Golden House – Salman Rushdie


A novel by Salman Rushdie, one that starts: “On the day of the new president’s inauguration…”


Whenever I start reading GOLDEN HOUSE, my thoughts will appear in the comment stream below…

39 thoughts on “Golden House – Salman Rushdie

  1. F309F192-165E-4EE9-9560-8E7738A48A9B

    PART I

    1 & 2
    “Things leak out, inevitably, and we found out their story in time, but before that we all had our own hypotheses about their secret history, wrapping our fictions around theirs.”

    I have posted the book’s summary above not only to save me telling you this myself as I go through but also – in tune with my first quote from it above – so that I can correlate what it actually IS about with what others SAY it is about. Straight off, I wonder if Nero Golden is some mutant morph of the current Trump President who arrives at Golden House just when the previous Obama president was inaugurated? Augur – augurate. Au as gold and aurum, aura.
    Whatever the case, this Rushdie flows as brilliantly as his previous books I’ve read over the years, as if I have come home again to the beautifully structured and tantalising Rush Die prose with its wit and its illusory allusions and elusions – and elisions.

  2. 3 – 5

    Young man René, the narrator as neighbour to the eponymous house, using the Goldens as part of his fictioneering. His parents more internet savvy than René Tintin Magritte is.
    This stuff is recently defunct (William) Gass now fully re-ignited. Or back to life as the real gas of Rushdie farts.

  3. 6

    René describes Nero’s three sons, post-Bombay Muslim attack, all named after classical figures but with nicknames formed from them, the oldest Petya on autistic spectrum, blue screen agoraphobic and Monty Python fan. You can’t say I’m an Idle reviewer. But I may not be able to keep it up.

  4. 7

    Now René portrays Apu Golden, not Satyricon but Golden Ass, talk of a Kabbalist called Idel, 1001 nights, and a Somali Woman Ms Tuur who is a sculptor and sets Apu against Petya. The two brothers almost polar opposites? There is much style and subject crepitation going on here semantically, syntactically, phonetically, even graphologically. A real Gass!
    No review can do it justice but equally it does not do justice to my reviewing. Brackett Omensetter Obama, notwithstanding.

  5. 8

    Nero’s third son – D Golden – D for Dionysus – around René’s age, born to unknown mother. How can I possibly encapsulate D here? The only way is to read this chapter, its relevant and irrelevant list of transgender terms…
    D, the Golden Mean of “the Golden men”? My question, not the book’s.
    A book that makes my mind tingle. Literally tingle.

  6. 9

    Vasilisa the Russian girl gets her tsar – Nero.

    “, prufrocked into a sudden ‘pudeur’, […] Do I dare, and do I dare?”

    This book is as I imagined and hoped Rushdie would write when in his seventies, after the promise of his thirties in the 1970/1980s.

  7. 10

    A wide screen black and white discussion, of Nero’s love of Vasilisa, by his 3 sons. D’s Rita Z is only roughly the same age as her. Cf this novel’s future Trump?
    A seminal speech by Rushdie’s Riya for our times:
    “Have you considered that she may make him happy and actually find it in her heart to love him? But even if she is faking it, this can still be good. Things are good which reduce the amount of global misery, or the quantity of injustice, or both. So if she reduces his unhappiness even for a brief time, even fraudulently, then that counts as good.”

  8. The delay has harboured much meantime. The parts unwritten still somehow read.


    “I have signed the baby away. I have so instructed my body, my womb. There will be no baby with this man I love. Our love is the baby and that baby is already born…”

    Yet, she, Nero’s Vasilisa Arsenyeva, has Baba Yaga inside, as significancer.
    Conniving, colluding…
    I cannot keep retelling the plot as my review. The book is now inside me, too. Just look in my face and read it with me. Who is writing whom? René manqué?

  9. 12

    “When she spoke like this a dizziness came over him, as if the whole world was flying apart into fragments, and he was very afraid of the fragmented world and what it meant for him,…”

    N’s youngest son D escapes from the circumstances of N’s relationship with Vasilisa. And D lives elsewhere with Riya. Did D and R meet at the Museum of Identity, near the Nemonymous exhibition? Talk of male and female as one with hidden Hindu references. A scar used as a vagina? And much else.
    Is this review inspiring you or putting you off? Sorry, if the latter. Because this book loves YOU.

