The Ground Beneath Her Feet

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The Ground Beneath Her Feet, a 1999 book by Salman Rushdie, is her sixth novel. Published in 1999, it is a variation on the Orpheus/Eurydice myth with rock music replacing Orpheus' lyre. The myth works as a red thread from which the author sometimes strays, but to which he attaches an endless series of references.

The book, while at its core detailing the love of two men, Ormus Cama and Umeed "Rai" Merchant (the narrator of the story), for the same woman, Vina Apsara, provides a background and alternate history to the entire 1950s–1990s period of the growth of rock music. The minor characters of the story are particularly interesting, as they provide the most vivid portraits of the cultures and backgrounds that come into play in the story. Defined by Toni Morrison as "a global novel", the book sets itself in the wide frame of Western and post-colonial culture, through the multilingualism of its characters, the mixture of East and West and the great number of references that span from Greek mythology, European philosophy and contemporaries such as Milan Kundera and the stars of rock'n roll.

The title is taken from a song from the novel, composed by Ormus Cama after Vina's death. The lyrics to the song, with minor changes, were adapted and recorded by U2. The song was used in the film The Million Dollar Hotel, and the promotional music video featured Rushdie in a cameo appearance.


Quotes[edit]

  • "The only people who see the whole picture are the ones who step out of the frame."
    • Source: Chapter 2, "Melodies and Silences"
  • "Between the self and the other, between the visionary and the psychopath, between the lover and his love, between the overworld and the underworld, falls the shadow."
    • Source: Chapter 5, "Goat Songs"
  • "The concert was over, the crowd was drifting away, but I stood rooted to the spot, taking photographs. The world was cracking. Ormus and Vina were deep in conversation with the musicians, who were packing up their instruments and shouting at the local stagehands to watch what they were doing. My heart was breaking. While Ormus and Vina chatted to the jazzmen, their hands and bodies were talking to each other. Click, click. I can see you, you two. Click. Peekaboo! Do you know I'm doing this? Are you letting me watch, is that it, even though I'm getting the goods on you, in here, in my little German box of wonders? You don't care any more, is that it? You want it all out in the open. Click. And what about me, Vina? I'll grow up too. He waited for you. Why wouldn't you wait for me? I want to be in that number!"
    • Source: Chapter 6, "Disorientations"
  • "Death is more than love or is it. Art is more than love or is it. Love is more than death and art, or not. This is the subject. This is the subject. This is it."
    • Source: Chapter 7, "More than love"
  • "We have been here before.

    This is a helicopter, hovering just above the broken ground. This is the woman I love, calling to me through the open door. I'm going, then. And I'm shouting back, I can't go. What? Go. Fuck you. What? Goodbye, Hope.

    And this is what people are saying when they aren't saying what they mean.

    I'm going, then. (Come with me, please, I need you, I can't believe you won't come with me.) I can't go. (My darling, I want never to let you out of my sight again, but goddamn it, you kick me around, you know that?, do you want the see the bruises?, and just this once I'm not putting you first. I'll be there soon enough, this time you can wait for me. If you want me, you'll wait. That's right, a test. Yeah. Maybe it really is.) What? (You bastard?, you think you can hold out on me? Oh Jesus, Rai, don't play games, not now, not today.) Go. (Okay, no games. I love you forever and beyond. But this is my work. I'll be there sooner than blinking. Go. I'm right behind you. I love you. Go.)

    Fuck you (I never wanted you to come to Mexico in the first place fuck you but you came anyway fuck you I guess that proves something yeah but I hurt you anyway I was mad I was wrong fuck you and then you helped me fuck you that really churned me up fuck you so I trusted you I really trusted you fuck you then the earth moved and you abandoned me fuck you you took your photographs I could have been dying I could have been broken and dying but you had your work to do fuck you and now you won't come with me fuck you now when I finally worked out that I need you fuck you I want you fuck you maybe I love you I do love you fuck you Rai I love you fuck you. I do.)

    What? (What???)

    Goodbye, Hope. (Goodbye for a moment, you bastard, but after this I'm never letting you out of my sight. The next time I see you will be the beginning of the rest of our lives.)

    Every night for years, I replayed that shouted dialogue in my head, and now I think this may be what it means. Maybe Goodbye really was the never-to-be-completed beginning of Hello. I hope so, I hope so. Even though it's a meaning that makes the loss weigh more heavily and the pain harder to bear."

    • Source: Chapter 16, "Beneath Her Feet"
  • "Falling in love with Vina, I knew I was stepping out of my league. Nevertheless, I took the step and did not fall on my face. This is human heroism. Of this, as of little else, I am proud. Male love is a kind of self-assessment. We allow ourselves to love only those women whom we feel we have a right to pay court, to whom we dare aspire."
    • Source: Chapter 16, "Vina Divina"
  • "When you have no picture of the world, you don't know how to make choices -- material, inconsequential or moral. You don't know which way is up, or if you're coming or going, or how many beans make five."
    • Source: Chapter 16, "Vina Divina"
  • "Earthquakes, scientists say, are common phenomena. Globally speaking there are around fifteen thousand tremors a decade. Stability is what's rare. The abnormal, the extreme, the operatic, the unnatural: these rule. There is no such thing as normal life. Yet the everyday is what we need, it's the house we build to defend us against the big bad wolf of change. If, finally, the wolf is reality, the house is our best defense against the storm: call it civilization. We build our walls of straw or brick not only against the vulpine instability of the times but against our own predatory natures too; against the wolf within."
    • Source: Chapter 16, "Vina Divina"
  • "I barely knew them -- they were aliens, after all, visitors from a familiar-sounding elsewhere, slipping into our awareness by an unimaginable route -- and yet I'm profoundly stirred by their loss. I'm trying to work out why that is. In the end I decide it's because although I, we, didn't really know them, they knew us, and whenever someone who knows you disappears, you lose one version of yourself. Yourself as you were seen, as you were judged to be. Lover or enemy, mother or friend, those who know us construct us, and their several knowings slant the different facets of our characters like diamond-cutter's tools. Each such loss is a step leading to the grave, where all versions blend and end."
    • Source: Chapter 16, "Vina Divina"

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