Jim Reviews: Tell Them of Battles, Kings, and Elephants – Mathias Enard

You may remember my reading plans for my holiday vacation which I outlined in Jim’s Long Winters Nap Book List. As I suggested there it was an aspirational plan but one that I was somewhat successful in. Tell Them of Battles, Kings, and Elephants was one of those successes.This is a short book. Only about 180 pages. The chapters are quick snapshots of events. Most of all it is a book of description. Even when the omniscient narrator isn’t in the driver’s seat and a character takes over it is still about description. Drawing a scene as if you were there watching it.

Enard images a 1506 world in which Michelangelo, already a world renowned sculptor, is commissioned by the Sultan in Istanbul to build a bridge across the Gold Horn and accepts. The reader gets to wander through 16th century Istanbul. It is beautiful drawn. To a point where the story of his work on this bridge really becomes incidental to what the narrator describes.

My only problem with it was that it wasn’t long enough. I wanted Michelangelo to throw over the sultan and take to the road so the description could just keep going. If you are a reader who really depends on character I’m not sure if this story will deliver. This is a book for readers who love world building and don’t get to hung up on the show don’t tell rule.