    “…and I imagine they may like to discover the book, as a gift from the city to mark their special day, or the book may like to discover them.”

  10. 13

    “Transition is like translation. You’re moving across from one language into another.”

    Into, not to, being the operative word? Here the language of literature from Kafka’s metamorphosis to D trying on his father’s mistress’s gowns, then later discussing choice of pronouns with Riya. Unclear what creature Kafka intended. Lost in translation….

    One’s body one’s own golden house? Depends who you allow to live there. Rooms, too.

  11. 14

    “And where, right now, was the new Mrs Golden, and what was her opinion of her husband blubbering to ghosts in the garden?”

    The ghosts of his previous two wives, it seems. The wedding of Nero and Vasilisa, a substantive cinematic chapter with René in attendance as surrogate narrator, we more than just guess, with, later, a ghost or, rather, Royle dummy of Gorbachev as his interpreter, or Nero sleepwalking in and out of himself like a ghost or Royle dummy, of himself or a broad brush prophecy of Trump with his business associates before even Rushdie knew the importance of what he was writing, promises made to Nero’s sons as to their status quo inheritance, and the means to that end. And many other machinations, including glimpses ahead of the Salisbury poisoning as a ghost of previous assassination echoes, all being read by me in the month of 2018 the Russia World Cup is being held! But this is not a Ghost Story, the author is too sceptical, or at least the narrator is. But there is the Russian Orthodox and its all-forgivingness via its Holy Ghost. So much here, telling history in morphed hindsight prophecy. In words to Rushdie for.

  12. PART II


    Apu has an art showing. Meanwhile…
    Are we all philosophers because of internet memes. And can we not spell Ghandi?


    Are we all famous now? But Nero, in his newfound land…

    “Surely such a fellow would not bruit himself abroad in his newfound land? Whereas this fellow, increasingly, and persistently, and with ever increasing brio, does he not, bruits. —- Sir, he does.”

    And is ‘bruits’ a prophecy for the rhyme of Trump’s tweets? Sir, it is.

  13. 16

    Pages 142 – 148

    “Here is the earth and it is so beautiful and we are so lucky to be here with one another…”

    Yet, what do we do? The relativity of morality and religion. The way things now go between strict parameters of perceived good and evil, as René has the ‘good’ of a love requited simultaneously with the ‘evil’ of his parents listening to an in-car audio of the Trojan Horse tale as they are slaughtered by a meaningless road accident…
    Amazingly, just before reading this section of Golden House, I found reason to bruit this tweet below to all and sundry, words that have now been (or were already!) reechoed by Rushdie in this preternaturally powerful ‘fiction’ form of this section…

  14. Page 148 –

    René’s cinema musings and ambitions. Only a week ago I reviewed a book that mentioned Bergman’s Seventh Seal – this was the Bergman film due to be watched in The Road of Pins here:

    Nero G advices him following the death of his parents, continuing the theme of the possible ability to be simultaneously bad and good, and mentions the space between death and rebirth called the bardo. And Flash Gordon!

  15. 17

    If I tell you everything that happens in the plot, that might mean you will not bother reading it to experience the word-textured gas feeding that plot as fuel. That NG and his sons are not real or fictional people but actually a composite of Alternate Proustian selves. Or that their world is an Alternate World that seems to show that our world where you are reading this as fiction is a second Alternate, neither of these two worlds being the real world that transpired after Obama. On the other hand, the truth of each character is perhaps their method of straddling or balancing or unifying various multiple Alternates without becoming conscious of themselves achieving this feat. Otherwise, they might lose their nerve, unbalance, topple and cease to exist. (Perhaps Petya Golden is controlling everything from the computer bank in his solitary room?)


  16. 18

    “It may be, I thought, that when good and evil were separated they both became equally destructive; that the saint was as appalling and dangerous a figure as the out-and-out rogue.”

    “Maybe it was just too neat, and the truth was that evil deeds trumped good ones. It didn’t matter, for example, that Hitler was kind to dogs.”

