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The fire at the end of the journey

The Golden House
Forfatter: Salman Rushdie
Forlag: Penguin Random House (UK)
Imaginative genre mix dominates Salman Rushdie's latest novel The Golden House.


Fortunately for the world-famous author's self-image, he became famous before Iranian Ayatolla Khomeini's fatwa forever, Rushdie's personal destiny intertwined with his writing, thus adding satanic brilliance to his resume. In that context, there was extra reason to celebrate the 70 anniversary in June, a milestone that must have received the fatwa's trailers to grit teeth. Despite the enduring death threat, Rushdie has not only survived, but produced a long list of books that place him high up on the Olympus mountains of literature, from midnight Children (1981) for this year's release The Golden House.

Magical realism. Within the framework of the novel, Rushdie manifests in his writing a type of magical realism that blends "realistic" action, a here-and-now action in addition to an extended historical narrative, with a modernist form of inner progression, a rather unreal act driven by memories. and dreams. This allows for the freedom to wander freely through genres, which he used for example in autobiography Joseph Anthony from 2012. Here he describes himself in third person, with a name inspired by the authors Joseph Conrad and Anton Tsjekhov. In doing so, he has made it clear with a simple grasp that reality – even one's own – can fuse with fiction, and that identity can be a fantasy product.

Some describe the book as a debate post for Donald Trump's America, but Rushdie is no polemic.

To peel a book. The Golden House is an extension of this genre migration. Some critics describe the book as a debate post for Donald Trump's USA. But Rushdie – who has now lived in the country for 17 years – is not a polemicist, at least not in the novel. To the extent that he weaves current events and people into the story, it is peripheral and without the touch of a political commentator. He introduces us to a main character with an idiotic-bombastic name, Nero Golden. This man shows up with his three sons as if out of nowhere, and builds a wealthy empire from a gilded tower house in New York. Most recently on page 151, we understand that the man can still not be Trump, when Nero offers an empathic monologue with existential reflections and reference to the philosopher Spinoza. Elsewhere, the incumbent (though unnamed) American president gets the role of a green-haired cartoon character named Joker. We keep peeling.

Project. Is there a core? Rushdie's artifacts are many, and they are just as dazzling as one would expect from a word balancer of his caliber. The text is packed with literature and film references, besides leaps and bounds to Roman emperors and Greek myths; In several places, the story mutates into pure film scripts, which is explained by the I-person René. This is a young movie lover who sees that Nero Golden can be the perfect material for a documentary. He manages to make himself a housemate in the Golden family and thus gives the reader orchestral space for a drama that contains most of the elements typical of a crime novel, which this is not. Nero Golden has a past as an Indian mafioso, and unfortunately he came to be co-responsible for his wife's death during a bomb attack in the Taj Mahal. He escapes and starts a new life with blank sheets – he thinks. The sons are also given new Roman names. The web is constricting; a nemesis from the past appears and announces that the hour of reckoning has come; the sons each face their sad fate; another danger lurks through the Russian beauty Vasilisa, whom Nero is so foolish to marry. She, for her part, has her own plan for securing the future. A child. But since the newcomer Nero can no longer keep up with enough semen, young filmmaker René has to pers. He, the child and the boyfriend are the ones left, after the rest of the (main) character gallery has burned down and the Golden House is in ashes.

The author's mouthpieces and tools. This could have been a perfect Bollywood plot. But René is not so stupid, and not Salman Rushdie at all, of course. The Golden House is an exciting, gloomy, apocalyptic novel, which fascinates most through René's character. Through him we approach the deepest existential and moral questions: Can we be both evil and good, and when are we one and the other? Can an escape succeed at all? How do the dimensions of destiny and freedom relate to each other?

The incumbent American president gets the role of a green-haired cartoon character

Seen in the light of this author's very special biography, these questions also have an ethical and magical-realistic weight. And the answers? Salman Rushdie's style is sparkling, for example when he uses grammar to describe someone's double persona: “It is who I am. It is who she is. » Occasionally, however, he tilts on the edge of verbal noise, as when he populates his universe with an endless array of side characters that he equips with all sorts of colorful props: "On a whim he would abandon the pashima shawl and put on, instead, the Arab dishdasha , the African dashiki, the South Indian veshti, the bright shirts of Latin America… »Then it may be worth remembering that this man – Salman Rushdie – is a man with limited freedom of movement, that his meticulous work" in the field "is often just a google click away. In his own words: "In the age of the search engine all knowledge is just a motion away."

Rushdies distillate. But in the end, he gives more than a glimpse of an answer to the eternal questions, put in the mouth of René, who is both a passive observer and an active participant on the stage of the Good and Evil: "I received the ultimate lesson, the one that separates us from innocence. That there was no safe place, that the monster always stood at the gate, that some of the monster was also inside us, we were the monster we had always feared, and no matter how much beauty surrounded us, no matter how lucky we were with life , with money or family or love, at the end of the journey the fire awaited, and it would devour us all. "

Ny Tid has chosen to publish two different readings of the same book,
also read The triumph of the cartoon characters 

Ranveig Eckhoff
Ranveig Eckhoff
Eckhoff is a regular reviewer for Ny Tid.

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