Salman Rushdie – The Golden House.


Whenever I buy a new Rushdie, I’m always a bit scared as I feel that he is an inconsistent author. Sometimes I think his books are absolute masterpieces and sometimes I find them dull.  Thankfully Rushdie continues the winning streak with his last book Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights and manages to top that with The Golden House.

The Golden House encapsulates a lot of themes which are common in Rushdie’s novels, mainly migration, Indian culture and politics, however Rushdie does things a bit differently and disguises the narrative as a family saga, something which he has touched upon, especially in Shame . For starters The Golden House is a departure from his trademark magical realism and is grounded in reality. Secondly the family saga concerns migrants.

The family in question are the Goldens, originally a family from Bombay, they emigrate to New York once the mother is killed and arrive on the eve of Obama’s election in 2008. As this is a Rushdie novel there are passages dealing with identity and fitting in within society. The Goldens all give themselves Roman names, which they abbreviate in order to fit within society.

Rushdie tackles the book through an interesting angle for the narrator is Rene, an aspiring film student of emigrant parents who is amused by the Goldens and decides to create a documentary/film about them. It is worth noting that Rushdie channels a lot of his usual pop culture references through Rene, mostly both mainstream and obscure films, kudos for name dropping Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s Uncle Boonmee who can recall his past lives.  As to be expected the family falls apart when the background history of the Goldens is revealed.

I see The Goldens as a representation as the last nine years of American history. The ‘Golden’ age of Obama triumphing over George W. Bush and the good times that followed The point when Trump (here represented as The Joker – a psycho clown) trumping of Obama happens is when the Goldens are in trouble. At this point Rushdie even includes a short nod to Brexit as part of ‘the world gone to pieces’ theme.

However it is not all doom. Both Rene and The Goldens share a garden, a guess that’s paradise and despite all the events the garden is not affected and Rene does lead a good life in the end, I assume that this is Rushdie’s way of saying that through perseverance the US may not go the way of the Goldens and the paradise/garden may be intact.

As I stated before the theme of identity is also important in The Golden House. The third child, who goes by the name of D is unsure of his sex and there are lengthy digressions in the notion of gender, not to mention that his partner works in the Museum of Identity, which help enrich D’s knowledge of the subject and decide on his transition. Incidentally this is the second time I have read about the dilemma that the Hijira goes through and I’ll say that Rushdie does a better job.

Personally I thought this novel was great. It was an insightful read, kept me hooked and this time, the pop references didn’t bother me. I did enjoy this angrier version of Rushdie and hopefully it is kept up with future novels.

Book 762 Salman Rushdie – Shame

Dammit, first the pic was too big now I can’t seem to re-size it! ah well.

The last Rushdie I had read was  The Satanic Verses, and I thought it was one of the greatest books ever written.  Shame treads some of the same paths but its more about Pakistan’s political history than rather TSV’s religious and humanistic themes.

The story is basically about the entwining paths of  two families, both representing Pakistan’s prime ministers. Throughout their family history there’s madness, suicide, imprisonment the whole lot   and if you discount the flights of magical realism you have to keep in mind that such things did happen.

However the main theme is shame and how it shapes history, or maybe the Indian character?, for the only protagonist in the novel who is not born with a sense of shame is the one who survives the most in the book.

As such Shame is not as powerful as The Satanic Verses, it works as a satire and the writing is great but I felt that it lacks the energy and whizz of  Rushdie’s most notorious novel. Still it wipes the floor with practically everyone else so a good Rushdie novel not may excel his own masterpieces but it still is a fascinating read.


Book 827 Salman Rushdie – The Satanic Verses

The Satanic Verses has been sitting on my shelf for a very long time. The main reason why I kept putting off reading it was mainly cause I thought you need an intricate knowledge of the Koran in order to fully understand it but really all you need is some basic knowledge – Rushdie is a kind author and guides you on the way.

A plane explodes and it’s two victims – a washed out actor called Gibreel Farishta and an Anglophile voice over artist called Saladin Chamcha survive it. Once they hit the ground, Gibreel turns into an angel and the other, a devil. They separate and Saladin vows to get his revenge on Farishta.

In between this Gibreel has these amazing dreams (and they are the best parts of the book) which deal with the creation of the Satanic Verses (three verses in the Koran about mythological deities) and a modern society who go on a pilgrimage to Mecca.

However the book’s main theme is the Indian migrant experience, colonialism and how Religion, namely Islam is fused within Indian culture in both modern and ancient times. Also towards the last bit of the book there’s a first-rate passage about fatherhood and family relations.

At times funny, beautiful, satirical this is one book that shouldn’t be missed out on. Maybe it’s not the best introduction to Rushdie but it’s the one in which displays his fiery prose the best.