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Victory City: A Novel (Hardcover)
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NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • The epic tale of a woman who breathes a fantastical empire into existence, only to be consumed by it over the centuries—from the transcendent imagination of Booker Prize–winning, internationally bestselling author Salman Rushdie
“Victory City is a triumph—not because it exists, but because it is utterly enchanting.”—The Atlantic
Salman Rushdie is one of Time’s 100 Most Influential People of the Year
In the wake of an unimportant battle between two long-forgotten kingdoms in fourteenth-century southern India, a nine-year-old girl has a divine encounter that will change the course of history. After witnessing the death of her mother, the grief-stricken Pampa Kampana becomes a vessel for a goddess, who begins to speak out of the girl’s mouth. Granting her powers beyond Pampa Kampana’s comprehension, the goddess tells her that she will be instrumental in the rise of a great city called Bisnaga—“victory city”—the wonder of the world.
Over the next 250 years, Pampa Kampana’s life becomes deeply interwoven with Bisnaga’s, from its literal sowing from a bag of magic seeds to its tragic ruination in the most human of ways: the hubris of those in power. Whispering Bisnaga and its citizens into existence, Pampa Kampana attempts to make good on the task that the goddess set for her: to give women equal agency in a patriarchal world. But all stories have a way of getting away from their creator, and Bisnaga is no exception. As years pass, rulers come and go, battles are won and lost, and allegiances shift, the very fabric of Bisnaga becomes an ever more complex tapestry—with Pampa Kampana at its center.
Brilliantly styled as a translation of an ancient epic, Victory City is a saga of love, adventure, and myth that is in itself a testament to the power of storytelling.
About the Author
Salman Rushdie is the author of fourteen previous novels, including Midnight’s Children (for which he won the Booker Prize and the Best of the Booker), Shame, The Satanic Verses, The Moor’s Last Sigh, and Quichotte, all of which have been shortlisted for the Booker Prize; a collection of stories, East, West; a memoir, Joseph Anton; a work of reportage, The Jaguar Smile; and three collections of essays, most recently Languages of Truth. His many awards include the Whitbread Prize for Best Novel, which he won twice; the PEN/Allen Foundation Literary Service Award; the National Arts Award; the French Prix du Meilleur Livre Étranger; the European Union’s Aristeion Prize for Literature; the Budapest Grand Prize for Literature; and the Italian Premio Grinzane Cavour. He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and he is a Distinguished Writer in Residence at New York University. He is a former president of PEN America and the recipient of the PEN Centenary Courage Award. His books have been translated into over forty languages. In 2023, he was named one of Time’s 100 Most Influential People of the Year.
“A superb, complex celebration of storytelling that inhabits a unique space somewhere between an epic poem, a history book, and an adventure novel with magical elements, political commentary, and even a healthy dose of romance.... ‘Victory City’ contains enough adventures and action to keep even the most demanding readers entertained, but it’s also the kind of novel that welcomes—no, that invites—introspection.... [It] feels like a triumphant scream against censorship as well as a celebration of language, storytelling, and otherness.... Literature can offer guides to a better future, even when it’s fiction about the past, and Victory City is precisely that.”—Boston Globe
“Rushdie’s return to magic, myth, and India’s ancient stories is dazzling . . . Whether it’s an allegory for present-day India or a feminist retelling of a pre-colonial empire (or both!), Victory City nevertheless celebrates a singular story of female resilience.”—Esquire
“Infused with magic, wonder, sorrow and humor, Victory City explores all of the capital-B big questions of life, like what makes us human.”—CNN
“[Rushdie] has brought forth a work of cheerful fabulism that puts far more emphasis on ‘magic’ than ‘realism’—a warm space in which we might imagine a better world than our own.”—The Wall Street Journal
“Rushdie’s 15th novel is a compulsively readable take on the plain fact that human life has a tragic arc—consider how it ends for all of us—and a richly comedic texture along the was…. An elegy on a writer’s art and purpose, Victory City is a great victory for Rushdie.”—Toronto Star
