Books: Myths, eagles and legends: get into the `Ka'
Ka by Roberto Calasso Vintage pounds 6.99
Sunday 07 November 1999
Ka is even more challenging. In it, Calasso makes tangible the less familiar world of Hinduism, placing its hymns and narratives of sacrifice - the Rig-Veda and the Brahmanas - at its imaginative heart. He makes his intentions clear with two epigraphs: one from Spinoza, who remarks that ideas function as narratives of the real world; and the second from the Yogavasistha: "The world is like the impression left by the telling of a story." And before we know it, we are plunged straight into the story with the enticing first line: "Suddenly an eagle darkened the sky." This eagle taking flight spans the novel with one question: "Who is the god to whom we should offer our sacrifice?" Calasso, who is brilliantly and meticulously translated by novelist Tim Parks, then turns his story, which, once again, combines philosophical commentary with illuminating linguistic analysis, into a startling evocation of the historical atmosphere and emotional outlook that shaped these upper- caste Indians' thought. The emergence of consciousness is their concern, and Calasso gives it narrative shape by rehearsing their myth of the creation of the world by Prajapati, the progenitor, whose secret name is Ka (which translates as "who", or "the space between"). Calasso is keen on the idea of an "Indo-European" tradition of thought, and he brings in Proust ("a Vedantic master though unaware of being such"), Wittgenstein, Locke and Hegel as close relations of the Indian seers.
Ka is a dizzying, erudite incursion into sacred texts, which throbs with erotic, violent and enigmatic tales. Despite its scholarly austerity, to read it is, ultimately, a rewarding experience, although - as Parks himself once admitted - it needs to be read at least four times before the reader can come to terms with it.
Robin Thicke admits he didn't write 'Blurred Lines'music
Review: Cilla, ITV TV
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Mario Balotelli: Staff at arson-hit Manchester Dogs' Home convinced Liverpool striker is behind five-figure donation
- 2 Friends 20th anniversary: Alison Jackson photographs reunited cast
- 3 There is literally not a single woman in this iPhone 6 queue
- 4 Hitler’s former food taster reveals the horrors of the Wolf’s Lair
- 5 Scottish independence: Tory revolt against 'devo max' grows as Rail Minister Claire Perry joins
Daniele Watts: Django Unchained actress detained by Los Angeles police after being mistaken for a prostitute
Scottish independence referendum: A nation divided against itself
Scottish independence: David Cameron is becoming the 'George Bush of Britain'
Russia freezes Ukraine into submission: Kiev admits country doesn't have enough fuel for winter
Scottish independence: The Queen breaks silence on referendum debate – as think tank warns of £14bn black hole if Scotland votes Yes
Archbishop of Canterbury admits doubts about existence of God