BOOK REVIEW / Paperbacks: The Marriage of Cadmus and Harmony - Roberto Calasso, trs Tim Parks: Vintage, pounds 5.99

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The Independent Culture
The myths of Mount Olympus were the first clothes of European culture. The Italian writer Roberto Calasso has recut them to show they still have relevance, and they hang stylishly in this English translation. Myth, he says cryptically, is 'a spell the soul casts on itself', and there are certainly plenty of spells here - from Zeus, copulating and populating in all his forms, to the tricks and japes of gods, men and women as they trade power for pleasure and vice versa. At the same time we have the author's learned notes and reflections on the themes, jotted down as in a commonplace book. This is not trying to be a dictionary of myths, but a dynamic encounter between modernity and the oldest stories known to Europe.