“A deeply fascinating, richly symbolic tale that testifies to this power of words to conjure reality.... By posing as an Indian epic teeming with Sanskrit words and mythological characters and events, the novel explicitly places itself in that Indian narrative tradition. But Victory City is also interspersed with a nameless editor’s ironic, self-referential commentary, characteristic of Rushdie’s postmodern tricks. This hybridity, an ancient eastern wonder-tale wrapped inside a modern western novel, is one way in which the book propagates its vision of cross-cultural unity, giving form to fusion.... On the evidence of this profoundly entertaining tale...Rushdie certainly still has the gift of alchemy.... All along, [he] has been transforming this dark lead of historical reality into the brilliant gold of great stories.”—Financial Times
“In its haunting, uncanny, predictive power Victory City shows once again why [Salman Rushdie’s] work will always matter.”—The New York Times Book Review (Editors’ Choice)
“Victory City is a triumph—not because it exists, but because it is utterly enchanting. . . . When you think about it, Rushdie’s novels are a miracle.”—The Atlantic
“Victory City feels like a return to form, recalling the kind of reality-bending, effortlessly erudite world-building that first defined [Rushdie’s] style—and may be key to his literary legacy.”—Los Angeles Times
“[An] awe-inspiring saga.”—Time
“A lavish fairytale [with] an infectious sense of fun.”—The Guardian
“A grand historical fantasy . . . the latest masterpiece from a writer who has spent the last fifty years spinning tales that have breathed magic into history.”—Ron Charles, CBS News Sunday Morning
“‘Victory City’ is a triumph [that] invites readers to reconvene with Rushdie, the humorist, artist and spinner of grand yarns.”—NPR
“Victory City is many things: a myth, an epic, a polemic parable, a real-world historical landscape flattened into a fable and embellished by fantasy. . . . Salman Rushdie deftly weaves historical fact with mythological fiction.”—Vogue
“In [Rushdie’s] stories, unfettered creativity rewrites the destinies laid down by dogma and law. Victory City is a fable about the power of narrative art, hitched to a historical chronicle. . . . [The] book’s joy in fictions that ‘could be as powerful as histories’ testifies to a lifetime of free-spirited invention. . . . In this novel he shows his faith in the liberating power of art.”—The Economist
“Rushdie has already proven himself of his generation’s most adept literary stars, and his forthcoming epic fantasy novel promises to be one of the best releases of the year.”—The Week
“Salman Rushdie has created a radiant myth about mythmaking. Victory City is a book that privileges the ethical imagination and the unmistakable permanence of storytelling. Within these pages, you will find global travelers, rapacious kings, cave dwellers, prophets of doom, and, at its fierce and eloquent heart, a storyteller who reminds us that death may take away a lot of things, but never the power of our words. Beyond war, beyond violence, even beyond life itself, the story, and the storyteller, last.”—Colum McCann
“Victory City is vast and deep, soaring and scintillating. Every page is magical, every page is gorgeous. In the way of a significant work of art, it does not resemble any other novel I could name . . . A major accomplishment by one of our greatest living writers.”—Michael Cunningham
“The scale and scope of his intellect and his imagination is googolplex, as big as infinity and then some. In Victory City, he spins an epic tale that brings us back to the key questions of what it is to be human, to be authentic, to love and to grieve.”—A. M. Homes
“No one, and I mean no one, can bring an entire world to life with the authority, wisdom, humor, and panache of Salman Rushdie. In the pantheon of his novels, Victory City stands out as book of particular imaginative achievement. It defies category, but it invites pleasure.”—Gary Shteyngart
“Victory City is a capacious and sweeping telling in which writing about the past is a way of also staring dead on at the present and historicizing human nature. In the wit and poetry of his prose, Rushdie shows us not only the world we’ve made, but—more importantly—the one we can remake.”—Natasha Trethewey
“This is Salman Rushdie at his most virtuosic, a wondrous tale of medieval India which is also, as ever, a fable about the triumph of life—in all its joyous, messy excess—over the forces of fanaticism and darkness.”—Hari Kunzru