THE GROUND BENEATH HER FEET by Salman Rushdie

THE GROUND BENEATH HER FEET

KIRKUS REVIEW

The blessings and curses of fame, the seismic character of sociopolitical change, and the dream of transcending our earthbound natures are the commanding—though scarcely only—themes of this brilliant epic reimagining of the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, by the internationally acclaimed and reviled author of The Satanic Verses. Photojournalist (and “event junkie”) Umeed, a.k.a. “Rai” Merchant relates in a stunningly flexible, observant, and wry narrative voice the story of the volatile enduring love binding two Indian-born musical superstars: coloratura rock singer Vina Apsara and composer-performer Orpheus Cama. That story begins in the late 1980s when Vina perishes in an earthquake (one of this novel’s recurring symbolic events); backtracks to describe, in luscious comic detail, Vina’s violence-haunted American childhood, Orpheus’s youth among a prominent Parsi family ruled by his Anglophilic scholar-athlete father “Sir Darius” (a magnificently drawn character) and shaped by the contrary fates of two sets of twin sons (one of whom becomes a notorious mass murderer), and Rai’s own confused relations with them both. The narrative then surges forward to 1995, after Vina’s apparent “reincarnation” has ironically confirmed Orpheus’s messianic conviction that “There is a world other than ours and it’s bursting through our own continuum’s flimsy defences,” and, in a way Rai could not have foreseen, this Orpheus and Eurydice are reunited. No brief summary can accurately convey this astonishingly rich novel’s historical, religious, mythological—and, not least, pop-musical—range of reference, or the exhilaration of Rushdie’s mischievous transliterations of world history (Oswald’s gun jammed; Borges’s Pierre Menard really did write Don Quixote). It’s a brash polyglot symphony of colliding and cross-pollinating “worlds”; a vision of internationalism that echoes and amplifies the plea for obliterating our differences so prominent in Rushdie’s The Moor’s Last Sigh (1996). An unparalleled demonstration of a great writer at the peak of his powers.

Pub Date: April 13th, 1999
ISBN: 0-8050-5308-5
Page count: 592pp
Publisher: Henry Holt
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15th, 1999




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