The Enchantress of Florence

by Salman Rushdie
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Describe the diasporic elements in The Enchantress of Florence.

The diasporic elements in The Enchantress of Florence are reflected in many of the novel’s characters. The traveler, the lost princess, and Akbar the Great’s invisible wife reflect diasporic qualities due to their universality, dislocation, and mobility.

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Diaspora refers to people who, for one reason or another, have been dislodged from their homeland. The term speaks to the movement of people across the world.

From the start, Rushdie’s novel incorporates diasporic elements. In the first section, he introduces one of his main characters as “the traveler.” The name explicitly links the character to movement. It denotes a person who has ventured far from his homeland. As the traveler assesses the foreign city, he notes that it looks bigger than Florence, Rome, or any of the cities in the country he’s from.

As members of a diaspora are spread throughout the world, it might help to try to find the worldly, universal qualities in Rushdie’s book. One might start with the traveler, who “could dream in seven languages” and slept while “half the world started babbling in his brain.” The lost princess highlights the diasporic traits as well. A descendent of Genghis Khan, the princess winds up in Florence. As with the traveler’s name, the lost princess’s name suggests dislocation. Akbar the Great’s dreamed-up “imaginary wife” adds to the diasporic nature of the novel because being imaginary means that she’s not tied to a physical place. Similar to a diaspora, Akbar’s wife is intrinsically mobile.

The diasporic elements can also be described by the diverse historical figures that appear in the book. Besides Akbar and Khan, there's the Queen of England, Niccolo Machiavelli, and Vlad Dracula. One could claim that Rushdie has displaced these real-life figures from their original context and scattered them throughout his novel.

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