Tell Them of Battles, Kings, and Elephants

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UPC: 9780811227049
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Author: Mathias Énard
Translator: Charlotte Mandell
  • Hardcover: 144 pages
  • Publisher: New Directions (November 27, 2018)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0811227049
  • ISBN-13: 978-0811227049
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 0.7 x 8.3 inches

An adventure of Michelangelo in Constantinople from the “mesmerizing” (New Yorker) and “masterful” (Washington Post) author of Compass

In 1506, Michelangelo―a young but already renowned sculptor―is invited by the Sultan of Constantinople to design a bridge over the Golden Horn. The sultan has offered, alongside an enormous payment, the promise of immortality, since Leonardo da Vinci’s design had been rejected: “You will surpass him in glory if you accept, for you will succeed where he has failed, and you will give the world a monument without equal.”

Michelangelo, after some hesitation, flees Rome and an irritated Pope Julius II―whose commission he leaves unfinished―and arrives in Constantinople for this truly epic project. Once there, he explores the beauty and wonder of the Ottoman Empire, sketching and describing his impressions along the way, and becomes immersed in cloak-and-dagger palace intrigues as he struggles to create what could be his greatest architectural masterwork.

Tell Them of Battles, Kings, and Elephants―constructed from real historical fragments―is a story about why stories are told, why bridges are built, and how seemingly unmatched pieces, seen from the opposite sides of civilization, can mirror one another.


“Énard packs a feast for the senses into this short book.”
Boyd Tonkin, Financial Times

“Too interesting to pass up.”
Literary Hub

“Any year Mathias Enard brings us new work is always worth celebrating. He invites us to engage with subjects as intricate as beauty, history and art, and always finds some way to make it still feel vital, leaving you with a resounding sense of hope and generosity. While Tell Them of Battles, Kings and Elephants may at times feel like reading the most beautiful poem as the world slowly degrades around you, it might also convince you that art is invincible. An important idea to hold on to, I think, as we wait for our political pantomimes to play out. Charlotte Mandell translates and the book is a miracle.”
Guy Gunaratne, New Statesman

“A historical novel of exquisite beauty.”
Publishers Weekly

“Continues Énard’s deep, humanistic explorations of the historical and ongoing connections between Europe and Asia, Islamdom and Christendom.”
The Millions

“All of Énard’s books share the hope of transposing prose into the empyrean of pure sound, where words can never correspond to stable meanings. He’s the composer of a discomposing age.”
Joshua Cohen, The New York Times Book Review

“Énard fuses recollection and scholarly digression into a swirling, hypnotic, stream-of-consciousness narration.”
Sam Sacks, The Wall Street Journal

“No one else writes like Mathias Énard.”
Francine Prose

“In his fiction, Énard is constructing an intricate, history-rich vision of a persistently misunderstood part of the world―mesmerizing.”
Jacob Silverman, The New Yorker


Mathias Énard is the award-winning author of Zone and Street of Thieves, and a translator from Persian and Arabic. He won the Prix Goncourt in 2015 for Compass.