The Marriage of Cadmus and Harmony
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The Marriage of Cadmus and Harmony

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4.25 of 5 stars 4.25  ·  rating details  ·  908 ratings  ·  94 reviews
But where did it all begin?No better answer to that question exists than in the Greek myths that are retold to breathtaking effect Roberto Calasso.Presenting the stories of Zeus and Europa, Theseus and Ariadne, the birth of Athens and the fall of Troy, in all their variants, Calasso uncovers the origins of secrets and tragedy, virginity and rape, and above all, humanity's...more
Paperback, 403 pages
Published February 27th 1994 by Random House (first published 1988)
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Jim Coughenour
I've read this book cover to cover 3 times since I bought it in 1993. It's the best book I've ever read on Greek mythology.

Actually, it's more of an extended (and unfailingly brilliant) meditation on Greek mythology, rather than a summary or "explanation." Calasso is some kind of genius: he's not only read everything, he's thought about it, flipped it backwards and forwards and tilted it sideways in his mind, then filtered whatever he's talking about through a sophisticated prism. The result is...more
Jim
The most profound books that I have ever read have left me speechless, even stammering. Such is the case with Roberto Calasso's The Marriage of Cadmus and Harmony, which I have put down no more than fifteen minutes ago. Here is a book about why myths exist, and why Ancient Greece continues to have such a hold on the Western mind.

One of my strange little reading habits is, for each year, to choose a theme that will guide much of my reading for the year. For 2010, I am delving into Ancient Greece...more
max
This is a truly remarkable book which puts classical mythology in an entirely new context. It is one of those rare, insightful books that comes along once every fifty years or so. It is a retelling (translated from the Italian) of Greek myth by an exceptionally talented writer in a style that is poetic, provocative, and profound. The author seeks on every page to delve into the deepest meanings of myths: how they came to be, what they tell us about human nature, and what they reveal about the Gr...more
Joselito Honestly and Brilliantly
It has rarely happened to me, even with those books I've read and have rated very high here at goodreads. But here it did: I feel resistance giving my copy of this book away. Very unusual for me considering my habit of disposing of books I'm done with, even those I liked a lot, impelled by the logic that good things need to be shared with others and the experience of them has to be spread to as wide an audience as possible.

I had wondered why. I surmised that it must be because of this deeply fe...more
Victoria Weinstein
Jan 28, 2009 Victoria Weinstein rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: fans of the Greek tragedy, philosophy or mythology
Wow. I never thought I'd read this book -- I had flipped through it many times in the bookstore and found it to be rambling and bizarrely organized. But for some reason I purchased it as a used bookstore and decided to read it the right way -- starting on page one, and boy am I glad I did. Calasso does something nearly impossible -- he weaves together all (or almost all) the great stories of Greek antiquity (everything from the Trojan War to the abduction of Persephone) and makes a coherent narr...more
Anastasia
E' come la spirale dell'ipnosi. Tutto parte da un punto, quasi insignificante, e comincia a disegnare un giro attorno a se stesso, e si ripete ancora, ancora e ancora, all'infinito. Sembra quasi una pellicola ipnotizzante, sul serio. Riflessi dell'immagine originale, di una specie di big bang da cui ha avuto origine una serie di eventi che non fa altro che ripetersi, accamuffandosi in personaggi e luoghi diversi. E noi, che navighiamo in questo mare enorme, che alla fine è una pellicola sola, ci...more
James Murphy
Calasso's famous book gives us a new telling of the old Greek myths. It's the familiar couched in a new language so stirring it becomes poetry. Such exquisite language is needed to capture the essence of those moments when the gods are at once themselves and yet are everywhere and everything.

In other writings Calasso has flirted with the idea that the gods were once as real as you and I but that they went away. A lovely idea as romantic as the myths themselves. The marriage of Cadmus and Harmony...more
James
"To invite the gods ruins our relationship with them but sets history in motion. A life in which the gods are not invited isn't worth living. It will be quieter, but there won't be any more stories. And you could suppose that these dangerous invitations were in fact conceived by the gods themselves, because the gods get bored with men who have no stories."

