Ka: Stories of the Mind and Gods of India

Ka: Stories of the Mind and Gods of India

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by Roberto Calasso
     
 

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"A giddy invasion of stories--brilliant, enigmatic, troubling, outrageous, erotic, beautiful." --The New York Times Book Review

"So brilliant that you can't look at it anymore--and you can't look at anything else. . . . No one will read it without reward."
--The Boston Globe

With the same narrative fecundity and imaginative sympathy he…  See more details below

Overview

"A giddy invasion of stories--brilliant, enigmatic, troubling, outrageous, erotic, beautiful." --The New York Times Book Review

"So brilliant that you can't look at it anymore--and you can't look at anything else. . . . No one will read it without reward."
--The Boston Globe

With the same narrative fecundity and imaginative sympathy he brought to his acclaimed retelling of the Greek myths, Roberto Calasso plunges Western readers into the mind of ancient India. He begins with a mystery: Why is the most important god in the Rg Veda, the oldest of India's sacred texts, known by a secret name--"Ka," or Who?
    What ensues is not an explanation, but an unveiling. Here are the stories of the creation of mind and matter; of the origin of Death, of the first sexual union and the first parricide. We learn why Siva must carry his father's skull, why snakes have forked tongues, and why, as part of a certain sacrifice, the king's wife must copulate with a dead horse. A tour de force of scholarship and seduction, Ka is irresistible.

"Passage[s] of such ecstatic insight and cross-cultural synthesis--simply, of such beauty."  --The New York Review of Books

"All is spectacle and delight, and tiny mirrors reflecting human foibles are set into the weave,turning this retelling into the stuff of literature." --The New Yorker

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Editorial Reviews

New Yorker
. . . All is spectacle and delight, and tiny mirrors reflecting human foibles are set into the weave, turning this retelling into the stuff of literature.
Sunil Khilnani
To read Ka is to experience a giddy invasion of stories — brilliant, enigmatic, troubling, outrageous, erotic, beautiful. . . .Whenever we get tird of worrying away at their meanings, we can always settle doen to listen to the stories they . . .tell.
New York Times Book Review
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
That Greco-Roman mythology should shape a contemporary novel is hardly unusual, but the way this breathtakingly ambitious work shapes -- and reshapes -- classical mythology is remarkable indeed. Calasso, publisher of the intellectual Milanese house Adelphi, revisits the theogonies set forth by Hesiod, Homer, Ovid et al. and then recasts them for a postmodern audience. Gods and men enact the cosmic mysteries as the narrator comments aphoristically on the progress of ancient and divine history ('With time, men and gods would develop a common language made up of hierogamy and sacrifice.... And, when it became a dead language, people started talking about mythology'). Calasso presents the abduction of Europa by a bull, analyzes the Trojan war, discusses the meaning of the word 'tragedy' and charts the fall of classical Athens. Into this elegant chronology he also interpolates quotations from and allusions to a pantheon of classical writers, in the same weightless manner in which those writers made use of standard formulaic tropes; he extends his territory by planting modern points of reference ('Jason would have preferred to live a bourgeois life at home, just as Nietzsche would have preferred to be a professor in Basel, rather than God'). Readers who don't know their Theseus from their Thyestes shouldn't be discouraged -- Calasso's work bridges the perceived distance from the origins of Western culture.
Library Journal
A reconsideration and recombination of Greek mythology, this scholarly tome -- which is being billed as both fiction and mythology by the publisher -- reaches back extensively through the works of Plutarch, Ovid, Homer, and Plato, to name only a few of the classical writers referenced here. This interweaving of gods and goddesses and of their actions moves back and forth in time, with many comments from Calasso about both the action and its interpretation by scholars. The storytelling style is interesting, but novices of Greek mythology will soon find themselves awash in names and places and activities that are exceedingly difficult to keep straight. An extensive 'family tree' of characters, an index, and even chapter titles, none of which are included, would have served as useful guideposts. -- Olivia Opello, Onondaga County Public Library, Syracuse, New York
Jon Spayde
...Calasso's text is an unstable mixture of Indian content and European perspective....[The book] dosn't systematize, organize, or "make clear" mythological structure; it just thrusts us into the stories....At its best, the effort proceeds with a paradoxical combination of boldness and humility.
Utne Reader
Kirkus Reviews
At once novel, cultural essay, mythology, and collection of linked stories, Italian writer Calasso's newest is a buoyant, expansive narrative that captures, with earthy vigor, scrupulous scholarship, and epic breadth, the Indian cultural ethos. In crisply written prose, Calasso (The Marriage of Cadmus and Harmony) seeks depths, and encourages questions, that become a pleasure to ponder. The title sets the tone. 'Ka'—a word that refers to any originating source—is really a question, both personal and vast: 'Who?' In the 15 sections that comprise the work (along with a helpful glossary of names and terms), Calasso narrates different phases of creation—how did time happen to us? who made death?—each concluded with a fresh narrative mystery. What may have been originally just phrases or illuminating parables are here woven together to form one coherent 'story,' rich in insight and drama, that is gently helped along by Calasso's brief expository passages. The result is a multi-layered, engaging composition that entertainingly draws the reader through a sophisticated system of thought. The result, though, isn't a handbook: Calasso knows that not ideas but characters are what make stories work, and that we understand best when we sympathize most. He's populated his story with Indian gods who, each with unique passions, anxieties, lusts and errors, are immediately available to any reader. With phrases often culled from original literature (frequently the Rg Veda), such figures as Prajapati (the first Ka), Daksa (the craftsman) with 'furrows on each side of a hooked nose, hollow cheeks and a thick, pendulous lower lip'), and the Buddha are fully realizedindividuals, not 'human-sized' figurines. While the characters enliven the pages, it's the thematic persistence of mysteries both cosmic and existential—Ka?—that piques our interest and generates the deeper resonances here. In a book that may as easily be browsed as read at length, Calasso seems to have written with the Buddha's last words in mind: 'Act without inattention.'

From the Publisher
"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, unexpected metaphors."
—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

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780804151665
Publisher:
Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date:
10/30/2013
Series:
Vintage International
Sold by:
Random House
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
464
Sales rank:
795,568
File size:
5 MB

What People are saying about this

Gore Vidal
A perfect work like no other. [Calasso] has re-created... the morning of our world.

Meet the Author

Roberto Calasso lives in Milan, Italy.

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Ka: Stories of the Mind and Gods of India 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Perfect in every way possible!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Lays down on her bed