A celebrity recluse steps into the spotlight

The celebrity recluse Charles Saatchi occupies a peculiar position in our culture. Once he was a retiring, powerful man who avoided any kind of exposure to the public eye. Then, when his gallery reached its 20th anniversary, it was announced to an astonished world that, to mark the occasion, he would answer questions on the record for the first time.

Last year, he allowed himself to be a powerful off-screen presence – invisible yet somehow always there, rather like the Holy Ghost – in a TV reality show. There followed a memoir, and now a book called Question in which he reveals more profound truths, from what he thinks of Geri Halliwell (“if you like gingers, not bad looking”) to what dishes he is able to cook (eggs).

We are truly privileged to be able to bring you an early extract from the inevitable sequel, Questions Questions.

What is it like being married to Nigella Lawson?

In the smallest room of the Saatchi residence, there is a framed list of what my family call “The Saatchi Golden Rules”. One of the most important rules is that private life should be just that – private! We’re an ordinary couple. Nigella may be a “domestic goddess” or “the world’s most beautiful cook” to you. To me, she’s just Mrs S, the woman I see every night in her peach-coloured Guia La Bruna nightdress. The rest is a private matter.

When are you at your happiest?

Now and then, if Nigella and I have been working hard, we like to take off our clothes and share the gold-plated double bath with whirlpool, designed for us by our dear friend Anish Kapoor . Sometimes we just enjoy the bubbles and the laughter. Or maybe we’ll read from our work – a recipe from Mrs S, a reflection on life from me. If we’re feeling self-indulgent, we’ll get a takeaway delivered to us by the dumb waiter – his name is Jamo. It’s all ordinary stuff, but it makes us happy.

To what do you ascribe the success of your book?

I am a lucky man. People have said nice things about the book on Amazon. “Saatchi is an enriching experience.” That was from a Mr D Hirst. Here’s another from a Miss T Emin: “Charles changed my life – maybe he can change yours.” You can’t buy that kind of praise. It is a gift from the heavens.

Do you have enemies?

No man can be without enemies, just as no man can be without faults. My fault is that I’m sometimes too generous. People take advantage. I have to have a word. The people disappear. No one stays my enemy for very long.

If you were on a desert island and had to choose a celebrity guest between Jedward, Susan Boyle and Geoff Hoon, who would you choose?

What a quandary! I strongly believe that in life, it is not the answers that are important, but the questions. So here what I do is simply: I change the question. My celebrity desert island guests are now Barrack Obama, Daniel Barenboim, Philip Roth or Dame Judi Dench, all of whom are close personal friends of mine.

Which now do I choose? None of them. Because Nigella was there first in her Guia la Bruna nightdress. And I’ve bought the desert island, so I can do what I like on it. I’m a simple man with simple solutions.

Independent, Friday, 9 April 2010