An absolutely brilliant, if meandering, journey through variants of Greek myth. Roberto Calasso writes with evident passion, weaving the ancie...more
Kua
Un libro di difficile lettura, ma estremamente affascinante. Più profondo di un semplice saggio, più complesso di un racconto, questo libro racconta il meraviglioso intreccio dell'universo mitologico con una prosa rarefatta e a tratti onirica. I rimandi storici e filosofici sono dosati con una bravura non comune e anche se non si è in possesso di una profonda conoscenza della mitologia, il racconto non perde mai forza e il lettore rimane avvinto nella spirale delle storie raccontate, accenate, t...more
Ardesia
Un affascinante dedalo di miti, echi di un mondo sospeso tra racconto e leggenda, tra cui è piacevole abbandonarsi guidati dalle virtuose costruzioni letterarie dell'autore. Un libro molto particolare, che non si limita a raccontare il mito, ma che ne ricrea sapientemente atmosfere e malìe, facendo sprofondare il lettore in una dimensione antica e suggestiva.
Bryant
This is a brilliant book. Could there be better way to retell and conceive of the Greek myths than the way Calasso does? Rather than trying to make them cohere in detail, rather than trying to find the definitive version of a story or a master narrative that sutures all the tales together, Calasso makes a virtue of their inconsistency, opacity, and repetition. Repetition is part of myth. Opacity is essential, not obstructive. The unaccountability of multiple accounts is part of the stories' mean...more
Julia Boechat Machado
Calasso é muito contundente em suas declarações, como quando diz que só havia duas formas de relação com os deuses: o convívio e o estupro.
Gosto muito de como ele parece colocar uma ordem nos mitos, não parecem cem histórias separadas, como a gente normalmente aprende, mas algo coeso.
Asma Fedosia
Oct 28, 2010 Asma Fedosia rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommended to Asma by: Alkyoni ~ Kingfisher of Books
At the beginning it was hard to wrap my mind around all the new material. This content and the writer's style finally became familiar. The stories turned out to be both imaginative and wonderful and enhanced my knowledge of Greek mythology.
Chris
This was originally published on The Scrying Orb.

Let us try to decipher this strange, dense book. Roberto Calasso takes on Greek mythology.

But what is Greek mythology? Capricious gods. Adulterous heroes. Many headed monsters. Irony. Hubris.

Calasso explains the difference between narrative and myth: A myth has several different versions, different retellings, but the thrust is often the same — there’s always a labyrinth and a monster and a hero and princess but how they got there, who they were,...more
Eric
It's rare when I can say I've never read a book quite like this, and this is one of those times. A combination of literature, philosophy, history and a bit of sociology, the closest thing I can compare it to is Bulfinch's "The Age of Fable," but way more inventive and engaging, making the myths relevant to humanity. Calasso retells the Greek myths as a way of examining and attempting to understand ancient Greek culture. What lies behind these fantastic stories we love as children and continue to...more
Anthony Bolton
A BOOK TO READ AGAIN AND AGAIN.
NEVER WAS THAT OLD SAW MORE APT THAN WITH THIS BOOK.
EXCEPT THAT ONCE READ YOU WILL NEVER ACTUALLY STOP READING.
YOU`LL JUST KEEP DIPPING INTO IT`S WORLD AT RANDOM ; A WORLD-STACK OF DENSELY PACKED MAPS; OF IDEAS AND ASSOCIATIONS THAT JUST AMPLIFY YOUR OWN UNDERSTANDING, NOT JUST OF THE BOOK AND THE GREEKS AND OUR RELATIONSHIP TO THEM , BUT OF UNDERSTANDING ITSELF .
IT`S LIKE A MEDITATION MANTRA OR MANDALA FOR COMPREHENDING THE FORMATION OF THE WESTERN MIND(OR REALLY...more
Plch
Aug 17, 2012 Plch marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: limbo
I started this book when it was new, I got it for Christams in 1988 (actually I received two of them), I started it but I couldn't finish it quickly (it's rather heavy, but not in a bad way... very 'pregnant' of different meanings, allusions, connections... or at least I thought so at the time). A few months afterward the author visited my high school, he was supposed to speak about this same book. Unfortunately, not many of us students were present at the event making him evidently very disappo...more
Nachtkind
This book was a difficult book to read and at times I debated continuing. What kept me going was a) the depth of greek mythology that I was not aware of and was curious about b) something along those same lines with regards to greek history and c) the visions of a perception of reality totally different to my own - that is, a world view grounded in myth rather than modern thought. The book is written as a series of disjointed passages that form a mosaic whole. Nothing is explicitly spelled out f...more
Elizabeth Pyjov
Apr 26, 2012 Elizabeth Pyjov is currently reading it
"No sooner have you grabbed hold of it than myth opens out into a fan of a thousand segments. Here the variant is the origin. Everything that happens, happens this way, or that way, or this other way. And in each of these diverging stories all the others are reflected, all brush by us like folds of the same cloth. If, out of some perversity of tradition, only one version of some mythical event has come down to us, it is like a body without a shadow, and we must do our best to trace out that invi...more
Zoe Aleshire
Facinating in scope and purpose...the greek myths gained real purpose and breadth to me after reading this. Reads more like a meditation or consciousness or novel or something that I can't exactly explain than a list of facts.

