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.
From Publishers Weekly
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 sceneAdescribing 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 thoughtAwhich 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.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.