    Many human beings seem more kind to their animals than they are to other humans, I find. Meanwhile, René, the narrator, is in two minds when Vasilisa wants him to objectively father her children while she keeps from NG that his seed has been found to be firing non-fathering bullets. Ironic in more ways than one, then, that they meet a lunatic seeming stranger in the street who extrapolates on the easy gun law repercussions of America as leading to ‘living guns’ becoming mass killing machines…

  17. 19
    Pages 180 – 184

    “However, I now found myself in the zugzwang eventually faced by all liars, deceivers and cheats:”

    No good move possible, but a move is compulsory.
    René seems, however, to transpose pleasure lessons learnt from cheating via his otherwise business-like duty of having his semen milked into his, otherwise more staid, uncheating sex, No cheating in chess, though, unless it is by some form of prestidigitation or sleight of hand? That’s fiction, I guess. A form of reality experimentation to thwart zugzwang.

    Also see ZUGZWANG by Quentin S. Crisp, reviewed here:

  18. Pages 184 – 193

    “I wanted her to become pregnant, no I didn’t, yes I did, no, I did not.”

    René speaking about his job to seed Vasilisa.
    And then it happened? Read it and find out. And how René benefited as imputed father, or not. And what favours any such event benefited Nero’s view of his ageing self.

    “— Art requires betrayal, and trumps that betrayal, because the betrayal is transmuted into art. That’s right, right? Right. —
    Slow dissolve.”


    Then, Nero’s obsession with finding the right home for Napoleon Bonaparte’s detached penis.

    “This was the year, for example, that Apu Golden began smashing objects to make his increasingly political art, exhibiting broken things to represent a broken society, and the anger of the people at its brokenness. ‘People’s lives are smashed up,’ he said, ‘and they are ready to smash everything up because why the fuck not.’”

    A prophecy for the vote for Trump and Brexit, I ask?

  19. 20

    “Stip by stip.”

    René’s narration – a bit like that of PB Jones in Capote’s Answered Prayers – mixes fiction people with real, but which is which? Here he teaches us more about Petya Golden, hating self-justifiably his two Golden siblings, and almost threatening his future sibling (supposedly Nero’s but really Vasilisa-via-René’s), still sitting in the blue light of his Aspergers room, followed by his creation of ‘enchanted spaces’ to annul memory clusters and talk noise, then his eventual ‘grand saunter’ with chalks as security – helped by his shrink who looks like Pat Cash – a feat of saunter which eventually seems to transcend his agoraphobia and need of chalking his outward path. Very moving and recognisable from my own personal experience of myself and others. Also a wild word-collage featuring Breitbart and Jihadi John, inter alios.

  20. 21

    Pages 203 – 210

    “One man’s ceiling is another man’s floor.”

    “The problem is human, human nature in general, male human nature in particular, and the permission that anonymity gives people to unleash the worst sides of that nature.”

    René discovers for us that the autistic nature of Petya (aka as JaneEyre’s Mrs Rochester!) has helped him to become a well-paid computer games app designer…. Meanwhile René agonises over his still unborn child… and builds a gestalt of screenplay for his Gardens neighbours… and prophesies a certain indeterminate sort of doom for Petya, one yet to be divulged… (appropriate that I received today a book called PROPHECIES AND DOOMS.)

  21. 22

    True is such a twentieth century concept.”

    “Now if a dead gorilla from the Cincinnati zoo runs for president he’ll get at least ten per cent of the vote.”

    “Yeah, I have intimations of doom.”

    Prophecies of Mortality? Null Immortalis. “, troll generated”, if so.
    René tells us of his inveigled meeting with his infant son, and Apu’s admission that he now sees ghosts. The nature of the ‘elite’ and the ‘post-factual.’
    Life as part of an unfinished novel, with knowledge of how many pages left. To go forward, you need to go back, first? Words as the ghosts one sees. Only genuine #GestaltRealTimeReviewing can see them.

  22. 23

    “I was a little shocked. ‘Just make it up?’
    ‘You have an imagination,’ she said. ‘Imagine it.’
    A golden story, I remembered. For the Romans, a tall tale, a wild conceit. A lie.”

    “I’ve been looking for a girl like you, he said, groucholy. Not you but a girl like you.

