The new novel from Mexican writer Álvaro Enrigue is full of characters you'd recognize, among them Mary Magdalene, the painter Caravaggio and Henry VIII's wife, Anne Boleyn. The book, Sudden Death, begins with a tennis match between Caravaggio and Spanish poet Francisco de Quevedo, played with a ball made from Boleyn's hair. The match is a metaphor for history's imperial forces.
"That's the privilege of the novelist," Enrigue tells NPR's Ari Shapiro. "You can do whatever you want with historical characters."