Ka: Stories of the Mind and Gods of India

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9780679451310: Ka: Stories of the Mind and Gods of India

With the same startling originality and brilliance that made his Marriage of Cadmus and Harmony a literary landmark, Roberto Calasso narrates the birth of one of the world's great cultures: the formation of the mind of India. He doesn't explain or describe this mental world--he regenerates it through its epic cyclical stories and customs, until we no longer need to define it for ourselves because we have come to know what it is.
So: Who is Ka? And who is the immense eagle asking the question, filling the sky, elephant and giant turtle dwarfed in his claws? How can he be the child of a woman? Who are the tiny folk he eats? The first impact of Ka is one of tremendous strangeness, bewilderment, disorientation. How can a Western tradition which demands to identify a beginning and an end understand one that sees no beginning and no end, but only an eternal tangle? Slowly, though, the strange becomes familiar, as new and ever more fantastic stories are spun out, gods emerge, bizarre sacrifices are performed. Why must the king's wife copulate with a dead horse? How is man reduced to an eye in an ant's nest? Why must the road to higher consciousness pass through an erotic adventure? Why is the first girl the dawn and the second the dusk? Rejecting our cravings to have the culture systematized and predigested for us, Calasso invites us to understand India on Indian terms, through Indian images, through India itself.
As Ka unfolds, the worlds of the Devas, of ´Siva, Brahm-a and Visnu, of the wars of the Mah-abh-arata, are splendidly revealed, until finally, with the advent of the Buddha, we are amazed at our own sense of recognition, for these stories seem to confirm, or to articulate for the first time, our own deepest perceptions about our human
condition.  
An entirely unique reading experience from an author at once supremely erudite and unceasingly creative.

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Review:

The eagle Garuda is on a mission to steal soma--an intoxicating liquid that was to the gods of India what ambrosia was to the Olympic pantheon--in order to ransom his human mother, Vinata, from the snakes who have held her captive since she lost a bet and became her sister Kadru's slave. He reflects to himself, "So many things happening, so many stories one inside the other, with every link hiding yet more stories...."

And so it is with Ka, Roberto Calasso's treatment of Indian mythology from the creation of the universe to the spiritual awakening of the Buddha. Employing the same fragmentary narrative techniques as in The Marriage of Cadmus and Harmony, Calasso builds his story by adding image after image, teasing out the hidden connections and submerged themes. He draws amply from the Vedas and the Mahabharata, "three times as long as the Bible, seven times as long as the Iliad and the Odyssey put together." Tim Parks's translation preserves Calasso's sensitivity to the visionary power of language, presenting the reader with a pathway that leads through dizzying awe to gradual recognition of a more familiar world.

About the Author:

Roberto Calasso was born in Florence in 1941. In 1962, he joined Adelphi Edizioni, the distinguished Italian publishing house. He is the author of The Ruin of Kasch and The Marriage of Cadmus and Harmony, which was the winner of France's Prix Veillon and the Prix du Meilleur Livre Etranger.

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