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Parle-leur de batailles, de rois et d'éléphants

3.87  ·  Rating details ·  2,885 ratings  ·  411 reviews
En débarquant à Constantinople le 13 mai 1506, Michel-Ange sait qu'il brave la puissance et la colère de Jules II, pape guerrier et mauvais payeur, dont il a laissé en chantier l'édification du tombeau, à Rome. Mais comment ne pas répondre à l'invitation du sultan Bajazet qui lui propose- après avoir refusé les plans de Léonard de Vinci, - de concevoir un pont sur la Corne ...more
Paperback, 154 pages
Published August 2010 by Actes Sud (first published 2010)
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John Darnielle An English edition is due from New Directions on November 28th of this year. I read it in galley, and it's excellent.

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Michelangelo never traveled to Constantinople, but author and scholar Mathias Énard imagines that he did in the richly detailed novella Tell Them of Battles, Kings, and Elephants. Énard draws on the historically verified premise that Michelangelo was invited in 1506 to Constantinople by the Sultan Bayezid II, who wished to commission the design for a bridge over the Golden Horn, having already rejected a design proposed by Leonardo da Vinci. Wishing to surpass his elder and seduced by promises o ...more
Gumble's Yard
Oct 25, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018
This book is published by Fitzcarraldo Editions,

This book is published by one of the leading UK small presses, Fitzcarraldo Editions an independent publisher (their words) specialising in contemporary fiction and long-form essays ….. it focuses on ambitious, imaginative and innovative writing, both in translation and in the English language . Their novels are (my words) distinctively and beautifully styled, with plain, deep blue covers and a "French-flap" style, and are often complex and dense.
[3.5] This historical novel presents East and West as equal, equivalent, and with at least as many similarities as differences - for, as anyone who's encountered the Ottomans on an Early Modern Europe curriculum will know, that's pretty much how it was in the 16th century, before the Industrial Revolution, European colonialism and petropolitics. It's a valuable perspective to show 21st-century readers, but if you've heard it plenty of times before (since A-Levels in the 1990s in my case), its pr ...more
This probably deserves more than the 3-star rating I have given it. I came to view this as a quaint picturesque type endeavour, more artistic feeling than plot. Open any page and you will be well rewarded with some elegant and delicate prose, some lovely impression of 16th century Constantinople and the workings of Michelangelo but ( and here I lower my voice to a whisper ) it was just a teensy-weensy bit ... dull ?

It was certainly a nice palate cleanser between more substantial novels.
Nov 03, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have been hearing great things about Énard for some time, but had never read him, and I chose to start with this one mostly because it is a short one. I found it an enjoyable and interesting book, which blends historical fact and fiction.

The plot has some elements of truth, but most of it is fictional - in 1506 Michelangelo was invited to design a bridge over the Golden Horn for the Sultan, after a previous design by Leonardo da Vinci was rejected, but the project never came to fruition and th
Eric Anderson
Nov 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If I hadn’t read some articles in the past (such as ‘Bridging the gap: the east-west divide in art’), I’d have entirely believed the central story of Mathias Enard’s new novel. It’s true that Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo were invited by Turkish rulers in Constantinople to design a bridge over the Golden Horn, but neither ever journeyed to this Eastern superpower. However, “Tell Them of Battles, Kings and Elephants” imagines Michelangelo travelling to work for the sultan in the summer of 15 ...more
Apr 03, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This short novella (there is a LOT of white space in these 144 pages) can and probably SHOULD be read in a single sitting - the fact that due to other obligations I had to spread it over 3 days undoubtedly weakened its effect, but it remains an intriguing and powerful 'what if' derived from scattered historical artifacts.
May 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Beautifully written (possible) history of Michelangelo visiting the city of Constantinople in 1503 to design a bridge for the Sultan. This story is pulled together from scant documents found in Ottoman archives regarding sketches Michelangelo drew of a bridge, which was never built. I loved getting to know Michelangelo in all of his stinky-ness and personal and professional insecurities.
Nov 25, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Beauty comes from abandoning the refuge of the old forms for the uncertainty of the present.

