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Literature and the Gods by Roberto Calasso

Literature and the Gods

by Roberto Calasso

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257368,478 (3.98)None
Brilliant, inspired, and gloriously erudite, Literature and the Gods is the culmination of Roberto Calasso’s lifelong study of the gods in the human imagination. By uncovering the divine whisper that lies behind the best poetry and prose from across the centuries, Calasso gives us a renewed sense of the mystery and enchantment of great literature. From the banishment of the classical divinities during the Age of Reason to their emancipation by the Romantics and their place in the literature of our own time, the history of the gods can also be read as a ciphered and splendid history of literary inspiration. Rewriting that story, Calasso carves out a sacred space for literature where the presence of the gods is discernible. His inquiry into the nature of “absolute literature” transports us to the realms of Dionysus and Orpheus, Baudelaire and Mallarm√©, and prompts a lucid and impassioned defense of poetic form, even when apparently severed from any social function. Lyrical and assured, Literature and the Gods is an intensely engaging work of literary affirmation that deserves to be read alongside the masterpieces it celebrates.… (more)



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This is a knitted and knotted exegesis on the role and symbolism of the divine in the literary arts, largely poetry in the 19th century. Like the rest of Calasso, that thesis is but a point of departure to a sinuous journey which broaches a kaleidoscope of concepts and figures.

Whether the pretexts spoke of race or class, the one sufficient reason for killing your enemies was always the same: these people were harmful to society. Society becomes the subject above all subjects.

There is much to marvel: the notes on Mallarme and Nietzsche. The sections glossing over links with the Vedas lost me. ( )
  jonfaith | Feb 22, 2019 |
I didn't get too much from this. It's not the book's fault, or Calasso's. It's just much too erudite and intellectual for me. I've long been intrigued by the idea that the gods of the old Greek and Roman pantheons simply went away. Calasso's idea is that they've returned by being invoked in our literature. His referents are the more classical writers and thinkers--Baudelaire, Mallarme, Nietzsche. The time of their return began mid-19th Century. I'd surmise from this conceit that their presence continues today, albeit in novels such as The Great Gatsby, William Kennedy's Albany novels, and the wonderful Updike novel, The Centaur ( )
  ThePerpetualOrgy | Jan 10, 2007 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Roberto Calassoprimary authorall editionscalculated
Parks, TimTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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