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Ka: Stories of the Mind and Gods of India

4.13  ·  Rating Details ·  574 Ratings  ·  53 Reviews
With the same startling originality and brilliance that made his Marriage of Cadmus and Harmony a literary landmark, Roberto Calasso narrates the birth of one of the world's great cultures: the formation of the mind of India. He doesn't explain or describe this mental world--he regenerates it through its epic cyclical stories and customs, until we no longer need to define ...more
Hardcover, 443 pages
Published October 27th 1998 by Knopf (first published 1996)
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Feb 11, 2015 Michael rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
“A bloody, feverish story has embedded itself in the sky. It reminds us that it will go on happening forever.”

Fitting, that in this retelling of what are some of the oldest stories known to man that Ka translates as ‘the space between,’ or ‘Who?’ For it’s the mystery that we are after in this existence. “Now I know that this question will haunt us forever, until time itself dissolves.” Calasso’s book accounts the gods, as if, in their doings, our own plight is revealed. “So many things happening
Neha Asthana
May 20, 2012 Neha Asthana rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Ka is a work of art, no less by the very brave Roberto Calasso. To bring to book, Indian mythology, ANY mythology, really, is a daring attempt to pick & prod through a dangerous territory of the book keepers of religion, the overlords of cults, the gardeners of religious doctrine & breeders of creeds. Calasso has somehow managed to paint this vast canvas with hues that complement the real picture, and woven a tapestry with many threads converging & diverging to create a regaling pict ...more
James Murphy
Jun 18, 2009 James Murphy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What Calasso did with western classical mythology in The Marriage of Cadmus and Harmony he also does with Indian mythology. I was aware that Kali represents death and that Ganesha has the head of an elephant. A few years ago I read The Mahabharata. I have a basic familiarity with the life of Buddha. But that's a weak foundation for understanding the complex nature of Indian mythology. As a westerner I doubt I can properly appreciate in one reading the nuances and richness of their mythic traditi ...more
May 18, 2010 Keram rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: awareness
Some of the most beautiful prose I have read, let alone in what appears to be a non-fiction book, though that is an impossible qualification considering it is exploring the origins of Hindu mythology. Reading this made my brain feel effervescent, and I often had to put the book down after a paragraph simply to savor what I had just read. And sometime this would last for weeks before I could return to it.
Brooke Everett
Sometimes I force myself to do things that I don’t necessarily want to do because I perceive them as being “good for me.” Recently, I wouldn’t allow myself to leave my own dining room table until I finished a giant salad from Sweetgreen. It took me over an hour to finish that salad and I may or may not have cried a little bit.

I tend to reach for a book I think will be good for my brain to counteract a feeling I get every now and again that the Internet and my life are making me stupid. I’ve refe
Gopal MS
Nov 28, 2011 Gopal MS rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Simply brilliant. Most Indians would have heard almost all the tales that are mentioned in this book. But this book strings all the mythological tales together very intelligently and with a perspective that only someone with a wider perspective of human nature and thought processes can give.

There is also something different about Italian writers. They write in a rich and often difficult language that takes time to get used to. But once you are comfortable with the translation, you will realise
Dr. M
Feb 24, 2016 Dr. M rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I recommend this book to Indians who have had no exposure to Hindu scriptures. The author takes you through the mystic world of Indian scriptures, the origin of human life and the relationship with gods, the subtle interpretations of intrigues starting from the awe-struck Vinatha in the majestic presence of her son Garuda. The book reads like poetry. I was amazed by the breadth and depth of the author's understanding. It takes time to complete the book, but assure you it is worth every minute of ...more
Harish Balan
Dec 27, 2012 Harish Balan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ka decodes Hindu myth in a style that might be scandalous to the fascists. However, the book reasons out a lot of stories in Hindu myth with a very original idea. Roberto's complex and erotic style of writing might not make the book a terrific page-turner. And still it's probably te best book about Hindu mythology that anyone has ever written.
Sep 06, 2007 John rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I can't say that I learned anything; mostly I let his books seep in over a period of years, kind of like Milorad Pavic. Mostly I just jot down anytime he raises a question, such as "But how did it all begin?"
Sep 29, 2011 Oanh rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Less wonderful (for me) than Marriage of Cadmus & Harmony but still great. Perhaps the problem was my lesser familiarity with Hindi mythology / cosmology etc.
Benjie Deford
Jun 23, 2013 Benjie Deford rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I don't remember but I know it was read, need to re-read.
Jee Koh
Dec 30, 2008 Jee Koh rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Parasite of Consciousness

