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Tell Them of Battles, Kings, and Elephants (Paperback)
"A transportive historical novel translated from the original French.
The year is 1506, and a young Michelangelo is living in Rome, working for the Pope, who won't return his calls.
Two emissaries arrive for the artist, with an important request: Come to Constantinople, and complete a great work for the Sultan.
There must be a mistake, Michelangelo says. Surely you mean to ask Da Vinci? He is the great engineer. I am not qualified.
You misunderstand, they say. Da Vinci's designs have already been rejected. Besides, the Sultan chose you; this means you are qualified.
Unable to refuse, Michelangelo takes the longest journey of his life to a far foreign land, in pursuit of fame, fortune, and artistic glory.
One of my favorite books of the year.
--Matt, Longfellow Books— From Matt Recommends!
Michelangelo’s adventure in Constantinople, from the “mesmerizing” (New Yorker) and “masterful” (Washington Post) author of Compass
In 1506, Michelangelo—a young but already renowned sculptor—is invited by the sultan of Constantinople to design a bridge over the Golden Horn. The sultan has offered, along with an enormous payment, the promise of immortality, since Leonardo da Vinci’s design was rejected: “You will surpass him in glory if you accept, for you will succeed where he has failed, and you will give the world a monument without equal.” Michelangelo, after some hesitation, flees Rome and an irritated Pope Julius II—whose commission he leaves unfinished—and arrives in Constantinople for this truly epic project. Once there, he explores the beauty and wonder of the Ottoman Empire, sketching and describing his impressions along the way, as he struggles to create what could be his greatest architectural masterwork.
Tell Them of Battles, Kings, and Elephants—constructed from real historical fragments—is a thrilling page-turner about why stories are told, why bridges are built, and how seemingly unmatched fragments, seen from the opposite sides of civilization, can mirror one another.
About the Author
Mathias Énard is the author of Compass (winner of the Prix Goncourt, the Leipzig Prize, and the Premio von Rezzori, and shortlisted for the 2017 Man Booker International Prize), Zone, and Street of Thieves.
Charlotte Mandell has translated works by a number of important French authors, including Proust, Flaubert, Genet, Maupassant, and Blanchot.
All of Énard's books share the hope of transposing prose into the empyrean of pure sound, where words can never correspond to stable meanings. He's the composer of a discomposing age.
— Joshua Cohen - New York Times Book Review
Énard weaves an imaginative and suspenseful tale of civilizations and personalities clashing, of love, of being an artist in a violent era.
— Juan Vidal - NPR
There is a lush materiality to Énard’s prose, thick and smooth, so that following the artist’s expeditions through Ottoman opium dens feels nearly as immersive as being in them.
— The New York Times
Tell Them of Battles, Kings, and Elephants (deftly translated, like Énard’s three previous English releases, by Charlotte Mandell) is a tale of bastard genius that might have been, and a cautionary fable about the consequences of parochial timidity.
— Julian Lucas - The New Yorker