Salman Rushdie’s Victory City is an astounding work of historical fiction and magical realism. As the lowly, unnamed narrator explains in the book’s opening pages, this is an abridged version of an epic 24,000-verse poem originally written in Sanskrit. Rushdie’s novel, written before the brutal 2022 stabbing attack that left him blind in one eye and unable to use one of his hands, describes the rise and fall of an empire through the 247-year lifespan of blind poet and prophet Pampa Kampana. At 9 years old, after witnessing the death of her mother, Pampa is possessed by a goddess who gives her the power to create a great city called Bisnaga, which Rushdie based on Vijayanagar, the medieval empire founded in 1336 South India. Pampa is able to mold the magical kingdom, soon nicknamed “Victory City,” into the feminist utopia the goddess hoped it would be, only to watch it be brought down by the hubris of the men who would come into power a century later. With wonder and humor, Rushdie spins a decades-long tale about power, philosophy, justice, and exile that boldly confronts the issues modern societies still face. —Shannon Carlin
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