The Golden Legend: A Novel Summary & Study Guide

Nadeem Aslam
This Study Guide consists of approximately 36 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of The Golden Legend.
This section contains 495 words
(approx. 2 pages at 400 words per page)
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The Golden Legend: A Novel Summary & Study Guide Description

The Golden Legend: A Novel Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

This detailed literature summary also contains Quotes and a Free Quiz on The Golden Legend: A Novel by Nadeem Aslam.

The following version of this book was used to create this study guide: Aslam, Nadeem. The Golden Legend. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2017.

The novel opens in Pakistan in a fictitious city called Zamana. Nargis and Massud are married architects in their fifties. They employ a housekeeper named Lily. Lily is a relatively impoverished Christian man who also works as a rickshaw driver. He is a widower and has a 19-year-old daughter named Helen. Nargis and Massud view Helen as a type of surrogate daughter, and they even pay for her education.

One day, while Nargis and Massud are in town, a gunfight breaks out between an American spy and two Pakistani men. Massud is caught in the crossfire and killed. Later, Major Burhan of the Pakistan military visits Nargis. He says that Nargis must publicly forgive the American man so that Pakistan can trade him back to the American government. Nargis refuses to do so.

Nargis was born a Christian named Margaret, but she eventually changed her name to Nargis and began pretending to be a Muslim so as to escape the oppressions faced by Christians in Pakistan. Lily has a secret romantic relationship with a Muslim widow named Aysha. Aysha’s brother-in-law Shakeel is a radical Muslim who approves of terrorist activities. One day, a man named Imran arrives at Nargis’s house. He donated blood to Massud on the day Massud was shot; Massud still died from the wounds. Imran used to fight with anti-Indian guerrillas in the Kashmir region, but he defected after the guerrillas began to kill one another. Imran befriends Nargis and Helen.

Lily and Aysha’s relationship is eventually discovered. A group of Muslims go to the predominantly Christian neighborhood where Lily lives. The Muslims do not find Lily there, but they kill Christians and burn their houses. The next day, police come to arrest Helen. They say that she is being arrested for blasphemous articles she contributed to a local newspaper. Helen escapes with the help of Nargis and Imran, and the three of them become fugitives. They escape to an island in the middle of a large river, and they stay in an abandoned mosque on the island. Meanwhile, Lily has been living on the streets of Zamana as a fugitive. He is recognized and attacked, but he manages to escape the fray.

On the island, the bond of friendship between Nargis, Helen, and Imran grows stronger. Helen and Imran even form a romantic relationship. However, they are eventually discovered and arrested. Nargis agrees to publicly forgive the American man, and she bribes Burhan in exchange for Helen and Lily’s safety. Burhan agrees. However, Lily is captured by police officers who decide to kill him immediately. Helen and Imran attempt to escape Zamana, and it is ambiguous whether they escape successfully or if they are killed. Nargis, distraught but resilient, returns to her routine life in the wake of these tragedies.

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