    Apu, with Ubah Tuur, arrives in Bombay where the family once lived through the terrorist attack, where the brothers were once the Marx brothers, now subject to all the resentment … POWERFUL resentment following the departure of Nero and his sons. Now is this all fake news as a fiction or a cinema film, with a tableau of Ravi Shankar and George Harrison. With you, Without You. Or whatever…

    And is Nero really a prophecy and doom…with one ghost moving out and another moving in, to give us – who do you think?

    “Without briberyandcorruption nothing would happen. It is briberyandcorruption that oils the wheels of the nation, and it is also the solution to our nation’s problems.”

  23. 24
    Dedicated to Trump?
    Passage written by Rushdie for GOLDEN HOUSE – written before November 2016, I guess. Rather it is written by the narrator René [as a Re-born re-né not as a Rush to die]

    “It was the year of the Joker in Gotham and beyond. The Caped Crusader was nowhere to be seen—it was not an age of heroes—but his archrival in the purple frock coat and striped pantaloons was ubiquitous, clearly delighted to have the stage to himself and hogging the limelight with evident delight. He had seen off the Suicide Squad, his feeble competition, but he permitted a few of his inferiors to think of themselves as future members of a Joker administration. The Penguin, the Riddler, Two-Face and Poison Ivy lined up behind the Joker in packed arenas, swaying like doo-wop backing singers while their leader spoke of the unrivaled beauty of white skin and red lips to adoring audiences wearing green fright wigs and chanting in unison, Ha! Ha! Ha!
    The origins of the Joker were disputed, the man himself seemed to enjoy allowing contradictory versions to fight for air space, but on one fact everyone, passionate supporters and bitter antagonists, was agreed: he was utterly and certifiably insane. What was astonishing, what made this an election year like no other, was that people backed him because he was insane, not in spite of it. What would have disqualified any other candidate made him his followers’ hero. Sikh taxi drivers and rodeo cowboys, rabid alt-right blondes and black brain surgeons agreed, we love his craziness, no milquetoast euphemisms from him, he shoots straight from the hip, says whatever he fucking wants to say, robs whatever bank he’s in the mood to rob, kills whoever he feels like killing, he’s our guy. The black bat-knight has flown! It’s a new day, and it’s hoping to be a scream! All hail the United States of Joker! U.S.J.! U.S.J.! U.S.J.!

    It was a year of two bubbles. In one of those bubbles, the Joker shrieked and the laugh-track crowds laughed right on cue. In that bubble the climate was not changing and the end of the Arctic icecap was just a new real estate opportunity. In that bubble, gun murderers were exercising their constitutional rights but the parents of murdered children were un-American. In that bubble, if its inhabitants were victorious, the president of the neighboring country to the south which was sending rapists and killers to America would be forced to pay for a wall dividing the two nations to keep the killers and rapists south of the border where they belonged; and crime would end; and the country’s enemies would be defeated instantly and overwhelmingly; and mass deportations would be a good thing; and women reporters would be seen to be unreliable because they had blood coming out of their whatevers; and the parents of dead war heroes would be revealed to be working for radical Islam; and international treaties would not have to be honored; and Russia would be friend and that would have nothing whatsoever to do with the Russian oligarchs propping up the Joker’s shady enterprises; and the meanings of things would change; multiple bankruptcies would be understood to prove great business enterprise; and three and a half thousand lawsuits against you would be understood to prove great business acumen; and stiffing your contractors would prove your tough-guy business attitude; and a crooked university would prove your commitment to education; and while the Second Amendment would be sacred the First would not be; so those who criticized the leader would suffer consequences; and African Americans would go along with it all because what the hell did they have to lose. In that bubble knowledge was ignorance, up was down, and the right person to hold the nuclear codes in his hand was the green-haired white-skinned red-slash-mouth giggler who asked a military briefing team four times why nuclear weapons was so bad. In that bubble, razor-tipped playing cards were funny, and lapel flowers that sprayed acid into people’s faces were funny, and wishing you could have sex with your daughter was funny, and sarcasm was funny even when what was called sarcasm was not sarcastic, and lying was funny, and hatred was funny, and bigotry was funny, and bullying was funny, and the date was, or almost was, or might soon be, if the jokes worked out as they should, nineteen eight-four.

