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'Beautiful, intellectually thrilling . . . unlike anything else' Telegraph
A splendid reimagining of key stories from the Bible from the acclaimed author of The Marriage of Cadmus and Harmony.
A man named Saul is sent to search for some lost donkeys and on the way is named king of his people. The queen of a remote African realm travels for three years with her multitudinous retinue to meet the king of Jerusalem and pose him a few riddles. A man named Abraham hears a divine voice speaking words that reverberate throughout the Bible: 'Go away from your land, from your kindred and from the house of your father toward the land that I will show you'.
In The Book of All Books, Roberto Calasso weaves together stories of promise and separation from one of the founding texts of Western civilisation. These tales of grace and guilt, of the chosen and the damned, cast many Biblical figures and indeed the whole book in a light as astonishing as it is disquieting.
The Book of All Books is part of a larger work which began with The Ruin of Kasch (1983) and includes The Marriage of Cadmus and Harmony, Ka, and The Celestial Hunter.
Italian publisher and writer Calasso (The Celestial Hunter) once again muses eloquently on the Bible in this 10th entry in his series dedicated to exploring ancient myths and the human search for meaning. In Calasso's signature style, he retells Bible stories, mostly from the Old Testament, emphasizing the themes of separation and sacrifice that tie the stories together. These narratives feature alongside literary criticism, scholarly analysis, philosophical digressions, and quotes from a wide range of thinkers including Freud, Baudelaire, and Robert Alter. For instance, the story of Moses gives Calasso the space to muse on the nature of authority and how primogeniture (the primacy of one's first born son) has affected world history: "You can act as a judge, but there will always be someone who casts doubts on your authority." In their refraction through Calasso's prodigious mind, biblical stories are connected to a broader history of ideas, and the author argues that the Bible, like other ancient texts and myths, represents the human drive for transcendence and meaning. Despite the scholarly trimmings, the individual retellings will have wide appeal. Readers with any level of biblical knowledge will benefit from Calasso's far-ranging insights.