I’ve been writing about my favorite authors on my personal/knitting blog (if I don’t write something about knitting soon, I fear I shall loose all of my readers!). Here’s a snippet from Ursula K LeGuin’s review of
Shalmon Salman Rushdie’s The Enchantress of Florence that I thought you would enjoy:
Some boast that science has ousted the incomprehensible; others cry that science has driven magic out of the world and plead for “re-enchantment”. But it’s clear that Charles Darwin lived in as wondrous a world, as full of discoveries, amazements and profound mysteries, as that of any fantasist. The people who disenchant the world are not the scientists, but those who see it as meaningless in itself, a machine operated by a deity. Science and literary fantasy would seem to be intellectually incompatible, yet both describe the world; the imagination functions actively in both modes, seeking meaning, and wins intellectual consent through strict attention to detail and coherence of thought, whether one is describing a beetle or an enchantress. Religion, which prescribes and proscribes, is irreconcilable with both of them, and since it demands belief, must shun their common ground, imagination. So the true believer must condemn both Darwin and Rushdie as “disobedient, irreverent, iconoclastic” dissidents from revealed truth.
I couldn’t agree more. I’ve just added The Enchantress of Florence to my reading list, which says something considering how few books we can get through in one short lifetime. In fact, this makes me think of one instance where the idea of heaven could appeal to me — an infinite library and an eternity to read! LeGuin’s ideas also make me want to write a novel…
Below the fold are a few more excerpts from the review.
Akbar is the moral centre of the book, its centre of gravity, and provides its strongest link to the issues that have concerned Rushdie in his works and his life. It all comes down to the question of responsibility. Akbar’s objection to God is “that his existence deprived human beings of the right to form ethical structures by themselves”. The curious notion that without religion we have no morals has seldom been dismissed with such quiet good humour. Rushdie leaves ranting to the fanatics who fear him.
But there is another theme to the book: “Religion could be rethought, re-examined, remade, perhaps even discarded; magic was impervious to such assaults.” Akbar in his splendid city, and the Florentines in theirs, inhabited a world of magic “as passionately as they inhabited the world of tangible materials”. This is the great difference between them and us. We have separated the real and the unreal, put them in different kingdoms with different laws.
And lest you think LeGuin has no criticism:
…the men in the book are as hormone-besotted as adolescents. All their derring-do, their battling for cities and empires, comes down to little more than a desire for a bed with a young woman in it. Machiavelli becomes a disappointed middle-aged lecher whose middle-aged wife “waddles” and “quacks” while he looks at her, of course, with loathing. But then suddenly, for a page or two, we slip into her soul; we feel her anger at his disloyalty, her hurt pride as a woman, her unchanged pride in his “dark sceptical genius” and her puzzlement at his failure to see how he lessens himself by scorning what he has that is treasurable and honourable. For that moment I glimpsed a very different book, almost a different author. Then it was back to the dazzling play of fancy and the powerful dreams of men.