The Forty-Nine Steps

Overview

In books lauded as "brilliant"( New York Review of Books on The Marriage of Cadmus and Harmony), "exhilarating" (Times Literary Supplement on Ka), and "profound"( New York Times Book Review on The Ruin of Kasch) Roberto Calasso has revealed the unexpected intersections of ancient and modern through topics ranging from Greek and Indian mythology to what a legendary African kingdom can tell us about the French Revolution. In this first translation of his most important essays, Calasso brings his powerful intellect ...
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Overview

In books lauded as "brilliant"( New York Review of Books on The Marriage of Cadmus and Harmony), "exhilarating" (Times Literary Supplement on Ka), and "profound"( New York Times Book Review on The Ruin of Kasch) Roberto Calasso has revealed the unexpected intersections of ancient and modern through topics ranging from Greek and Indian mythology to what a legendary African kingdom can tell us about the French Revolution. In this first translation of his most important essays, Calasso brings his powerful intellect and elegant prose style to bear on the essential thinkers of our time, providing a sweeping analysis of the current state of Western culture.

"Forty-nine steps" refers to the Talmudic doctrine that there are forty-nine steps to meaning in every passage of the Torah. Employing this interpretive approach, Calasso offers a "secret history" of European literature and philosophy in the wake of Nietzsche, Marx, and Freud. Calasso analyzes how figures ranging from Gustav Flaubert, Gottfried Benn, Karl Kraus, Martin Heidegger, Walter Benjamin, Franz Kafka, Bertolt Brecht, and Theodor Adorno have contributed to, or been emblematic of, the current state of Western thought. The book's theme, writ large, is the power of fable-specifically, its persistence in art and literature despite its exclusion from orthodox philosophy.

In its breadth and the nature of its concerns, The Forty-nine Steps is a philosophical and literary twin to the widely-praised The Marriage of Cadmus and Harmony. Combining erudition with engaging prose and original insights, Calasso contributes a daring new interpretation of some of the most challenging writers of the past 150 years.

About the Authors:
Roberto Calasso is the author of The Marriage of Cadmus and Harmony (1993), The Ruin of Kasch (1994), Ka (1998), and Literature and the Gods (2000). He is the publisher of Adelphi Edizioni and lives in Milan.

John Shepley is a freelance writer and translator who lives in New York City. His translation of Pasolini's Roman Nights and Other Stories won the first Italo Calvino Translation Award in 1987.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
In this collection of essays, first published in Italy in 1991, Italian postmodernist Calasso (Ka, Literature and the Gods) explores the nexus among post-Hegelian continental philosophies, early psychiatric theory, and literary criticism. He writes compellingly of the constitutional weaknesses and political insights he identifies in the works of Nietzsche, Walter Benjamin, Goethe, Karl Kraus, Simone Weil, and more than a dozen other conceptualists. Calasso writes personably but without drama, portraying each thinker as a person who included intellectual activity among a range of other behaviors. As a result, these essays serve as critical biographies of intellects in themselves rather than as analyses of personalities or arguments for or against specific intellectual concepts. Many of these essays first appeared in journals in the 1970s, but they do not feel dated. Recommended for academic collections serving students of Western culture, comparative literature, and modern philosophy. Francisca Goldsmith, Berkeley P.L., CA Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780816630981
  • Publisher: University of Minnesota Press
  • Publication date: 8/28/2001
  • Edition description: 1
  • Pages: 304
  • Sales rank: 1,176,942
  • Product dimensions: 5.88 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
I Post-Histories
1 Fatal Monologue 3
2 The Sleep of the Calligrapher 36
3 Deesses entretenues 52
4 Enamel Scar 78
5 On the Fundamentals of the Coca-Cola Bottle 86
6 The Perpetual War 91
II Exegesis
7 The Forty-nine Steps 111
8 The Superior Man and the Absolute Cocotte 114
9 The Ordeal of Impossible Words 119
10 A Report on Readers of Schreber 122
11 Accompaniment to the Reading of Stirner 144
12 Prelude to the Twentieth Century 176
III Public Secrets
13 Hiding Places 183
14 On Public Opinion 186
15 A Chinese Wall 200
16 The Practice of Profane Illumination 235
17 Brecht the Censor 239
18 The Ancient Egyptian Character of Art 244
19 The Siren Adorno 247
20 An Apocryphal Grave 251
IV Mythos
21 The Terror of Fables 259
Notes 267
Note on Texts 289
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