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21 March 2008 @ 10:07 am
The Marriage of Cadmus and Harmony, Roberto Calasso, 1988  
The Marriage of Cadmus and Harmony, Roberto Calasso, 1988

From the back cover:
But how did it all begin? No better answer to that question--which is all questions--exists than in the Greek myths that are retold and refracted to breathtaking effect in The Marriage of Cadmus and Harmony. With vast erudition and irresistible verve, Robert Calasso tells the stories of Zeus and Europa, Theseus and Ariadne, of the birth of Athens and the fall of Troy, tracing them back along the branches of a single myth-bearing tree and rediscovering, as he does so, the origins of desire and strife, virginity and rape, of tragedy and of the "mysteries." Unfolding for us the whole astonishing range of humanity's sometimes joyful, often tormented relation with the gods, The Marriage of Cadmus and Harmony is a real tour de force, a work of spellbinding playfulness, eroticism, and wonder.

My review:
Anyone who likes Greek mythology needs to read this book. Mythology has so many different versions of each story, influenced by each region and twisted by history. It's a real problem for any mythographer, trying to combine all the conflicting versions into one solid story. Robert Calasso does so expertly, and I am boggled that anyone is intelligent enough to combine all those stories and make inferences from their similarities and differences. He spins through all of Greek mythology, in a book that's too poetic to be scholarly and too erudite to be fiction. I also highly appreciated that he didn't gloss over the homosexuality, as so many modern scholars do.

The Marriage of Cadmus and Harmony has some exquisite prose, which makes it a real joy to read, and it makes you think, which is even better. I recommend it most highly to anyone who's ever taken a liking to Greek mythology.