This is an exercise, a bagatelle, a longing glance at the history of art perhaps a teleology of East and West? The last point is dubious, worse, it is a distraction. During the early 16C Michelangelo was invited to Constantinople to design a bridge. Mathias Enard has given us febrile visions of what such might have involved. Ottoman images stand in relief to Renaissance ordering. (interesting the artist's
Jerrie (redwritinghood)
This is a unique fictionalization of Michelangelo’s trip to Istanbul to design a bridge for the city. Apparently, construction was begun on the bridge, but it was significantly damaged by an earthquake and never finished. The writing is immersive, drawing the reader deeply into the mind and emotions of the various characters. Not a lot happens, but I still enjoyed reading this brief, beautiful book nevertheless.
May 21, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I’m always impressed when an author knows the limits of a plot. So it is with Mathias Énard’s Tell Them of Battles, Kings & Elephants. My New Directions Books edition ended after 141 pages of comfortably spaced lines. Five or ten pages less, Tell Them of Battles. . . would have been too short; five or ten pages more, it would have been too long. Énard controls his plot throughout those 141 pages, and his discipline leads to a compelling if brief novel.

Tell Them of Battles. . . ’s strongpoint is
May 18, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Palace intrigue. Papal secrets. Monkey mischief. And, beneath these, the search for Truth, Beauty, and the freedom of authentic self-expression.

Un bijou d'un livre exquisitely translated. (I'm assuming Menard's French is equally superb but Chalotte Mandell provides English that is breathtaking.)

4.5 stars
Jun 03, 2013 marked it as to-read
Shelves: french-lit

Istambul,....Turkey, timely* a novel on that area....

To many, Michelangelo, Italian painter, poet, sculptor and architect had always had that allure as the Master-artist of the Renaissance, notwithstanding the fecund rivalry vis-a-vis another illustrious contemporary one: Leonardo Da Vinci. A Master too.

But the present book is about the former. Contrary to expectations of a sedentary M (contrasting with a Leonardo often “moving” throughout Italy), it seems that the supreme
Katie Long
May 18, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This novel uses Michelangelo’s actual letters and drawings to imaginatively fill in the gaps and tell a story of his early 16th century trip to Istanbul. It’s a good story, well told, but I don’t really have much more to add than that.
Stephen Durrant
Oct 03, 2010 rated it really liked it
Again, 4.5 if the half-star were available! This is a fine example of compelling fiction built up from a few tantalizing historical facts. The facts are that Michaelangelo was invited by the Ottoman Sultan in 1506 to submit a proposal for a bridge across the Golden Horn. Michaelangelo's earliest biographer claims that he refused this offer, but a recent discovery in the Ottoman archives indicates that he did submit a sketch for a bridge and may even have paid a short visit to Istanbul at the inv ...more
Tell Them of Battles, Kings, and Elephants falls firmly into the wanted to love, but did not category for me. It is inarguable that this is a beautifully written novella. Ever sentence, on every page, is perfectly measured. It is richly descriptive, and evocative of time and place. Given that I read this particularly because it is translated, I think it is also an example of stunning translation. If any of the beauty of the language has been lost, it must have been exceptional to begin with. In ...more
Apr 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This novel is short, nevertheless intense and filled with poetry. Sad. Love and betrayal. The relativity of religion. Christianism vs islamism. God vs God. The turkisch steelworker didnt want to manufacture a dagger as it looked liked a cross - a pagan symbol in his mind.
A very researched story, nevertheless Enard Fantasy is fascinating.
As i said before, this book is a strong example that less is more. You dont need a lot of words to stimulate and produce goosebumps in the reader‘s head, you j
Julie Ehlers
Tell Them of Battles, Kings, and Elephants is not my typical read, taking place as it does a really, really long time ago, but I unexpectedly enjoyed it quite a bit. The writing was beautiful, poetic and yet precise, the characters were fascinating, and Énard mines an unusual and impossibly grand situation for a lot of moving, intimate moments. I'm still thinking about all of the vivid details woven through this short but undeniably affecting novel. Very glad I gave this one a chance.
Michaelangelo in Constantinople
A beautiful piece of fiction about a little known period of Michaelangelo's life when he may have visited Constantinople to design a bridge for the Sultan of the time.
Lee Klein
For completists only -- wouldn't really recommend starting with this if you're wondering which Énard to read first. Never trusted the POV, all these active present-tense verbs after "Michelangelo." Typical Énardian lists of exotic esoterica, Arabic names maintained, felt slight and seemed to show the seams of his technique in this. I'm a huge fan of the author/translator duo (and of the publisher of course) and have read all their other books (odd that only Compass is listed on the page showing ...more
Paul Fulcher
Two extended fingers that don't touch each other.

Mathias Énard's 'Parle-leur de batailles, de rois et d'éléphants' was published in 2010 after his epic 2008 novel Zone. Énard's 2015 novel Boussoule was to win the Prix Goncourt, but this book won its younger sibling, the Prix Goncourt des Lycéens, voted on by 2000 lycée students from a longlist of 12 that they read and debate (as an aside - why doesn't the Booker try something similar in the UK?), perhaps a less prestigious award and one for less
Oct 29, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Constantinople is a very sweet prison.
The city is balanced between east and west as he himself is between Bayezid and the Pope, between Mesihi’s tenderness and the burning memory of a dazzling singer.