Calasso seriously needs a new editor. Didn't bother me overmuch, though I did correct the mistakes as I found them. Still, I was mildly irritated by the occasional abuse of grammar...though not enough to knock off a star.
Antoine
Jan 21, 2008 Antoine rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: People who love mythology
Recommended to Antoine by: Jim Watras
This is one of a handful of books that has changed my life. I have always loved mythology, but it wasn't until I read this book that I began to understand how the Greek Myths could form the basis of a compelling view of the spiritual life, and why stories are always so much more important and vital than mere doctrine. I could say more, so much more. I love this book so much that I actually started to compile an index for it once.
Oran
I read this one summer and it nearly melted my brain, challenging what I thought I knew (and what I didn't know) about Greek mythology. I found myself constantly back peddling and referencing other books to clarify my thoughts.

Then one day I said "screw it," and just read the book without looking at anything else.

It improved my experience a lot and I ended up enjoying the book very much.
Antonio Sposato
Queste cose non accaddero mai, ma sono sempre. (Sallustio)

"Un ricchissimo fregio di storie intrecciate tra loro a formare un cerchio."
La fine è inoltre annodata all'inizio - ma - giacché ci troviamo di fronte ad un fluire circolare di narrazioni, sembra improprio parlare di inizio e di fine - il nostro punto di partenza è contiguo al nostro punto di arrivo. "È il sigillo della circolarità."
Chris
I seem to be out of step with the Goodreads consensus on this one. I received this book as a gift from a friend who claimed it was one of the best things she'd ever read. There's no doubting Calasso's scholarship, but unless you have a PhD in Greek mythology (or just a boundless fascination in it) then I imagine you'll struggle with this as I did.
Patrizia Nobile
"Subito dopo i mostri muoiono gli eroi"

"Se bastasse astenersi dall'uccidere, la vita potrebbe anche diventare innocente. Mentre la colpa abita nelle vene e puó soltanto spostarsi, scambiarsi, svelarsi, celebrarsi."
Irene Picilli
Uno dei miei libri preferiti. Complesso ma leggero nello spirito meraviglioso e meravigliato che lo pervade. Imperdibile per chi ama la classicità.
Sandra
Beautiful essays on the gods and mythology. Retellings in depth uncovering hidden meaning.
Daniel
A meditation on Greek mythology. Calasso teases out connections and threads in the myths, rescues obscure myths from the silence, pulls almost-forgotten variants from the shadows.

He is especially interested in the power of variants in mythology. Every important myth exists in multiple contradictory versions. If many variants of a significant story do not exist in the written record, we must assume they once existed and have been lost to 'the silence', that the variants which must have been told...more
Sarah
It's really hard to pick a rating for this book; by turns it's brilliant, enlightening, beautiful, idiosyncratic and nonsensical. If you have any interest in Greek myth and the tropes and symbols which keep reoccuring, this will show them to you with fresh eyes. (the section on Theseus and Ariadne is absolutely amazing, as is everything on the cycle leading from "the bull from the sea".) But Calasso definitely chooses his sources with a particular angle in mind (e.g. Ariadne's line in Ovid's Fas...more
Princess Dil
Wow, I agree with the reviews printed on the back, this book is a masterpiece.

It's not a very light read but it is enjoyable. I enjoyed his style and the way he revealed less known details of the Greek myths particularly. One thing though, one has to already know the myths to enjoy this properly, it is not an introduction to them but a retelling, with exquisite details and a lot of stray thoughts woven in beautifully.

He does tend to ramble on a lot though and I got impatient with that at some p...more
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Roberto Calasso (born 30 May 1941 in Florence) is an Italian publisher and writer. He was born into a family of the local upper class, well connected with some of the great Italian intellectuals of their time. His maternal grandfather Giovanni Codignola was a professor of philosophy at Florence University. Codignola created a new publishing house called La Nuova Italia, in Florence, just like his...more
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“As the Greeks see it, elegance arises from excavation, from the cavity.” 0 likes
“Ade accennò un sorriso con le sopracciglia: non abbiamo notizia di un sorriso più misterioso di quello che increspò allora la fronte del signore dei morti. Era il sorriso di colui che sa, e segnala con quel lieve cenno la sua distanza da tutto ciò che avviene.” 0 likes
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