Excerpt from The Golden House by Salman Rushdie, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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The Golden House

A Novel

by Salman Rushdie

The Golden House by Salman Rushdie X
The Golden House by Salman Rushdie
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  • First Published:
    Sep 2017, 400 pages
    Paperback:
    Jun 2018, 400 pages

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One hundred and five years passed. Then, on November 23, 2008, ten gunmen armed with automatic weapons and hand grenades left by boat from the hostile neighboring country to the west of the country that could not be named. In their backpacks they carried ammunition and strong narcotics: cocaine, steroids, LSD, and syringes. On their journey to the city that could not be named they hijacked a fishing boat, abandoned their original vessel, brought two dinghies aboard the fishing boat and told the captain where to go. When they were near the shore they killed the captain and got into the dinghies. Afterwards many people wondered why the coast guard had not seen them or tried to intercept them. The coast was supposed to be well guarded but on this night there had been a failure of some sort. When the dinghies landed, on November 26, the gunmen split up into small groups and made their way to their chosen targets, a railway station, a hospital, a movie theater, a Jewish center, a popular café, and two five-star hotels. One of these was the hotel described above.

The attack on the railway station began at 9:21 p.m., and lasted for an hour and a half. The two gunmen fired indiscriminately, and fifty-eight people died. They left the station and were eventually cornered near a city beach, where one was killed and the other captured. Meanwhile, at 9:30 p.m., another team of killers blew up a gas station and then started shooting at the people in the Jewish center when they came to the windows. Then they attacked the center itself and seven people died. Ten people died at the café. Over the next forty-eight hours perhaps thirty people died in the other hotel.

The hotel that was loved by everyone was attacked around 9:45 p.m. Guests in the swimming pool area were shot first, and then the gunmen went toward the restaurants. A young woman working in the Sea Lounge where young men took their girlfriends to impress them helped many guests escape through a staff door, but when the gunmen burst into the lounge she herself was killed. Grenades were set off and a murder spree followed during what became a three-day siege. Outside there were TV crews and crowds and someone shouted, "The hotel is on fire!" Flames leapt from the windows of the topmost floor and the famous staircase too was ablaze. Among those trapped by the flames and burned to death were the wife and children of the manager of the hotel. The gunmen had blueprints of the hotel's floor plan and their blueprints were more accurate than those held by the security forces. They used the drugs to stay awake and the LSD—which is not a psychostimulant—combined with the other drugs (which were) to create in the killers a manic hallucinogenic frenzy and they laughed aloud as they killed. Outside, the TV crews reported on escaping hotel guests and the killers watched TV to find out where the guests were escaping from. By the end of the siege over thirty people had died, many of them members of the hotel staff.

• • •

The Goldens, under their abandoned original name, lived in the city's most exclusive neighborhood, in a gated community on the most exclusive hill, in a large modern house overlooking the Art Deco mansions lining the back bay into which the red sun dove headfirst every night. We can imagine them there, the old man, not so old then, and the sons, also younger, the big brilliant clumsy agoraphobic firstborn lummox, the middle one with his night-running ways and his society portraits, the youngest boy with the darkness and confusion in him, and it seems that the game of giving themselves classical names was one the old man had encouraged them to play for many years, just as he taught them from their earliest days that they were not ordinary people, they were Caesars, they were gods. The Roman emperors, and afterwards the Byzantine monarchs, were known by Arabs and Persians as Qaisar- e Rúm, Caesars of Rome. And if Rome was Rúm, then they, the kings of this eastern Rome, were Rumi. That led them to the study of the mystic and sage Rumi, a.k.a. Jalaluddin Balkhi, whose quotes the father and his sons batted around like tennis balls, what you seek is seeking you, you are the universe in ecstatic motion, be notorious, unfold your own myth, sell your cleverness and buy bewilderment, set your life on fire, seek those who fan your flames, and if you desire healing, let yourself fall ill, until they grew weary of his nostrums and started making them up to make one another laugh, if you want to be rich, make yourself poor, if someone is looking for you, that's who you're looking for, if you want to be right side up, stand upon your head. After that they were no longer Rumi and became Latinate Julii, the sons of Caesar who were or would be Caesars in their own right. They were an old family claiming to be able to trace their ancestry all the way back to Alexander the Great— alleged by Plutarch to be the son of Zeus himself— so they were at least the equal of the Julio- Claudians who claimed descent from Iulus, the son of pious Aeneas, prince of Troy, and therefore from Aeneas's mother, the goddess Venus. As for the word Caesar, it had at least four possible origins. Did the first Caesar kill a caesai— the Moorish word for elephant? Did he have thick hair on his head— caesaries? Did he have gray eyes, oculis caesiis? Or did his name come from the verb caedere, to cut, because he was born by caesarean section? "I don't have gray eyes, and my mother gave birth to me in the usual way," said the old man. "And my hair, though still present, has thinned; nor have I killed any elephants. To hell with the first Caesar. I choose to be Nero, the last one." "Who are we, then?" the middle son asked. "You are my sons," the patriarch said with a shrug. "Choose your own names." Afterwards, when it was time to leave, they discovered that he had had travel docu-ments made up for them in the new names, and they weren't surprised. He was a man who got things done. And here as if in an old photograph is the old man's wife, a small sad woman with her graying hair up in an untidy bun and the memory of self-harm in her eyes. Caesar's wife: required to be above suspicion, yes, but also stuck with the worst job in the world.

Excerpted from The Golden House by Salman Rushdie. Copyright © 2017 by Salman Rushdie. Excerpted by permission of Random House. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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