Roberto Calasso lives in Milan, Italy.
Author of the imaginative retelling of the Greek myths in The Marriage of Cadmus and Harmony, Calasso takes on a more daunting task here: making the complex and less familiar myths of India tangible for a contemporary reader. Once again, narrative, commentary and linguistic analysis combine to provide both an exciting reinvention of the stories and a singular work of the imagination in its own right. Calasso explains little but steps directly into the sceneÄdescribing the eagle Garuda flying with an elephant and a turtle in his claws and the creation of all things by father Prajapati, the progenitor, whose secret name is Ka, the space between. Ka: the inexpressible, boundless, overflowing. In scenes of startling freshness and immediacy, Calasso re-creates the historical atmosphere and mental outlook that created these stories and uses them to illuminate the shape of Indian thoughtÄwhich in turn illuminates the frequent violence and eroticism of the tales. Even readers familiar with elements of Indian spiritualism, however, may find difficulty keeping up with such a bewildering succession of names and events. Yet even if it isn't a book for every reader, this, like Calasso and Parks's earlier collaboration (the translation is again able and fluent), is a unique, deeply rewarding reading experience. 17 illustrations. (Nov.)
Anyone who has read The Marriage of Cadmus and Harmony (LJ 2/1/93) surely knows Calasso's wide erudition and deep understanding of Western culture. Here, however, he goes east, delving into the Vedas, the enormous collection of ancient Hindu religious and philosophical literature. Calasso sets himself a prohibitively difficult task: to guide Western readers into the "mind of India" with a literate and thorough recounting of founding myths‘mind you, without any overt anthropological or theological analysis. In simple and clear prose, he systematically builds myth upon myth, carefully constructing the spiritual framework. The only problem (and it is a very serious one) is whether you can bear more than 400 pages of layer after complicated layer of a mythic system that is alien to most Westerners. If you can, this book is for you. Recommended for academic and larger public libraries, especially those with substantial collections in religion or culture.‘James F. DeRoche, Alexandria, VA
"The very best book about Hindu mythology that anyone has ever
written...A magnificent reading of Hindu texts. Its power arises in
part through strong, vivid writing and in part through stunning,
--Wendy Doniger, The New Republic
"Magnificent...A moving, exhillarating, extraordinary book...An astonishing synthesis of myths and legends, philosophical inquiry, and speculative narrative"
--Shashi Tharoor, Washington Post Book World
"A scintillatingly challenging book...Its opening sentences are as startling as any in all of literature."
--Thomas McGonigle, Los Angeles Times
"All is spectacle and delight, and -tiny mirrors reflecting human foibles are set into the weave, turning this retelling into the stuff of literature...Calasso's erudition and his capacity for invention appear to be limitless."
--The New Yorker
"To read Ka is to experience a giddy invasion of stories--brilliant, enigmatic, troubling, outrageous, erotic, beautiful."
--Sunil Khilnani, New York Times Book Review
"A buoyant, expansive narrative that captures, with earthy vigor, scrupulous scholarship, and epic breadth, the Indian cultural ethos."
-- Kirkus Reviews
"This riveting performance (rendered beautifully into English by Tim Parks) is the fruit of a union
between serious scholarship and a mercurial imagination."
--Donna Seaman, Booklist
"Calasso has certainly managed to open a new road through the old landscape of literature."
--John Banville, New York Review of Books