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The Marriage of Cadmus and Harmony Paperback – February 8, 1994

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

That Greco-Roman mythology should shape a contemporary novel is hardly unusual, but the way this breath-takingly ambitious work shapes--and reshapes--classical mythology is remarkable indeed. Calasso, publisher of the intellectual Milanese house Adelphi, revisits the theogonies set forth by Hesiod, Homer, Ovid et al. and then recasts them for a postmodern audience. Gods and men enact the cosmic mysteries as the narrator comments aphoristically on the progress of ancient and divine history ("With time, men and gods would develop a common language made up of hierogamy and sacrifice . . . . And, when it became a dead language, people started talking about mythology"). Calasso presents the abduction of Europa by a bull, analyzes the Trojan war, discusses the meaning of the word "tragedy" and charts the fall of classical Athens. Into this elegant chronology he also interpolates quotations from and allusions to a pantheon of classical writers, in the same weightless manner in which those writers made use of standard formulaic tropes; he extends his territory by planting modern points of reference ("Jason would have preferred to live a bourgeois life at home, just as Nietzsche would have preferred to be a professor in Basel, rather than God"). Readers who don't know their Theseus from their Thyestes shouldn't be discouraged--Calasso's work bridges the perceived distance from the origins of Western culture. Illustrations not seen by PW. BOMC alternate.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Library Journal

A reconsideration and recombination of Greek mythology, this scholarly tome--which is being billed as both fiction and mythology by the publisher--reaches back extensively through the works of Plutarch, Ovid, Homer, and Plato, to name only a few of the classical writers referenced here. This interweaving of gods and goddesses and of their actions moves back and forth in time, with many comments from Calasso about both the action and its interpretation by scholars. The storytelling style is interesting, but novices of Greek mythology will soon find themselves awash in names and places and activities that are exceedingly difficult to keep straight. An extensive "family tree" of characters, an index, and even chapter titles, none of which are included, would have served as useful guideposts. Students of Greek mythology will be intrigued. Primarily for academic collections.
- Olivia Opello, Onondaga Cty. P.L., Syracuse, N.Y.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 420 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (February 8, 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679733485
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679733485
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 1 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #204,327 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

27 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Richard Wells on August 14, 2001
Format: Paperback
"The Marriage of Cadmus and Harmony," is a marvelous retelling of the Greek myths that puts a trace on their source, and a track on their permutations. More importantly Roberto Calasso explores their ramifications on modern times. And, he does it in a scholarly and entertaining way that never pulls us from the full world of ancient Greece that he recreates. Oh, those gods and goddesses were steeped in gore, and would wreck whatever havoc was necessary to have their ways with humanity and each other. The blood of every hero seems to begin with a sanctified seduction or rape, and end in a pool either before the gates of Troy, or as a result of that ten year war. Not to say that the humans act or fare any better than their divine counterparts. The greatest among them were small in their motives as they pursued homicide, parricide, matricide, infanticide and every other side of slaughter they could summon into being. But, as small as they were, they were heroes; and, as petty as they were, they were the gods; and their actions, reactions, and inactions shaped and continue to shape Western culture. "The Marriage of Cadmus and Harmony" is a fitting companion piece to "The Iliad" and "The Odyssey," and stands alone as a thrilling tale of the mortal and immortal excesses that have formed us.
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26 of 27 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 20, 1996
Format: Paperback
Roberto Calasso's retelling of the myths of antiquity is as
powerful and life-changing a book as I've ever read. He
illuminates these stories and brings them to life, showing us
the power they held for the ancients by infusing them with
his own narrative power, writing in a style which is crisp,
modern, and yet full of fantasy. We see our own lives in the
lives of the gods and the lives of the humans with whom
they spoke, made love, made war.

This book would be worth reading simply for the engaging way
in which Calasso tells the stories. He doesn't stop there,
however. His insights and interpretations are worth a book in
themselves. Nearly every page of my copy is filled with
checks and underlined passages, each representing ideas which
provoked thought or simply struck me as brilliant. This book
is not another dictionary of myths in the style of Bullfinch
and Hamilton and Graves--it is a work of literature in its own
right, and, I believe, a work of genius.

If you are interested in classical mythology, read this book.
If you are not, read this book. It is for anyone who wants
to see the world in a different, richer way.
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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 23, 1999
Format: Paperback
I first saw this book, very thick, one year ago, poking out of some shelf at my school's library. 'Greek myth, huh?' I was up for the challenge. I guess I knew the stories well, but the brilliant narrative and style was so absorbing, I was hooked. Calasso re-opened my eyes to the World of Greek myth! I can't remember how many times I went back to take this book out- more then five, as far as I know. What I enjoyed about it most was how each of the characters was brought to life, each with thoughts, and fears, and desires not unlike that of mankind today. The first time I finished this book I felt Calasso had altered my life, or my perspective on it. I had to go back and read it again, and again. Simply a work of art, this is a treasure of wealth in the form of written knowledge. And, personally, I don't care who you are or where you are form, just read this book. You'll see what I mean.
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Monika on February 18, 2005
Format: Paperback
"The Marriage of Cadmus and Harmony" is a truly ambitious work. Roberto Calasso has gathered together the various tales in Greek mythology, including the works of Hesiod and Homer, and put them together into one cohesive whole. Rather than simply retelling these well-known stories, the book shows the interconnectedness of events and characters, tying everything together. Calasso writes with a style that is both narrative and scholarly. He takes time to dig deeply into the underlying themes of Greek mythology, producing some profound and thought-provoking insights, but at the same time keeps the tone animated, retaining the feel that this is an epic story rather than a dry scholarly analysis.

Despite the choice of title, the characters of Cadmus and Harmony are only mentioned a few times in passing in the main body of the work. It is not until the final chapter that they take center stage. Calasso opens the book with Zeus's abduction of Europa, and ties this in with a general theme of abduction to be found throughout Greek mythology. Then he slowly works his way back in time, taking us, in the middle of the book, to the very beginning, the creation story of the Greeks. From there Calasso moves forward once again, relating the fall of Athens, the decline of ancient Greece, and the slow fading of the gods from earthly life.

"The mythographer," Calasso says, "lives in a permanent state of chronological vertigo" (281). While he does make the stories flow together, it would be impossible to put them in a definite order. Trying to do so would drive one mad, and it is advisable to just sit back and enjoy the stories without worrying too much about their placement in time.
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