Akbar the Great is building a new capital city and a new palace for his empire. And he’s not such a bad sort as emperors go: sometimes he lops off the head of an enemy, but he seems to be sympathetic to the plight of his people. So sympathetic, in fact, that he begins to contemplate shifting from the use of the royal “we” to the first person singular when speaking of himself. He gives this a good deal of thought. Meanwhile, as he travels around the empire, he thinks of his favorite Queen. She is one of many but she has the advantage of being imaginary, concocted of the best parts of all the other Queens. Eventually, after his latest conquest, he comes home to her and tries out his new first person singular. She doesn’t notice. Instead, she treats him as always to her many fine erotic moves, and he resolves never to use the first person singular again.
This is all very interesting and the Emperor (the Shelter of the World) is pretty cool for a pompous ass, but what’s the story? Is there a story? Or is this, as I fear, another case of The New Yorker creating a “story” out of a pieces of a forthcoming novel? (Rushdie’s next novel, The Enchantress of Florence, is due out in June.) I hope that’s the case, even though it would anger me, because at least that would explain where this very odd story comes from.
February 25, 2008: "The Shelter of the World" by Salman Rushdie