"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
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 scene--describing 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 thought--which 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.