SALMAN RUSHDIE’S twelfth novel is titled The Golden House (Random House). Set in New York City, the story opens on the day of Barack Obama’s inauguration, when the enigmatic, foreign billionaire Nero Golden takes up residence in “the Gardens,” a storied gated community in Greenwich Village. With his three sons, Golden ceremoniously arrives to re-establish himself in the U.S.
Significantly for readers of this magazine, one of Golden’s sons struggles with his gender identity and wrestles with the existential choices it implies. The 400-page book, which has been described as part The Great Gatsby and part Bonfire of the Vanities, tells the story of the American zeitgeist over the past decade: the birther movement, the Tea Party, the superhero movie, and the insurgence of ruthlessly ambitious, media-savvy villains who wear makeup and have colored hair.
Born in India in 1947, Sir Salman Rushdie was educated at Cambridge University and came of age in England—indeed he is a knight of the realm—but has lived in New York City for much of his adult life. It was his fourth novel, The Satanic Verses, that provoked a fatwa on his life, issued by Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini in 1989. The pronouncement placed Rushdie in mortal danger for the next decade, and the book’s publication was met with demonstrations around the world. But Rushdie survived; the book went on to become an international bestseller; and many more would follow. Even before Satanic Verses, Rushdie had won the Booker Prize, in 1981, for Midnight’s Children. Subsequent books have included novels such as The Ground Beneath Her Feet (1999) and The Enchantress of Florence (2008) and several collections of essays.
This exclusive interview was conducted by telephone in August.
— Frank Pizzoli