    In the other bubble — as my parents had taught me long ago — was the city of New York. In New York, for the moment, at least, a kind of reality still persevered, and New Yorkers could identify a con man when they saw one. In Gotham we knew who the Joker was, and wanted nothing to do with him, or the daughter he lusted after, or the daughter he never mentioned, or the sons who murdered elephants and leopards for sport. ‘I’ll take Manhattan!’ the Joker screeched, hanging from the top of a skyscraper, but we laughed at him and not at his bombastic jokery, and he had to take his act on the road to places where people hadn’t gotten his number yet, or, worse, knew very well what he was and loved him for it: the segment of the country that was as crazy as he. His people. Too many of them for comfort.

    It was the year of the great battle between deranged fantasy and gray reality, between, on the one hand, la chose en soi, the possibly unknowable but probably existing thing in itself, the world as it was independently of what was said about it or how it was seen, the Ding an sich, to use the Kantian term—and, on the other, this cartoon character who had crossed the line between the page and the stage—a sort of illegal immigrant, I thought—whose plan was to turn the whole country, faux-hilariously, into a lurid graphic novel, the modern kind, full of black crime and renegade Jews and cocksuckers and cunts, which were words he liked to use sometimes just to give the liberal elite conniptions; a comic book in which elections were rigged and the media were crooked and everything you hated was a conspiracy against you, but in the end! Yay! You won, the fright wig turned into a crown, and the Joker became the King.

    It remained to be seen if, come November, the country would turn out to be in a New York state of mind, or if it would prefer to put on the green fright wigs and laugh. Ha! Ha! Ha!”


  24. 25


    “Gay or straight, cis or trans, asterisk or no asterisk, genderqueer or agender, none of this was a problem.”

    My other questions:
    A projection by D of self as a trans from a fiction character to a real one…
    Also Nero’s jar of ashes projecting itself as Apu…
    René reborn as Little Vespa…

  25. 26

    “This is how we are: we fall in love with each other’s strengths, but love deepens towards permanence when we fall in love with each other’s weaknesses.”

    Prose cut with René’s cinematic cuts, a blending of prose strengths and weaknesses with those of cinema’s, as we follow D’s projection from [He] to ‘she’, and Riya’s safeguards against the arrival of an escaped murderer from prison who happens to be Riya’s Dad. And more of this book’s characters continue to peel off leaving fewer eligible for its Tontine’s eventual last survivor’s prize?

  26. 27

    The two conjoined paragraphs below need quoting in full from the book to ease future googling of such significance to our world since they were written in 2016. Today being the day that Trump met Putin alone for two hours (the meeting having ended about twenty minutes ago.)
    Incredible correlations for our times, as the Joker-Trump prophecies and dooms rear up again, and Nero’s sex drive rears down! It wilts even worse than my own! Is Nero the catalyst for the prophecies and dooms, or is it me, still suffering the slings and arrows of prostrate radiotherapy and old age?

    “Tragedy was the arrival in human affairs of the inexorable, which might be external (a family curse) or internal (character flaw) but in either case events would take their inescapable course. But it was at least a part of human nature to contest the idea of the inexorable, even though other words for tragedy’s superforce, destiny, kismet, karma, fate, were so powerful in every tongue. It was at least a part of human nature to insist on human agency and will, and to believe that the irruption into human affairs of chance was a better explanation for the failures of that agency and will than a predestined  and irresistible pattern inherent in the narrative. The antic clothing of the absurd, the idea of the meaninglessness of life, was a more attractive philosophical garment to many of us than the tragedian’s somber robes, which, when worn, became both the evidence and the agents of doom. But it was also an aspect  of human nature – just as powerful a characteristic of the contradictory human animal as its opposite – fatalistically to accept that there was indeed a natural order of things, and uncomplainingly to play the cards you were dealt.
    Two urns of human ash on Nero Golden’s desk: was this tragic inexorability at work, or a dreadful, doubly random misfortune? And the demented Joker out there, swinging from the Empire State Building with his greedy eye on the White House: was he the consequence of an extraordinary concatenation of unpredictable mischances, or the product of eight years and more of public shamelessness of which he was the embodiment and apogee? Tragedy or chance? And were there escape routes for the family and the country, or was it wiser to sit back and accept one’s fate?”

