THE ANGLOPHONE LITERARY world seldom gets an occasion to work itself into a frenzy. While the romances and alliances, tiffs and spats between authors might sneak into the headlines occasionally, they are generators of chatter and not cause for celebration. But then once in a few years, the church bells ring, and the press is stopped as news comes our way that a new Sir Salman Rushdie book is in the offing. He is, after all, the multi-award winning author of 12 previous novels, which include Midnight’s Children that won the Booker Prize 1981, and the Best of the Booker Prize nearly three decades after it was written. While The Satanic Verses (1988), might have changed his life in ways he could have never wanted, his other works like The Moor’s Last Sigh (1995), The Ground Beneath Her Feet (1999), The Enchantress of Florence (2008) and Haroun and the Sea of Stories (1990) justified his reputation as a master of words nonpareil. It is little surprise then that the announcement of a new Rushdie work is met with the same anticipation as the release of a new Quentin Tarantino movie. Fans know that the signature ingredients of their hero’s work will resurface, but remain ignorant of what form it will take.
Six months from now, in September to be precise, Rushdie rooters will find out what is in store for them, as his new novel The Golden House (published by Penguin Random House) will hit stands. Pitched as a ‘modern-day thriller’, it follows a mysteriously wealthy family from Mumbai that is seeking to forget the tragedy they left behind as they reinvent themselves in New York City. Rushdieisms are said to imbue the novel, making it fable-like. His last novel, Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights (2015), set in New York, referenced the 1,001 nights Scheherazade spent telling stories in the Arabian Nights. Readers can perhaps once again expect that The Golden House will draw from contemporary events but then morph into something more fantastical.
Pitched as a modern-day thriller, the novel follows a mysteriously wealthy family from Mumbai that is seeking to forget the tragedy they left behind as they reinvent themselves in New York City
The Golden House, we are told, ‘is about where we were before 26/11, where we are today and how we got here.’ The book asks readers ‘in a post-truth world’ if ‘facts and authenticity are necessarily the same thing’. As an author and public intellectual, Rushdie has never shied away from taking a stance. His Twitter feed, for example (last updated in November), is a heartfelt endorsement of Hillary Clinton as US president. Given his support for Clinton and his outright censure of Donald Trump, this new work promises to be a scathing and acute read on the confusing world we live in.
In response to the Charlie Hebdo shooting in Paris in 2015, Rushdie had said, ‘Religion, a medieval form of unreason, when combined with modern weaponry becomes a real threat to our freedoms… I stand with Charlie Hebdo, as we all must, to defend the art of satire, which has always been a force for liberty and against tyranny, dishonesty and stupidity.’ In The Golden House, readers will perhaps get a chance to see Rushdie use the strength of art and letters against forces of dishonesty and stupidity.