Salman Rushdie and his works have been plagued by controversies ever since I remember, the most being The Satanic Verses. He’s also written The Midnight’s Children, Haroun and the Sea of Stories, Shalimar the Clown, etc, all of which have been very relevant to the times they were written and even now. Growing up, I’ve looked at his work with curiosity even before I’d read him. With a writing career spanning over four decades, while he’s captivated children with Haroon and the Sea of Stories, he’s created controversies with the Satanic Verses, and unapologetically so!
His twelfth and latest novel, ‘The Golden House’ resonates in my mind, even a week after I finished reading it. A story so real to the current scenario of the world, one would marvel at how accurate it is. The story begins real time during Obama’s inauguration ceremony. It revolves around an immigrant family which has come to live in downtown Manhattan. Nero Golden is the head of the family and there are his three sons, each character distinctive and peculiar, if I may say. The title of the book comes from here. The story is narrated by Golden’s neighbour René who is also an independent filmmaker, on a lookout for a good story.
Nero Golden’s uncanny resemblance to Obama’s successor at the White House doesn’t go unnoticed. Neither can one not notice how Rushdie has included conflicting social identities, migration, autism, literature, politics, culture and art in ways extremely relevant in today’s time. It needn’t be a work of fiction, ‘The Golden House’ could very well be a real story.
Rushdie’s latest work is set against the backdrop of contemporary politics and paints a realistic portrait of present day America. In his unflinching manner of storytelling, he has also included the topic of tolerance which most of the world seems to be at crossroads with at the moment.
The world today is fighting hatred, bigotry and racism. Opinions are strong. Immigrants and refugees are having it tougher than ever before. Sexual identity, while being accepted wholeheartedly and legally in a few places, is still facing resistance at most. Interestingly, Rushdie’s The Golden House was written before Trump came to power. However, the author had predicted this win and had probably created Nero with resemblance to him. A story written over some time has more relevance to present day work scenario than one would realise at the first glance.
Rushdie’s writings incidentally seem relevant at any point of time, whenever you pick his books to read. More so now, than ever before.