Our aim is to exchange views on the themes and meaning of topical, culturally diverse and thought-provoking books

Wednesday, 10 October 2018

The Golden House

by Salman  Rushdie

Reading following timeless questions on the human conditions made me choose to read the book!!!
Can a person be both good and evil? Is family destiny? Does the past always catch up to us?
In a time of extremes, can we find common ground? Will despots and their supporters be forever with us? Will humankind ever learn? Can story and art enlighten us?
The Novel
The Golden House is the Daumus Aurea from Nero in Rome!
The Golden House” is a: 
  • Social Novel: what kept people busy the last decades?
  • Distopia: 
    • cfr. George Orwell: “1984”.
    • cfr. Aldous Huxley “The Brave New World” (°1935)
    • cfr. Ray Bradbury. Fahrenheit 451 (°1953).
 Realism: the readers recognise the circumstances they live through.
Think about Jane Austen examining Regency-era social mores in “Pride and Prejudice” and John Steinbeck depicting the Great Depression in “The Grapes of Wrath”.
- But, writing about the present is much more difficult.
Salman Rushdie has been doing this for decades.
A lot of allusions is made to literature, film, mythology and politics, and the information overload of the internet. The result is a rich epic of the immigrant experience in modern America, where no amount of money or self-abnegation can truly free a family from the sins of the past.” 

  • Today’s issues all get play in this novel: gender transition, autism, free speech and nationalism ..…
  •  Freedom, democracy and individualism are losing out to oppressing  regimes. 
The core of the novel: 
  • Reinvention of IDENTITY  (Museum of Identity is an invention of Rushdie;
  • IMMIGRATION. Salman Rushdie says he has always been an immigrant, first in the UK, then in the US.  He has always been in the Minority and is not against immigrants: “It’s a creative place to be!!!
India & the US.
Problems in the US:.
  • gender
  • race
Problems in India:
  • religions: islam/hindouism. The nowadays racist President Prime Minister Narendra Modi.would be elected again if he came up. 
  • Cfr. the election of Donald Trump in the USA!
  • TRUMP 
  • *critical news = fake news . Riya: “We are living in a moment that reality itself its questionable, has been attacked. Not only in America, but all over in the world”.
  • *fear of other races: America First”.(Every American is an immigrant, so..)
  • *The Joker: Trump: a comic character living in the “City of Gotham” (New Jersey - bordering New York City)

  • Rushdie’s (and the protagonist’s) biggest frusration is:
    • how could 60 million Americans elect this horror (Trump)
    • and how could  90 million shrug their shoulders and stay home!!!
  • !!!!!!!! Only in this kind of society a Trump can become a President
The protagonist
The main character (the protagonist) in the book is: René, son of Belgian Academics.
  • René is a filmmaker.Cfr.: Tintin and Hercule Poirot: both Belgians.
  • Salman Rushdie has an enormous knowledge of films. Bombay (where he was born) = Bollywood ( Now: Mumbai)
 The Author
Since late 1999, Rushdie has lived in New York City, leaving behind the U.K. after living there for four decades. With the impending Brexit, he says, “I feel about England right now that it’s like a family having a picnic on a railway track. ‘What’s the problem? What’s that hooting noise?’ 
— I mean, they don’t seem to understand what’s about to happen to them.”
But he’s far more concerned about his native India.
Rushdie is troubled by the shunning of secularism that defined his youth and the turn toward tribalism and sectarian violence that has flourished under Modi.“What is worse is that the regime there, which is in many ways as worrying as what’s happening here (in the States), is very popular … If [Modi] called an election tomorrow, he’d win!!
Rushdie became an American citizen last year, and a big part of the draw for him was the nation’s culture of free speech 

There are countries in Europe where Holocaust denial is a crime.
Because it seemed to me you don’t get rid of rotten ideas by forbidding their expression, and in some ways you make them more powerful because you give them the power of taboo.”
He’s concerned that young Americans today seem too censorious, too willing to give up their freedom of speech in order to avoid offense. 
The Golden House tackles this issue while flirting with giving offense by depicting a character with autism and another who might be transgender.

    • He, is anti-“Social media - e.o. twitter, like Franzen and others,  they do not like the Internet very much.
    • Internet is full off garbage!
Salman Rushdie’s Golden House” can be compared with “The Great Gatsby”.
  • the same American problems. Nothing changed in all these years!!:
  • - - - everyone is implicated, no one is innocent, and no one comes out unscathed….” 

“The Golden House” ends with an enormous fire destroying the Renaissance family house. What else could you expect with a main character called Nero.
The three sons of Nero are already dead. Dead of the burden of today and of the past.
The Novel could have been shorter, but on the whole a powerful, timely story told with the daring that makes Salman Rushdie the standard-bearer of our dark new age.

In our reading group the book was appreciated. Some liked it some did not.
But…: You do not read Salman Rushdie because you like him, but because you want to know what he wants and has to tell us. 
As the young Algerian writer Leila Slimani says: 
“Je n’écris pas pour plaire et d’ailleurs il ne faut jamais écrire pour plaire”

!!!!Salman Rushdie finished this book before the election of Donald Trump!!!!

Loeky Borloo

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