Tell Them of Battles, Kings and Elephants is a “what if” story that imaginatively weaves together fragments of real history to create a new story. What if, when invited by the sultan of Constantinople to design a bridge over the Golden Horn, a bridge where Leonardo Da Vinci’s design was rejected, Mi
Nov 20, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If you’re looking for a good introduction to Mathias Énard, I would most certainly recommend Tell Them of Battles, Kings and Elephants. It is thematically similar to all of his previous novels and is additionally reminiscent of Street of Thieves by being considerably more readable than the two giants, Zone and Compass. I was going to give this three stars, but I thought the ending was so well executed that I have to give it four. Reread material.

And so follows my Very Objective and Indisputable
Feb 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Mythic and surreal. Ènard imagines a perhaps factual visit by the artist Michelangelo Buonarroti to Istanbul in 1506. A little over 50 years after Constantinople has fallen to the Ottoman Empire and is renamed Istanbul. The Grand Turk Sultan Bayezid invites Michelangelo to design a bridge over the Gold Horn to connect Persia to Europe.

Ènard captures what we know of Michelangelo well: the brilliant artist, but also arrogant, obsessive, willful and greedy. Angry that Pope Julius II refuses to pay
Kamila Kunda
What a marvellous little story this is! Authentic characters but a fictional tale of how in 1506 Michelangelo Buonarroti was invited by the sultan of Constantinople, Bayezid II, to design a bridge over the Golden Horn. Michelangelo, greedy for money and fame but also intrigued by the idea of connecting the worlds and by the exotic for him the cultural wealth of the Ottoman Empire spends weeks in Constantinople sketching, collecting inspirations, drinking and letting himself be seduced by a myste ...more
Engin Türkgeldi
Jun 02, 2011 rated it it was ok
I had very high expectations for this book because it was set in 16th century Istanbul, Michelangelo was its protagonist, and the book won the 2010 Goncourt des Lyceens award. However, this combination somehow did not work out. The plot was dull and in my opinion poorly developed. The setting and the starting point (Michelangelo secretly called by the Ottoman emperor for a bridge project). Characters lacked depth and they were not "real". Still there were a few positive sides to this book as wel ...more
Denisa Arsene
Jan 23, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2020
I can see that it has positive and negative reviews but I liked it. Very much even. The alert style, the historical facts told in a pleasant manner.
I am in love with the Renaissance period. I used to read a lot about it, to look in diverse atlases work of arts from that period. I would love to see Pieta and David live and all the work Michelangelo let for us.
Even though it is not really an all tastes reading, I recommend it - it's really a short book- because of the abundance of information.
A strange episode in the life of the Renaissance sculptor, architect and painter Michelangelo, in which he flees the court of Pope Julius II to visit Constantinople, where he is to design a bridge on the Golden Horn and meet Ottoman poet Mesihi of Prishtina. The first part we know happened, the second is speculative, wishful thinking, but works in the context of the novella.

Lyrical in a way I'm never a fan of.

Had the curious merit of feeling like it was one episode in a much longer work of histo
Jan 10, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Pretty little thing. Author and translator both deserve a lot of credit for the prose. A wonderful little story about insecurities and ambitions. Enard sure can paint a pretty picture. I liked the historical context too. Makes me want to go back to Istanbul and Florence.
English polymath John Aubrey (1626-1697)—biographer, pioneering archaeologist and folklorist, author of an unfinished compilation of English place-names—did not keep a diary. Or, if he did, it has not survived to the present day. Nevertheless, when Ruth Scurr wrote her biography of Aubrey, JOHN AUBREY: MY OWN LIFE (2015), she made the unconventional choice of writing it as if the book was precisely this diary that may never have existed. Unlike a typical biography, JOHN AUBREY: MY OWN LIFE is di ...more
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French fiction author. He mainly writes novels with Arabic themes. At university he studied Arabic and Persian. In 2000 he moved to Barcelona (Spain), where he writes all his works.
His first novel was La Perfection du tir, released in 2003. Two more books were released before his first success, Zone, appeared in 2008. This book, written as a single sentence that continues along more than 500 pages

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“A pošto su to deca, pričaj im o bitkama
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(epigraf, Radjard Kipling - Životna smetnja)”
“Night does not communicate with the day. It burns up in it. Night is carried to the stake at dawn. And its people along with it—the drinkers, the poets, the lovers. We are a people of the banished, of the condemned.” 5 likes
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