The Ground Beneath Her Feet

For those who like to tackle particularily weighty reading material, there are certain novelists, the mention of whose names will send an inexplicably mixed shudder of ecstasy and dread down our book-loving spines. Ecstasy for the eloquance, prose, mythology, history, politics and the bizarre collections of cultures and characters that lurk throughout the pages of our favorite books; dread for the wear and tear inflicted on our dictionaries, and dread for the early hours of the morning in which we will be found, goggle-eyed and sleepless, still trying to find a suitable page to pause on.

Salman Rushdie is one of those authors. In his rock n’ roll, earthquakes-and-heartbreaks novel “The Ground Beneath Her Feet” Salman Rusdie tells of cracks in the earth’s surface, fault lines in the human character and "holes in the real." And of outsideness.

"What about outsideness? What about all that which is beyond the pale, above the fray, beneath notice? What about outcastes, lepers, pariahs, exiles, enemies, spooks, paradoxes? What about those who are remote?", questions Sir Darius Xerxes Cama. It will occur to him at his window on the Arabian Sea: "The only people who see the whole picture are the ones who step out of the frame."

Here are some paragraphs from this most beautiful of books.:

“For a long while I have believed—this is perhaps my version of Sir Darius Xerxes Cama’s belief in a fourth function of outsideness—that in every generation there are a few souls, call them lucky or cursed, who are born simply not belonging, who come into the world semi-detatched, if you like, without strong affiliation to family or location or nation or race; that there may even be millions, billions of such souls, as many non-belongers as belongers, perhaps; that, in sum, the phenomenon may be as “natural” a manifestation of human nature as its opposite, but one that has been mostly frustrated, throughout human history, by lack of opportunity. And not only by that: for those who value stability, who fear transience, uncertainty, change, have erected a powerful system of stigmas and taboos against rootlessness, that disruptive, anti-social force, so that we mostly conform, we pretend to be motivated by loyalties and solidarities we do not really feel, we hide our secret identities beneath the false skins of those identities which bear the belongers’ seal of approval. But the truth leaks out in our dreams; alone in our beds (because we are all alone at night, even if we do not sleep by ourselves), we soar, we fly, we flee. And in the waking dreams our societies permit, in our myths, our art, our songs, we celebrate the non-belongers, the different ones, the outlaws, the freaks. What we forbid ourselves we pay good money to watch, in a playhouse or movie theatre, or to read about between the scret covers of a book. Our libraries, our places of entertainment tell the truth. The tramp, the assassin, the rebel, the thief, the mutant, the outcast, the delinquent, the devil, the sinner, the traveller, the gangster, the runner, the mask: if we did not recognize in the our least-fulfilled needs, we would not invent them over and over again, in every place, in every language, in every time.

No sooner did we have ships than we rushed to sea, sailing across oceans in paper boats. No sooner did we have cars than we hit the road. No sooner did we have airplanes than we zoomed to the furthest corners of the glode. Now we yearn for the moons dark side, the rocky plains of Mars, the rings of Saturn, the interstellar deeps. We send mechanical photographers into orbit, or on one-way journeys to the stars, and we weep at the wonders they transmit; we are humbled by the mighty images of far-off galaxies standing like cloud pillars in the sky, and we give names to alien rocks, as if they were our pets. We hunger for warp space, for the outlying rim of time. And this is the species that kids itself it likes to stay at home, to bind itself with—what are they called again—ties.

That’s my view. You don’t have to buy it. Maybe there aren’t so many of us, after all. Maybe we are disruptive and anti-social and we shouldn’t be allowed. You’re entitled to your opinion. All I will say is: sleep soundly, baby. Sleep tight and sweet dreams."

At BLOOM, we offer you this (literally) groundbreaking novel with all our love.

1 Comment:

  1. Linguaphile said...
    The Russian word for this "outsideness" is "vnenakhodimost".

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