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Ka: Stories of the Mind and Gods of India Paperback – November 2, 1999


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Editorial Reviews

Review

"The very best book about Hindu mythology that anyone has ever written...A magnificent reading of Hindu texts. Its power arises in part through strong, vivid writing and in part through stunning, unexpected metaphors."
--Wendy Doniger, The New Republic

"Magnificent...A moving, exhillarating, extraordinary book...An astonishing synthesis of myths and legends, philosophical inquiry, and speculative narrative"
--Shashi Tharoor, Washington Post Book World

"A scintillatingly challenging book...Its opening sentences are as startling as any in all of literature."
--Thomas McGonigle, Los Angeles Times

"All is spectacle and delight, and -tiny mirrors reflecting human foibles are set into the weave, turning this retelling into the stuff of literature...Calasso's erudition and his capacity for invention appear to be limitless."        
--The New Yorker

"To read Ka is to experience a giddy invasion of stories--brilliant, enigmatic, troubling, outrageous, erotic, beautiful."
--Sunil Khilnani, New York Times Book Review

"A buoyant, expansive narrative that captures, with earthy vigor, scrupulous scholarship, and epic breadth, the Indian cultural ethos."
-- Kirkus Reviews

"This riveting performance (rendered beautifully into English by Tim Parks) is the fruit of a union
between serious scholarship and a mercurial imagination."
--Donna Seaman, Booklist

"Calasso has certainly managed to open a new road through the old landscape of literature."
--John Banville, New York Review of Books

About the Author

Roberto Calasso lives in Milan, Italy.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; First Edition edition (November 2, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679775471
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679775478
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.9 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #74,085 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

It's also an interesting dilemna because it appears that Mr. Calasso has attempted to re-imagine the book as mind itself.
Richard Wells
For anyone with more than a fleeting interest in the Hindu mythology and the dieties that make up the Indian deity line-up, this is a must-read book.
Gulshan Batra
Beautifully written, it is a wonderful exploration through the ideas and beliefs of Hindu mythology and correlates to ancient Hindi texts.
D. Johnson

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

29 of 31 people found the following review helpful By S. Patel on August 16, 2002
Format: Paperback
I cannot understand why anyone would give this book a single star. Having grown up Hindu, I can say that Calasso has given me a retelling of stories from my childhood, and given my valuable insights into those stories.
The book is as much a history as it is a novel. It is the history of Indian thought told as a story would be, and with each step Calasso gives us another beautiful conclusion or observation.
If there was one part of the book that was flawed, it was the drawn out story of the horse sacrifice, but even there we see how much research Calasso has done.
There are benefits to being somone in a culture and writing on it, but there are also benefits to being an outsider. Calasso is one of the best writers on the outside of India. Not only do we see the linkings of Hinduism, we see the linkings of Calasso's mind, and this linking of facts and memes is a major theme of the faith that Calasso presents. The way this book echoes itself is beautiful.
In truth, as one critic said, nothing has come out of India that deals with Hinduism so wonderfully in recent years. This simply is the truth, and rather than an insult I think Hindus should read this book and accept the challenge to produce a better work.
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24 of 25 people found the following review helpful By "dgoldste18" on November 21, 2002
Format: Paperback
Calasso's works tend to be illuminating and humbling in equal portions, and this is no exception. If you've read any of the ancient stories in more traditional forms -- Hamilton's mythology, or a translation of the Bhagvad-gita for example, you're in for a big surpise. Get ready. And if you think of yourself as reasonably well read, Calasso will make you feel illiterate. This man seems to have read, and digested everything.
In this work, Calasso illustrates the religious thought of India through a retelling of many stories. It might be more fair to say reimaging, but I'd hate to mislead you into thinking this is some sort of postmodernist 'recontextualizing' of the stories. Calasso's not trying to subvert the stories, but rather to get inside them. The reader ends up with intuitions, and a sense of complex relationships, rather than a reductionist or reconstructed version of the tales.
If you're more familiar with western traditions, I recommend "The Marriage of Cadmus and Harmony" as an introduction to his technique. But if you're interested in the people and culture of India but have found the other works either too archaic or new-agey, this is a great introduction.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Gulshan Batra on August 14, 2008
Format: Paperback
When I first saw this book on the library shelf, I was tempted to try it out then and there itself. I began leafing through the pages, and before I knew it, it was closing time for the library. I barely got enough time to get this issued and get it home to continue reading it.

To say it is a good book would be an understatement. To say it is an excellent book, written by an extremely erudite & imaginative author, would come close to doing justice to the efforts of Calasso.

I've done my share of reading of the Hindu mythology, and there were umpteen little stories, snippets and legends I came across for the first time in this book. The book is obviously written with long and careful research, deep into the ethereal nature of Hindu mythology, itself written & collated over thousands of millenia. The universe of literature that this book purports (and in fact, achieves) to cover consists of more than three-and-a-half-million Gods & Goddesses, all of whom have their own little story of origin, and importance, and appearance. When you add to that the fact that almost all of these dieties are also related to each other, in some way or the other, over time and space and worlds, the knots become so complicated to unravel that it takes an extremely skilled writer to see through the stories, and find clarity even in chaos.

I found the book quite entertaining, in terms of its (at times) lyrical content, lazy speed, and the introspection time that the (featured) Gods were given and what they introspect in that time. It's amazing how Calasso has been able to adroitly inter-twine the various legends together into a single book, with the chapters strung together, like pearls on a necklace.

For anyone with more than a fleeting interest in the Hindu mythology and the dieties that make up the Indian deity line-up, this is a must-read book. For the others, if imagination stimulates you, this is your cup-of-tea.

My score: a perfect 5 / 5
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Lynn Ellingwood VINE VOICE on February 2, 2007
Format: Paperback
I tend to agree with the professional critics about Ka rather than some of the reviews readers have posted. I know something about Hinduism and Budddhism but not much. I still found this book a great read and really interesting. I was absorbed and moved by the translation of these stories. They are beautifully written and I got a lot out of reading them. I probably have more to learn and won't retain everything in the book that I read but it is a start with a very complex subject and one I don't believe could fully be understood by anyone. Ambiguity didn't ruin this book for me one bit.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Scot Duffield on January 7, 2000
Format: Paperback
This is an excellent example of thorough workmanship in literature. It makes Hindu literature nearly accessible, and if readers have a bit of background as well as some motivation this is a good book.
But, personally, while I find the material revealing, the presentation had a tone somewhere between academic and distantly lyrical. What I mean is that this book is meant to alter or rework religious texts into a digestible novel. Some of the stories stand on their own despite the sort-of objective perspective, others don't.
Further, I believe the book is mistitled. One part of the book does focus on Ka, the pregenetor in the Indian cosmology. Yet, throughout the book we find focus put upon the many avatars of Vishnu. Krishna, Buddha, and The White Horse (though I couldn't find where the author recognizes this fact) all fall in this category.
So, if you are interested in the stories of Indian Hinduism this book can extend your knowledge of the characters and give some of them life. Otherwise, it seems to be a well-written compilation work by an author not in the field of Hinduism.
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