The Deceiving Magic of Storytelling in Salman Rushdie’s The Enchantress of Florence

Abstract

“ ‘Ah, mighty Petrarca,’ ‘Uccello’ cried. ‘Now there’s a mighty magician.’ ” (Rushdie 18). The depiction of the Italian poet Francesco Petrarca as a magician is surprising. Normally, magicians are associated not with versification but rather, amongst other things, with voodoo rituals, exorcism, shamanism or sleight of hand magic and parlour tricks (Davies 32-98). In Salman Rushdie’s The Enchantress of Florence, sleight of hand tricks, olfactory enchantments and many others do occur, but the main activity of sorcerers and sorceresses appears to be of a different kind. Among other characters in the novel, Niccolò Vespucci, who calls himself Mogor dell’Amore, and the emperor Akbar the Great are considered to practice witchcraft because they create new characters and different versions of reality. The emperor’s achievement is explicitly compared and held as superior to the work of a “poet[,] […] painter, musician or sculptor” (58), hence to the activity of an artist. Similarly, Mogor dell’Amore’s approach to the reinvention of Queen Elizabeth resembles the work of the narrator of this novel who reinvented real historical figures and, thus, their story through the power of language. As a result, one of the magicians’ skills appears to be “verbal sorcery” (Kluwick 57), in other words the creation of stories and the convincing telling of these stories. Correspondingly, the narrator, who created the narrative and the reality in which it is set, can be considered on a meta-textual level to be a magician. By including real historical figures in a fictional narrative, the implied author repeatedly blurs the lines between reality and fiction in the same way that Niccolò Vespucci does. Fiction like The Enchantress of Florence, where the combination of elements from the extradiegetic, real world with those of the diegetic, fictional world is used as a literary device, can be allocated to the literary mode of “magic realism” (Kluwick 33).

Download the Paper

Rosano (2016): The Deceiving Magic of Storytelling in Salman Rushdie’s The Enchantress of Florence. University of Zurich (English Department). B.A. Seminar “Magicians, Wizards and Enchantresses: From Merlin to Dumbledore”, FS 16, Lecturer: Johannes Riquet.

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