The Ruin of Kasch

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Harvard University Press, Jan 1, 1994 - History - 385 pages
2 Reviews
Taking as his focus the periods immediately before and after the French Revolution but making occasional sallies backward and forward in time - from Vedic India to the porticoes of the Palais-Royal and to the killing fields of Pol Pot - Calasso recounts, elucidates, and interprets the downfall of what Baudelaire was already calling "the Modern." This downfall came as a sequel to an earlier and opposite collapse: that of the archaic societies which were regulated by the movements of the stars and the rituals of sacrifice. At the center of the work stands the story of the ruin of Kasch, a legendary African kingdom whose annihilation becomes emblematic of the ruin of the ancient and modern worlds. The genius of Calasso's book is that, in its illuminating blend of literature and ideas, it establishes a genre all its own. Its form is a rich blend of anecdotes, quotations, analysis, digressions, aphorisms, dialogues, historical discussion, and straightforward storytelling that beautifully mirrors its subject matter and evokes the protean spirit of Modernism. It is a sumptuous literary feast. Calasso brings to his stage a vast gallery of characters, including Laclos and Marx, Benjamin and Chateaubriand, Sainte-Beuve and Levi-Strauss, Max Stirner and Joseph de Maistre. And presiding over them all is the French statesman Charles-Maurice de Talleyrand-Perigord, who knew the secrets of both the Old and New regimes and who was able to adjust the perplexing and cruel notion of "legitimacy" to the modern age. Cynical Talleyrand - who showed that success in the new era depends on agility, fluidity, and a consummate sense of style - serves, fittingly, as the master of ceremonies throughout the book,which is at once a meditation on the origins and nature of power and a breathtaking synthesis of Western cultural history. It is an extraordinary reading experience.
  

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This book provided me with dozens of jumping off points for enjoyable cogitation.I could also see how it would be a tough read for someone with a different attitude about what to expect from literature as it doesn't touch the usual bases on its trip around the diamond.

Review: The Ruin of Kasch

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Contents

Note for Lucien
24
Exempla Voluptatis
33
Treacherous Trifles
39
Arcana Imperii
57
LAutrichienne
70
Belated Nostalgia for Sorrow
101
Among the Ruins of Kasch
125
Archives and WillotheWisps
181
Glosses on Marx
226
The Ruthlessness of Ricardo
240
The Artificial Barbarian
258
Behind the Windowpane
290
The Moscow Gatekeeper
312
The WolfMan Remembers
322
Voices from the PalaisRoyal
331
Notes
359

The AntiRomantic Child
219

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About the author (1994)

Roberto Calasso is also the author of "The Forty-Nine Steps" and "Literature and the Gods." He lives in Milan and is the publisher of Adelphi.

William Weaver was born on July 24, 1923. During World War II, he joined the American Field Service and was sent to Africa and then to Italy as an ambulance driver. As a senior at Princeton University, he had a short story published in Harper's Bazaar. After graduation, he taught at the University of Virginia for a year before returning to Italy. He was a translator of modern Italian literature into English. He translated the works of numerous authors including Italo Calvino, Umberto Eco, Giorgio Bassani and Primo Levi. He also studied opera and wrote several books on the subject including The Golden Century of Italian Opera from Rossini to Puccini. He taught at Bard College in Annandale-on-Hudson, New York in the 1990s. He died on November 12, 2013 at the age of 90.

Stephen Sartarelli is the translator for DEATH IN AUGUST and DEATH IN THE OLIVE GROVE by Marco Vichi.

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