Last night at the Rubin Museum of Art, The Indo-American Arts Council hosted the launch of Salman Rushdie’s new book The Enchantress of Florence. It is a book he spent many years researching and bridges the gap between Renaissance Florence and the Great Mughal Empire, what he deemed impossible other than his great imagination. The event started off with pictures and he briefly answered a few questions about the book. He touched on the themes of the beautiful enchantress, how East meets West and also on his young life growing up around a lot of women. Someone asked if it was easier for women back then, as they were such seductresses and it was more powerful that way. He laughed and said back then the opportunities were still narrower than for women today, so he did not agree. He talked about how after the 15th century there was more of an idea of the temptress or seductress. The novel brings in a young man from Florence as a main character and many beautiful queens and irresistible enchantresses.
The press made their way downstairs to the large auditorium where three young musicians sat onstage and began to play the drums and sitar and made beautiful music to set the mood for his reading of an excerpt. He read a few pages into the story of the Emperor and his kingdom as the young visitor took in everything about the new culture, in a very detailed and beautifully painted way. It made me excited to read the copy I was given! He used such description and brought the listeners to that other world. Mr. Rushdie had studied a summer in Florence when he was young. He brought the passion for that city which was part of the inspiration for the theme. He then told us how it is definitely fiction, a novel, but he wanted the reader to know “the author knew his stuff” (he used this in a joking way), meaning it was accurate historically. The way his words flew onto the paper indeed made me want to learn more about the historic period and every little detail of that time. Salman’s goal with readers was to diverge into a path of learning about the cultures and histories of the world. If something catches their eye while reading, he hoped they would want to learn more. The mediator asked what his next projects were. He said assuredly, “I don’t know!” But he jokingly said, “something with less research.” Then seriously he said his work was about “coming out of the past; trying to create the future.”
It was definitely exciting to be in the presence of such a great author – Salman Rushdie is eloquent and humorous, mature and patient. He was so sweet when I asked for a picture for the Asiance article! He lives up to his credentials, all the way. The Enchantress of Florence will truly be enchanting.