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Authors: Roberto Calasso

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The Marriage of Cadmus and Harmony

BOOK: The Marriage of Cadmus and Harmony
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Acclaim for
The Marriage of Cadmus and Harmony

“Vivid … a serious entertainment meant to leave the reader with some lingering sense that what seemed remote and forgotten is very much a part of his own very different world.”

—The New York Times Book Review

“Calasso draws on a vast array of variant myths and stories and molds them into a single text … which may be one of the most comprehensive and comprehensible modern attempts at re-creating this vanished world. Part narrative, part meditation, this marvelously engrossing work plunges the reader right into the thick of the mythological action.… Calasso’s concise, straightforward style of storytelling untangles the most complicated plots.… A work of power and grace.”

—Christian Science Monitor

“Strange and alluring … gnomic and down to earth, colloquial and abstract, brilliantly focused and digressive … [A] provocative celebration of the Greek myths.”


The Marriage of Cadmus and Harmony
is a masterpiece, in the original sense of that word.… His style skims over the sea of myth with the swiftness and grace of the goddess on her half-shell.… A wonderfully fashioned work of art.”

—John Banville,
Irish Times

“Roberto Calasso’s aim in his startling and beautiful book is to make us understand, once more, the necessity of myth, not just as fable and fantasy but as a way of comprehending our own nature.… It will be read and re-read not as treatise but as
: one of the most extraordinary that has ever been written of the origins of Western self-consciousness.”

—Simon Schama

“The Greeks would have recognized Roberto Calasso as one of their own … in the same way as they would have recognized Ovid.… This is the kind of book that comes out only once or twice in one’s lifetime.”

—Joseph Brodsky

“Learned, sensuous, dazzlingly intelligent … 
The Marriage of Cadmus and Harmony
reads like a novel packed with violent, erotic, multifariously beautiful or resonant stories, held together by a lucidly unsentimental authorial voice. There is no neo-classical flummery here, just the workings of an exhilaratingly vigorous intellect and a vivid appreciation of the world of appearances.… Calasso set himself a formidable task.… He has succeeded absolutely.”

—Lucy Hughes-Hallet,
The Sunday Times

“An affirmation of what still lives in the heritage of the Greek religion, this book is not a scholarly treatise but a celebration by a visionary working in the tradition of Ovid—not just to tell us what the myths are but to teach us how to think in myths’ terms, how to look up at a sky and see more than astronomical data and intimidating light-years of empty space.”

—Chicago Tribune

The Marriage of Cadmus and Harmony
transcends scholarship, literature and even history.… Mr. Calasso … is a worthy successor of the great mythologists of the past: Homer, Pindar, Euripides, Ovid, Fraser, Robert Graves.”

—Washington Times


The Marriage of Cadmus and Harmony

Roberto Calasso was born in Florence in 1941. He lives in Milan, where he is publisher of Adelphi Edizioni.
The Marriage of Cadmus and Harmony
, his third book, has been translated into twelve languages.

(photo credit fm1)


Copyright © 1993 by Alfred A. Knopf Inc

All rights reserved under International and Pan-American Copyright Conventions. Published in the United States by Vintage Books, a division of Random House, Inc., New York, and simultaneously in Canada by Random House of Canada Limited, Toronto. Originally published in Italy as
Le Nozze di Cadmo e Armonia
by Adelphi Edizioni S.p.A., Milan, in 1988.

Copyright © 1988 by Adelphi Edizioni S.p.A. This translation originally published in the United States by Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., New York, in 1993.

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Calasso, Roberto.

[Nozze di Cadmo e Armonia. English]

The marriage of Cadmus and Harmony / Roberto Calasso; translated from the Italian by Tim Parks. — 1st Vintage International ed.

p. cm.

Previously published: New York: Knopf, 1993.

Includes bibliographical references.

eISBN: 978-0-8041-5134-4

1. Cadmus (Creek mythology)—Fiction. 2. Harmonia (Greek mythology)—Fiction. I. Title.

[PQ4863.A3818N6913 1994]

853’.914—dc20       93-6331

Author photograph © Giorgio Magister


These things never happened, but are always

Of Gods and of the World


(photo credit 1.1)

N A BEACH IN SIDON A BULL WAS APING a lover’s coo. It was Zeus. He shuddered, the way he did when a gadfly got him. But this time it was a sweet shuddering. Eros was lifting a girl onto his back: Europa. Then the white beast dived into the sea, his majestic body rising just far enough above the water to keep the girl from getting wet. There were plenty of witnesses. Triton answered the amorous bellowing with a burst on his conch. Trembling, Europa hung on to one of the bull’s long horns. Boreas spotted them too as they plowed through the waves. Sly and jealous, he whistled when he saw the young breasts his breath had uncovered. High above, Athena blushed at the sight of her father bestraddled by a girl. An Achaean sailor saw them and gasped. Could it be Tethys, eager to see the sky? Or just some Nereid with clothes on her back for a change? Or was it that trickster Poseidon carrying off another wench?

Europa, meantime, could see no end to this crazy sea crossing. But she guessed what would happen to her when they hit land again. And she shouted to wind and water: “Tell my father Europa has been carried off by a bull—my kidnapper, my sailor, my future bedmate, I imagine. Please, give this necklace to my mother.” She was going to call to Boreas too, ask him to lift her up on his wings, the way he’d done with his own bride, Oreithyia, from Athens. But she bit her tongue: why swap one abductor for another?

BOOK: The Marriage of Cadmus and Harmony
4.35Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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