Calasso retells the Indian myths in this book, and makes them gripping, probing and mysterious. In the first story, Garuda, the eagle, is born to save his mother from slavery to her own sister. The method of the myths and of the retelling is described by Garuda himself: "So many things happening, so many stories one inside the other, with every link hiding yet more stories . . . And I've hardly hatched from my egg."

After freeing his mother, Garuda decided to devote h
Nikhil Kasarpalkar
This is the best book on Hindu Mythology written , that I have read yet. It is a must read for every one interested in Hindu Mythology. The narration by Robert Calasso is sublime. Myself, being a Hindu was amazed the ease at which the whole narration went. I was not even aware of some of these wonderful stories that he has woven together.

To sum it all. A definite must read.
Mi ero riproposta di rileggere questo libro fra qualche anno. Invece è arrivato in ebook con un daily deal e non ho resistito all'anticipazione.
Di cosa parla sta scritto nella quarta.
Alla fine della lettura, però, non ci si ricorda quasi più niente tanti sono i nomi a cui si cerca di dare una connotazione che poi diventa un'altra cosa rispetto all'immagine che ci si era creati. Un dio è anche umano, ma ha sembianze animali e poi ti accorgi che ha il nome di una costellazione. Cosmogonia, guerre
Oscar Calva
Sep 26, 2012 Oscar Calva rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Ka es un libro fascinante. En la forma es un recuento de mitos hindúes, principalmente tomados de los textos del Rig Veda y el Ramayana, desde el inicio de los tiempos hasta el surgimiento del buda. En el fondo, este libro va mucho más allá de un simple recuento enciclopédico de leyendas e historias, y se adentra a profundidad en el pensamiento y la filosofía hindú a partir del conocimiento profundo y erudito que el autor tiene de dichos textos.

Leer estas historias de la mano de Calasso no es u
Marts  (Thinker)
May 26, 2012 Marts (Thinker) marked it as shelved  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: philosophy
I got this description of this book from Amazon,

"A giddy invasion of stories--brilliant, enigmatic, troubling, outrageous, erotic, beautiful." --The New York Times Book Review

"So brilliant that you can't look at it anymore--and you can't look at anything else. . . . No one will read it without reward."
--The Boston Globe

With the same narrative fecundity and imaginative sympathy he brought to his acclaimed retelling of the Greek myths, Roberto Calasso plunges Western readers into the mind of anci
Girish Malkarnenkar
Rating books on a 5 point scale is seldom easy, but this book takes the cake. As far as readability goes, it deserves a one. There is hardly any flow between consecutive paragraphs. The language is extremely dense and author has freely used metaphors and interrogatives, causing a near soporific effect. There have been occasions when I have used this book as a remedy for my insomnia.

Having said that, I feel the fault partly lies with me (the reader), because the author has definitely done his hom
Calasso has undertaken the mammoth task of going through classical Indian mythology and effectively boiling it down to "sound-bites". An excellent introduction to Vedic myth made even more interesting because it is written by an author so proficient in Greek myth -so the parallels he draws between the two are insightful.

The book is divided into parts starting from the beginning of creation and ending with the life of the Buddha. Each chapter can be read as a stand-alone story which could make t
This book is going to be difficult for me to review because it's not what I was expecting or wanting. I was hoping for a book that would take me through some of the stories of Hindu mythology, an area in which my knowledge is woefully inadequate, being limited to hazy childhood memories. However, it turned out to be more a setting out of some of the principles of Hindu philosophy, using some of the stories to hang that on to. This is a noble aim in itself, but it's not what I was looking for.

