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.
GlastonburyWI to make debut appearance at Somerset festival
TV reviewIt has taken seven episodes for Game of Thrones season five to hit its stride
FilmPalme d'Or goes to radical and astonishing film that turns conventional thinking about immigrants on its head
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Enrique Iglesias injured trying to catch a drone mid concert
- 2 Caitlyn Jenner, formerly Bruce Jenner, reveals new look on Annie Leibovitz shot Vanity Fair cover
- 3 Arsenal players boo chief-executive Ivan Gazidis after being told they would not get bonus for FA Cup triumph
- 4 Man on naked bike ride gets ejected after becoming aroused
- 5 UK weather: Temperatures set to soar making parts of Britain hotter than parts of the Mediterranean
The 1975 leave social-media after tweeting cryptic comic strip hinting at break up
Britain's Got Talent 2015 final: Winner Matisse had secret dog double, says owner Jules O'Dwyer
Top Gear to follow Have I Got News For You format with 'different host for each episode'
Britain's Got Talent final 2015: Ofcom receives 90 complaints about Alesha Dixon and Amanda Holden's 'revealing dresses'
Ed Sheeran debuts new love song 'Sweet Mary Jane' about relationship with weed
Migrants in Kos: Photos show real tragedy after Brits abroad complain of 'awkward' holidays
British tourists complain that impoverished boat migrants are making holidays 'awkward' in Kos
Michael Gove determined to scrap the Human Rights Act – even if Scotland retains it
Thousands of teenage girls enduring debilitating illnesses after routine school cancer vaccination
Threat to scrap Human Rights Act could see UK follow Nazi example, warns UN official
Why this year's general election was the most unfair in Britain's history