are natural rivals. Both groups try to make the world in their own images; they fight for the same territory." SR

Sir Salman Rushdie

The Enchantress of Florence, its story - imagined by Rushdie, is interwoven into several stories, each story lapping and undulating into one another. The novel is poetry and storytelling. Though Rushdie barely touched on the novel in a sense the lecture covered one of the novel's topic- Power.

ITS' TRUTH: The story is set in the court of Akbar, third Mughal ruler, from 1556 to 1605. He is
generally considered the true founder of the Mughal empire.

The Characters- They really lived:


Akbar holds a religious assembly in the Ibadat Khana (House of Worship) in Fatehpur Sikri; the men dressed in black are the Jesuit missionaries Rodolfo Acquaviva and Francisco Henriques illustration to the Akbarnama, miniature painting by Nar Singh.

Akbar as a boy

Birbal was a courtier in the Mughal court. Akbar's confidant and one of the navaratnas (Sanskrit-nine jewels) who constituted Akbar's inner committee of advisors. His wit and wisdom made him a close friend to Akbar.


Simonetta Vespucci

Lorenzo Medici

Giovanni Medici

review of "the Enchantress of Florence" Trying to describe a Salman Rushdie novel is like trying to describe music to someone who has never heard it--you can fumble with a plot summary but you won't be able to convey the wonder of his dazzling prose or the imaginative complexity of his vision. At its heart, The Enchantress of Florence is about the power of story--whether it is the imagined life of a Mughal queen, or the devastating secret held by a silver-tongued Florentine. Make no mistake, it is Rushdie who is the true "enchanter" of this story, conjuring readers into his gilded fairy tale from the very first sentence: "In the day's last light the glowing lake below the palace-city looked like a sea of molten gold." At once bawdy, gorgeous, gory, and hilarious, The Enchantress of Florence is a study in contradiction, highlighted in its barbarian philosopher-king who detests his bloodthirsty heritage even while he carries it out. Full of rich sentences running nearly the length of a page, Rushdie's 10th novel blends fact and fable into a challenging but satisfying read. --Daphne Durham (Amazon Review)

TRUTH: THE 16th century Hamzanama Manuscript Illustrations made during the Mughal period (1526-1858) is an epic fantasy commissioned by the progressive and eclectic Akbar. A remarkable set of 1400 paintings-today only 200 survive. The manuscript and illustration tell the story of Hamza, an uncle of the Prophet, who traveled the world spreading the teachings of Islam. The stories are the likes of the magical Arabian Nights, fantastical stories of love, conquest, celebration and deception.

a spy scaling the fort of Qimar using a lasso

The architecture in the Hamzanama was based on the palaces that Akbar built during his reign

Fatehpur Sikri

Fatehpur Sikri, meticulously carved in pink stone-the glorious capital of the Indian Emperor Akbar. Built by Akbar in 1570, as his administrative seat.(Photograph by Charmian Smith)

Akbar's palace-Agra

Akbar's Royal Bathing Chamber

The art of the Hamzanama produced a flowering of Mogul art. It is said William Morris studied the illustrations and found inspiration in them for his textile and wallpaper design. Morris the “Father of Arts
and Crafts.”(1834-1896) was an architect, artist, poet and social critic.

Patterns designed by Morris with decided influences from Mogul art:

CRAY- designed by 1884

Willow Bough, designed 1887

morris tiles

Illustrations from the Hamzanama:

Enchantress? the Enchantress in Rushdie's novel is illusive-but as the story unfolds in the later half of the book it is clear she does exist in the flesh. Padma Lakshmi could be that Enchantress. She is the author's former and fourth wife. There is a passage in the novel where the Enchantress tells one of her lover's that he has had great fame and her star is just rising-she must follow her destiny. Perhaps again the author's own Enchantress- Padma Lakshmi is the model for this central character— she was so in Rushdie's novel,
, (a novel dedicated to her as well). Lakshmi is a model, actress, chef and host of the Food Network's TOP CHEF.

Padma Lakshmi

BEST of ALL- Rushdie said-and I am paraphrasing: No one owns History or THE Story-Each person has something to add to it- most appropriate for those that daily slog at the blog.


  1. What a coincidence! I am watching the movie Jodhaa Akbar(Bollywood)- your blog followed this along beautifully. Such a great story and you have pulled in so many references too.

  2. Little Augury, your blog is fantanstic! Lovely paintings! If I were a viscount with a quattrocento mansion house, I'd totally have you over for cakes and decorating advice.

    Thanks for saving me a seat in the time machine :)

  3. Jason- Wow Thank YOU, I love a viscount, a mansion & of course time travel. Bon Voyage and glad you are tucked in for the ride. best, la

  4. Just discovered this post and your blog, as I am reading The Enchantress of Florence for an Inspired by Reading Book Club, where we make something (most of us are jewelers) inspired by a book each month. Love all the images you posted.

    1. Mary, the book is wonderful, please share this with the book club! pgt



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