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What are Kafka's stories about? Are they dreams? Allegories? Symbols? Things that happen every day? But where and when? In this remarkable book, Roberto Calasso sets out not to dispel the mystery but to let it be illuminated by its own light. With his unique vision, imagination, and intellectual acumen, Calasso attempts to enter the flow, the tortuous movement, the physiology of the stories to discover what they are meant to signify and to delve into the most basic question: Who is K.?
'It will be read and re-read not as a treatise but as a story: one of the most extraordinary that has ever been written of the origins of Western self-consciousness' Simon Schama The marriage of Cadmus and Harmony was the last time the gods of Olympus feasted alongside mortals. What happened in the distant ages preceding it, and in the generations that followed, form the timeless tales of ancient Greek mythology. In this masterful retelling of the myths we think we know, Roberto Calasso illuminates the deepest questions of our existence. 'The kind of book one comes across only once or twice in one's lifetime' Joseph Brodsky 'A perfect work like no other' Gore Vidal
'Tiepolo: the last breath of happiness in Europe' The eighteenth-century Venetian painter Giambattista Tiepolo spent his life creating frescoes that are among the glories of Western art, yet he remains shrouded in mystery. Who was he? And what was the significance of the dark, bizarre etchings depicting sacrifice and magic, which he created alongside his heavenly works? Roberto Calasso explores Tiepolo as the last artist of the ancien regime and at the same time the first example of the "painter of modern life" evoked by Baudelaire. He was the incarnation of that peculiar Italian virtue sprezzatura: the art of not seeming artful. Translated by Alastair McEwen 'A brilliant, eccentric, provocative . . . and thoroughly splendid celebration of a great painter' John Banville, The New Republic 'Calasso is a myth-maker ... a book that treats paintings as a kind of sorcery' Peter Conrad, Observer
A sparkling new translation of the classic work on violence and revolution as seen through mythology and art The Ruin of Kasch takes up two subjects: "the first is Talleyrand, and the second is everything else," wrote Italo Calvino when the book first appeared in 1983. Hailed as one of those rare books that persuade us to see our entire civilization in a new light, its guide is the French statesman Charles-Maurice de Talleyrand, who knew the secrets of the ancien regime and all that came after, and was able to adapt the notion of "legitimacy" to the modern age. Roberto Calasso follows him through a vast gallery of scenes set immediately before and after the French Revolution, making occasional forays backward and forward in time, from Vedic India to the porticoes of the Palais-Royal and to the killing fields of Pol Pot, with appearances by Goethe and Marie Antoinette, Napoleon and Marx, Walter Benjamin and Chateaubriand. At the centre stands the story of the ruin of Kasch, a legendary kingdom based on the ritual killing of the king and emblematic of the ruin of ancient and modern regimes. 'Startling, puzzling, profound . . . a work charged with intelligence and literary seduction' The New York Times 'Unique, idiosyncratic and vaultingly ambitious... essential reading' Independent 'A great fat jewel-box of a book, gleaming with obscure treasures' John Banville
Roberto Calasso is one of the most original and acclaimed of writers on literature, art, culture and mythology. In Baudelaire's Folly, Calasso turns his attention to the poets and writers of Paris in the nineteenth century who created what was later called 'the Modern.' His protagonist is Charles Baudelaire: poet of nerves, art lover, pioneering critic, man about Paris, whose groundbreaking works on modern culture described the ephemeral, fleeting nature of life in the metropolis - and the artist's role in capturing this - as no other writer had done. With Baudelaire's critical intelligence as his inspiration, Calasso ranges through his life and work, focusing on two painters - Ingres and Delacroix - about whom Baudelaire wrote acutely, and then turns to Degas and Manet, who followed in the tracks Baudelaire laid down in his great essay The Painter of Modern Life. In a mosaic of stories, insights, dreams, close readings of poems and commentaries on paintings, Paris in Baudelaire's years comes to life. In the eighteenth century, a 'folie' was a garden pavilion set aside for people of leisure, a place of delight and fantasy. Here Calasso has created a brilliant and dramatic 'Folie Baudelaire': a place where the reader can encounter Baudelaire, his peers, his city, his extraordinary likes and dislikes, and his world, finally discovering that it is nothing less than the land of 'absolute literature'. Born in Florence, Roberto Calasso lives in Milan, where he is publisher of Adelphi. He is the author of Tiepolo Pink, The Ruin of Kasch, The Marriage of Cadmus and Harmony, winner of the Prix Veillon and the Prix du Meilleur Livre Etranger, Literature and the Gods, Ka and K.
Fascinating ... beguiling ... Calasso is vital - Stuart Jeffries, Guardian There was a time when, upon encountering other beings, it was not certain whether they were animals or gods or lords of a certain species, demons or ancestors. Or simply humans. One day, which lasted many thousands of years, humans did something that no other species had yet tried, we began to imitate those same animals that persecuted us: the predators. And we became the hunter. In this new book, Roberto Calasso takes the reader on an unforgettable journey through centuries and across cultures - from the Paleolithic era to Turing's Machine - weaving together stories of gods, animals and humans in an extraordinary tale of transformation. He writes like a poet, not a professor, in glinting, enigmatic nuggets of narrative - Boyd Tonkin, Financial Times
'All the books published by a certain publisher could be seen as links in a single chain' In this fascinating memoir and manifesto the author and publisher Roberto Calasso meditates on the art of book publishing. With his signature erudition and polemical flair, Calasso transcends Adelphi to look at the publishing industry as a whole, from the essential importance of graphics, jackets and cover flaps to the consequences of universal digitization. And he outlines what he describes as the 'most hazardous and ambitious' profile of what a publishing house can be: a book comprising many books, akin to that of other twentieth-century publishers, from Giulio Einaudi to Roger Straus, of whom the book offers brief portraits.
Brilliant, inspired, and gloriously erudite, Literature and the Gods is the culmination of Roberto Calasso’s lifelong study of the gods in the human imagination. By uncovering the divine whisper that lies behind the best poetry and prose from across the centuries, Calasso gives us a renewed sense of the mystery and enchantment of great literature.
In this revelatory volume, Roberto Calasso, whom the Paris Review has called 'a literary institution', explores the ancient texts known as the Vedas. Little is known about the Vedic people who lived more than three thousand years ago in northern India: they left behind almost no objects, images, ruins. Only a 'Parthenon of words' remains: verses and formulations suggesting a daring understanding of life. 'If the Vedic people had been asked why they did not build cities,' writes Calasso, 'they could have replied: we did not seek power, but rapture.' This is the ardor of the Vedic world, a burning intensity that is always present, both in the mind and in the cosmos. With his signature erudition and profound sense of the past, Calasso explores the enigmatic web of ritual and myth that define the Vedas. Often at odds with modern thought, he shows how these texts illuminate the nature of consciousness more than neuroscientists have been able to offer us up to now.
In a mediation on the wisdom of the Vedas, Roberto Calasso
brings ritual and sacrifice to bear on the modern world
In this revelatory volume, Roberto Calasso, whom "The Paris
Review "has called "a literary institution," explores the ancient
texts known as the Vedas. Little is known about the Vedic people
who lived more than three thousand years ago in northern India:
they left behind almost no objects, images, or ruins. They created
no empires. Even the hallucinogenic plant the "soma," which appears
at the center of some of their rituals, has not been identified
with any certainty. Only a "Parthenon of words" remains: verses and
formulations suggesting a daring understanding of life.
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