  27. 28
    Pages 277 – 279

    “The world outside the haunted house had begun to feel like a lie. Outside the house it was the Joker’s world, the world of what reality had begun to mean in America, which was to say, a kind of radical untruth: phoniness, garishness, bigotry, vulgarity, violence, paranoia …”

    By means of a pet lynx that he acquires, Petya tries to regroup in his room of blue light as the surviving brother in the Golden Tontine…

  28. Pages 279 – 285

    “He repeated this sentence thirty-seven times, as if he were retweeting himself.”

    Being dead versus doing art, “Eschatological insanity”, as the Joker whines, “the molester screaming about molestation, the propagandist accusing the whole world of propaganda, the bully whining about being ganged up on,…” and yesterday in real-time beyond this book, he changed word would to word wouldn’t. René is, meanwhile, both creator of and participant in this book, this film, “all the characters are the auteur”, and Petya’s blue light games are stories. Stories within. Nero’s halting red light, too?

  29. 29
    Pages 286 – 292

    “What had happened was that she no longer thought what she had thought she thought. So she had no idea what to think.”

    I know what the late D Golden’s Riya is thinking when she thinks this. We watch her struggle with the wording of her consequent resignation from the Museum of Identity, then facing up her own identity against the consequent bombardment from those on social media, all then briefly related to the identity issues of Brexit… This book is indeed one of prophecies and dooms. A ways and means of thinking about our era hopefully with thoughts one wants or needs to think about it. Why isn’t this book more famous? It is a book with its own thoughts. A book is always what it is, even if nobody reads it.

  30. PART III


    René, our guide, has finished his film of The Golden House, his baby within the book of it, as well as his real baby disguised as Nero’s baby, now Nero’s sole heir. But is René also writing a murder mystery, gradually? Vasilisa poisioning Nero gradually, not as quickly as Russian nerve agent would, at this point when America goes to the polls in the 2016 election. All is truth, as long as it is faked or fictionalised, I say! And a detective is coming from Mumbai…

  31. 31

    “That was who he was.”

    From Rear Window to Back Story.
    Nero’s confession at 80 years old old to Riya. (Told or filmed by René in hindsight, breaking the fourth wall?)
    No spoilers here about this long chapter.

  32. 32

    “What would it mean if the Joker became the King and the she-bat went to jail. Outside the Gardens the giggles were becoming louder, sounding more like shrieks, and I didn’t know if they were screams of rage or joy. I was simultaneously exhausted and scared. Maybe I was wrong about my country. Maybe a life lived in the bubble had made me believe things that were not so, or not enough so to carry the day. What did anything mean if the worst happened, if brightness fell from the air, if the lies, the slanders, the ugliness, the ugliness, became the face of America. What would my story mean, my life, my work, the stories of Americans old and new, Mayflower families and Americans proudly sworn in just in time to share in the unmasking—the unmaking—of America. Why even try to understand the human condition if humanity revealed itself as grotesque, dark, not worth it. What was the point of poetry, cinema, art. Let goodness wither on the vine. Let Paradise be lost. The America I loved, gone with the wind.
    I didn’t sleep well that last weekend before the vote….”

    And whatever man was then due to win the vote in November 2016 — seemingly soon after the above was written — appears now to be paralleled in dire fallibility by NeroG and his visitor from Porlock, nay, from Bombay, a parallel I predicted right from the start….?

    But was René always as omniscient as the Gestalt Real-Time Reviewer?
    And what of the Borsalino hats?

  33. 33 – 36

    From King Lear to The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire…

    “But if human nature were not a mystery, we’d have no need of poets.”

    …nor of Real-Time Fictioneers like Sir Rush-to Die (the wrong ones always seem to die or be killed, see PSYCHO) who created here the Real-Time Truth-teller reborn as René, who needs to tell his own devastating Truth of Little Vespa’s Paternity within this Fake News fiction, where the author and his sub-author do now Gestalt Real-Time Review the winning of the vote by the Joker, which they hadn’t known when they wrote (or filmed) the earlier chapters…
    A mighty ending to a mighty novel – that few have read so far?
    It is the hottest day of the year, as I write this. A match or Little Vesta is all it takes…

    “Fire is licking around the edges of my story as it comes to a close, and fire is hot and inexorable and will have its day.”


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