Namrata Jain
Mar 25, 2013 Namrata Jain rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I should have waited a few more years to read this.
I really believe in reading the books at the right time in life to really enjoy them, and this got in a little early.
I really enjoyed the stories, especially about how amrta was procured and of Krishna, Buddha and Mahabharata.
Mahabharata is my favorite epic!
But there's just so much philosophy and so many second meanings, sadly I don't think I absorbed it all that well. Call it impatience or just a dis-interest in thinking of things to a depth I
It started out well, but very quickly became dry. It seems like the author has attempted to mimic the storytelling style of the originals: running narrative descriptions bordering on stream of consciousness. Almost like Alice in Wonderland, but less enthralling.
I would've like to see something with richer characters and more stable, if blossoming sense of time and space. This is magical realism spoken like realism, but the story is all magical and I don't care.
I'm probably reading the U
Mar 11, 2016 Sarit rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The book was full of potential. I was excited to read it. I want to know more about Hinduism . But I feel like this was a tease.
It was too difficult to read. I kept on getting lost. I couldn't keep up with the stories.
I would loose treads and I just couldn't fully understand what was going on.
If someone wants to read about Hinduism and the fascinating stories I would NOT recommend this book.
Jan 05, 2009 Ryan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mythology
Beautifully poetic. My expectation (or hope?) that it would unravel the overlapping, intertwining, irreducible complexity of the vedas, upanishads, mahabarata, and buddhism was not destined for fulfillment ... but could I trust anything or anyone that irons flat such essential wrinkles?

Calasso is part of that astounding pool of Europe's poetic essayists, bringing unbelievable, polymathic erudition to the level of high-art ... think Michel Serres, Elias Cannetti, Claudio Magris, etc.
Aug 11, 2015 Uroš rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I give it 3 stars due to its readability. The author definitely made a remarkable job putting all those sources together to make a story. Haven't read the sources myself I hardly comment about the validity of its contents, but I suppose that the book was intentionally written in a chaotic way in some passages to get closer to the sources - like a flow of consciousness. But it gets exhausting for the reader.
Jul 05, 2015 Bgera rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Insightful reading about mythology ranging from Shiva to Buddha from a Western perspective of philosophy. Really liked the characters narrating stories in first person rather than analytical approach to religion. Covers far too much and tough to relate one chapter to another although there are connecting themes. Story of Buddha was most interesting as I am currently attending teachings on Buddhism.
Rachel Rueckert
I love India and I love Hindu mythology. I have history with India and have taken a few classes and visited a couple times. However, 90% of this book was inaccessible to me. The glossary wasn't helpful either. A few times Indian friends were able to help, but largely I do not think this text is digestible for Westerners. I'm fine with that, I just wish I knew it up front.
Sheri Fresonke Harper
Aug 16, 2012 Sheri Fresonke Harper rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mythology
Roberto Calasso tells the stories of India very poetically, one can get lost in his words. The stories are unusual but based on historical myths. I expected more explanation of where the stories fit into mythic cycles, instead I was immersed in story land. I enjoyed reading it but it left me confused at times but also wanting to know more about India's mythic history.
Jul 01, 2014 Shaina rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Didn't finish it. About half way through I gave up. It gets very dense and way too philosophical that it doesn't make any sense. Some of the stories are great and very interesting but I ended up feeling more frustrated than anything else trying to understand this book. Maybe I'll attempt to read it again later. (I did my HBA at uofT in Hindu religion and mythology so that's saying a lot).
Jul 01, 2011 Phil rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: lit-general
Dense and impenetrable. It was only stubbornness that got me through this book. I'm fascinated by mythology and casually interested in India, but I soon got the impression that a deep background in Hindu myth is required to make any sense of the book. Choked with Vedic jargon and a huge cast of interchangeable characters, this book left me no more enlightened than before I read it.
Chitranjan Tyagi
Ka is a great book about the gods and religious practices of ancient India. I read this book in Hindi and in a day. It was great to read the interpretation of an outsider. I do not know if anybody has said so much in such brevity on this topic. Although, it covers only minuscule section of Indian myths and stories, still it makes a great reading.
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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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“They had to stir the churn of the ocean, until the soma floated up, as butter floats from milk. And this task could not be undertaken in opposition to the Asuras, but only with their help. The pronouncement ran contrary to everything the Devas had previously thought. But in the end, what did they have to lose, given that their lives were so futile? Now they thought: Anything, so long as there be a trial, a risk, a task.” 4 likes
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