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Reviews for Victory city : a novel

Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Rushdie returns to the realm of magic realism and to the India of his birth. Vijayanagar, or Victory City, was a real place, the seat of a powerful empire that occupied most of southern India. Rushdie borrows from history to depict siblings and their families who’d stop at little to gain power; as one of his interlocutors, a European explorer, spits, “I wrote in my journal that Deva Raya and his murderous brothers only cared about getting drunk and fucking. I should have added, and killing one another.” Rushdie places this history within a web of mythology: His Vijayanagar is the creation of a goddess-channeling girl named Pampa Kampana, most of whose 247-year-long life is devoted to creating the city, populating it, and then trying, usually to little avail, to keep the place from falling into chaos. Pampa has a mission: Witnessing her mother’s purdah, she is resolved to “laugh at death and turn her face toward life.” Alas, she learns, life is complicated and, as Rushdie winks, “deity’s bounty was always a two-edged sword.” Like Pampa Kampana, Rushdie has a fine old time of worldbuilding, creating a vast space in which glittering palaces and smoky temples stand in contrast with mangroves and wildernesses ruled by “tigers as big as a house.” Throughout, Pampa moves between royals, having “achieved the unusual feat of being queen...in two successive reigns, the consort of consecutive kings, who were also brothers,” while taking time to craft a verse epic recounting her creation—an epic that, as will happen, is lost for centuries. Rushdie reflects throughout on the nature of history and storytelling, with Pampa Kampana’s creations learning who they are only through the “imaginary narrative” that is whispered to them as they sleep and with Vijayanagar’s rulers, along with their subjects, the victims of historical amnesia who “exist now only in words. A grand entertainment, in a tale with many strands, by an ascended master of modern legends. Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.