Literature as Enchantment or the Regained Grandeur of the Novel: An Essay on Salman Rushdie’s Novel The Enchantress of Florence

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Abstract

My essay intends to analyze the dialectic relationship between historical reality and fiction in the novel The Enchantress of Florence by Salman Rushdie. I will point out a sophisticated and playful story in which the author interweaves elements of history and literature, a game-story that transcends the canonical limits of postmodernism where the novel has constantly been placed by the critical establishment, and goes back to the beginnings, to the anthropological function of play as an essential human activity that was once defined by Johan Huizinga in Homo Ludens: A Study of the Play-element in Culture. Moreover, my paper will explore how this play becomes Rushdie’s attempt to return to the original function of literature which used to enchant and inform at the same time. Once these roots have been reached, however, and the secondary reality of the literary game is well-established, Rushdie manages to break the barriers between reality and fiction, and through versatile textual mechanisms, to intermingle history and reality in a way that makes them merge. Consequently, he composes a play within fiction that is just as powerful as reality itself and suggests the fact that representation has more ontological consistency than the represented body or event itself. We exist as long as we are written and talked about, and nothing in the order of reality can be as powerful as the reality of language.

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