The greatest, finest, most eloquent novel ever written about rock &
“The ground beneath her feet” is exciting and thrilling, but also
philosophical and condensed in content and meaning. It is the extraordinary
tale of extraordinary characters, enacted in a kind of parallel world. This
fiction presented merely as such reveals greater truths by questioning solid
concepts like reality and human nature.
This is a novel that reveals the undisputed genius of its author, his
sensitivity in perceiving every little detail of this world, but also his
ability to give greater messages of universal importance. The structure of
the novel is also remarkably well organized; there is a slow build-up that
leads to a climax, despite the retrospective nature of the narration.
Rushdie seems to be seeking answers to the question/debate which he so
lyrically defines: “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.” This novel is an eulogy to love, divine love
that goes beyond death and art, or perhaps is merely reinforced by these.
Rushdie does, however, admit that death has power, especially in
creating a myth: “in death she has indeed transcended all frontiers: of
race, skin, religion, language, history, nation, class”. Death is also
presented as able to conquer and overshadow “human” love as was the case
with Rai’s love for Vina: “But I was wrong about the nature of the
metamorphic force working its marvels upon us. In our case it was not love,
However, the divine love between Ormus and Vina is one that goes beyond
death. The mere call of one lover to the other is powerful enough to bring
that other back from the abyssal depths of despair and near-death. When Vina
dies Ormus follows the pattern of the ancient Greek myth of Orpheus, trying
to bring his beloved back to life, but when Ormus fails to do so, he
willingly follows her to death.
The question of human divinity seems to preoccupy
Rushdie. He doesn’t
seem to come to a definite answer, apart from the conclusion that some “have
it” while others don’t: “Many of us are able to answer life’s darkest
questions”. Most of us are trying to be what we cannot be: “there is that
within us which believes us worthy of the stars” i.e. people aren’t
satisfied with being human, we wish to be divine, explain the
Rushdie’s ambivalence on this subject gives credit to the view
that in every human being there’s the Apollonian and the Dionysiac nature. It is
interesting to observe that Vina “Divina” was of Greek-Indian origin and
that Darius Cama devoted most of his academic studies to proving the
relationship between Greek and Indian mythology.
What the novel ultimately aims to express are the fragility of this
world, the relativity of reality, and the ground constantly moving beneath
our feet. Rushdie is questioning reality, our sense of order, and the world
as we perceive it: “the world isn’t realistic any more” (but is it “real”?)
So two worlds are in collision, and one will inevitably crumble and fall.
The “other” world, however, is not any better just different and not that
much so. One of the reasons Rushdie gives for the end of the world is that
people broke away from tribal collectivity, creating pluralistic societies
of individuals, but “if we could cut ourselves loose, then so could
everything else, so could event and space and time and description and fact,
so could reality itself”. So what happened yesterday no longer has happened
today, or is it that it is no longer remembered? Ultimately, the world is
being destroyed, or self-punished because “the best in our nature is
drowning in the worst”.
What this novel ultimately proves is that Salman Rushdie is one of the
literary geniuses of our time, a linguistic expert, and a deep thinker. He
is not an artist lost in space still searching for creative inspiration, but
one that, having found what he wants to say, has in the process acquired a
sharp insight of this world. He is a man of the world, then, even if this
world is, as he himself hints, not worth existing.