by Salman Rushdie
When I tell you that the major characters are Niccolo Machiavelli and the Indian Emperor Akbar (who never meet), and that the minor characters include Queen Elizabeth I, Simonetta Neri (the reputed model for Botticelli’s Birth of Venus), Vlad Dracul (the reputed model for the blood-sucking count), Amerigo Vespucci, an Empress who doesn’t exist, a hidden princess who does, and two prostitutes named Skeleton and Mattress who exist in both Florence and India at the same time, you’ll know that this is Rushdie in top form. The book is notionally about a Florentine adventurer, one of whose secret names is Love (like Puccini’s Calaf), and who tells stories (like Scheherazade) to save his life, some of which can’t possibly be true but (as in Chinatown) maybe they are. But it’s really just Rushdie having a good time. You’ll have so much fun reading it you won’t even care that there wasn’t actually any polenta in 15th C Florence. Or tomatoes either.
It’s a historic, histrionic tour de farce.