Tell Them Of 'Battles, Kings,' And Michelangelo On The Bosporus

Mathias Énard's novel — newly translated from French — imagines what would have happened if Michelangelo had accepted an offer from the Ottoman ruler to design a bridge across the Golden Horn.

The story, according to legend, goes like this: In 1502, Sultan Bayezid II, ruler of the Ottoman Empire, summons Leonardo da Vinci to construct a bridge that would span the Golden Horn, an inlet between the Turkish cities of Pera and Constantinople (modern day Istanbul). Leonardo's proposed design would be the longest bridge in the world at that time. But the sultan rejects it, arguing that an arch of that size would surely collapse in the middle. Soon after,

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