Oud, Saz and Kaman

Adam Mars-Jones

  • Tell Them of Battles, Kings and Elephants by Mathias Enard, translated by Charlotte Mandell
    Fitzcarraldo, 144 pp, £10.99, November 2018, ISBN 978 1 910695 69 2

Behind its grand and oblique title, derived rather surprisingly from Kipling, Mathias Enard’s new book is a fictional account, no more than novella length, of a visit by Michelangelo to Constantinople in 1506. Sultan Bayezid II had already commissioned a design for a bridge over the Golden Horn from Leonardo da Vinci, and rejected it. Now Michelangelo, far from immune to rivalrous feelings, was being offered the chance to eclipse him. If ever there was a time that he might be tempted to make such a barely thinkable journey, it was now. He was 31, famous for the David and the Pietà, but his dealings with the pope were deadlocked. If Europe’s ultimate patron was being difficult, perhaps a more obliging one could be found elsewhere.

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