Salman Rushdie: ‘A lot of what Trump unleashed was there anyway’

Emma Brockes in The Guardian:

Salman rThe image that came to Salman Rushdie, around which he would build his new novel, was an enclosed garden in downtown Manhattan. It is a space that exists in real life (although, as one of the characters in The Golden House observes, real life is a category from which it is increasingly hard to distinguish less reliable entities) and with which Rushdie is familiar; old friends inhabit one of the houses backing on to the garden. “The idea of there being a secret space inside this noisy public space,” he says. “I had this lightbulb moment that it was like a theatre – with a Greek tragedy, amphitheatre quality – where the characters could enact their stories. It also had a Rear Window quality, of being able to spy on everybody else’s lives. At that point, the Golden family decided they wanted to move in.” We are in the offices of Andrew Wylie, Rushdie’s agent of 30 years – “my longest relationship!” he says gleefully – a mile north of Rushdie’s apartment in lower Manhattan. He is looking particularly Rushdie-esque today: part rumpled intellectual, part something less sober. At 70, Rushdie has had more public incarnations than most writers of literary fiction – brilliant novelist, man on the run, subject of tabloid scorn and government dismay, social butterfly, and, in that singularly British designation, man lambasted for being altogether too Up Himself – but it is often overlooked what good company he is. His humour this morning is not caustic, nor ironised, nor filtered through any of the more protected modes of engagement, but is a kind of jolliness – a giggly delight – that simply makes him a good laugh to hang out with.

The Golden family are transplants to New York from Mumbai (or “Bombay” as the author continues to call it in conversation, with what feels like particularly Rushdian obstinacy), an outlandishly wealthy father and his three dysfunctional sons in flight from a personal tragedy; the loss of their mother during the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks. We never discover their “real” names; on arriving in the US, the patriarch renames himself Nero Golden – Rushdie, anticipating a collective eye-roll perhaps, points out in the novel this is no more ridiculous a name than Huckleberry Finn or Ichabod Crane – and tests the principle that the US is a place where one can leave one’s past at the door. It is an issue with which Rushdie is intimately familiar; the split in identity, the ability to shed one’s skin after a trauma and potentially skip off scot-free, and he explores both the impossibility and, ultimately, the undesirability of this. That the novel opens with the inauguration of Barack Obama and closes with the election of President Trump, “the Joker” as Rushdie brands him, is the novelist’s reminder there is no progress in history that can’t be undone.

More here.