A book that begins before Adam and ends after us. In this magisterial work by the Italian intellectual superstar Roberto Calasso, figures of the Bible and its whole outline emerge in a new light: one that is often astonishing and disquieting, as indeed—more than any other—is the book from which they originate
Roberto Calasso’s The Book of All Books is a narration that moves through the Bible as if through a forest, where every branch—every verse—may offer some revelation. Where a man named Saul becomes the first king of a people because his father sent him off to search for some donkeys that had gone astray. Where, in answer to an invitation from Jerusalem’s king, the queen of a remote African realm spends three years leading a long caravan of young men, girls dressed in purple, and animals, and with large quantities of spices, to ask the king certain questions. And where a man named Abraham hears these words from a divine voice: “Go away from your land, from your country and from the house of your father toward the land that I will show you”—words that reverberate throughout the Bible, a story about a separation and a promise followed by many other separations and promises.
The Book of All Books, the tenth part of a series, parallels in many ways the second part, The Marriage of Cadmus and Harmony. There, gods and heroes of the Greek myths revealed new physiognomies, whereas here many figures of the Bible and its whole outline emerge in a new light: one that is often astonishing and disquieting, as indeed is the book—more so than any other—from which they originate.
About the Author
Roberto Calasso (1941–2021) was born in Florence and lived in Milan. Begun in 1983 with The Ruin of Kasch, his landmark series now comprises The Marriage of Cadmus and Harmony, Ka, K., Tiepolo Pink, La Folie Baudelaire, Ardor, The Celestial Hunter, The Unnamable Present, The Book of All Books, and The Tablet of Destinies. Calasso also wrote the novel The Impure Fool and eight books of essays, the first three of which have been published in English: The Art of the Publisher, The Forty-Nine Steps, Literature and the Gods, The Madness That Comes from the Nymphs, One Hundred Letters to an Unknown Reader, The Hieroglyphs of Sir Thomas Browne, The Rule of the Good Neighbor; or, How to Find an Order for Your Books, and American Allucinations. He was the publisher of Adelphi Edizioni.
Tim Parks is the author of many novels, translations, and works of nonfiction, including Out of My Head: On the Trail of Consciousness and Italian Life: A Modern Fable of Loyalty and Betrayal.
"Moving with confident ease through texts in French, English, Spanish, German, Latin, ancient Greek, Sanskrit and Hebrew (not to mention his native Italian), Calasso is among those rare people, ever diminishing in number, who can persuade you that it is still possible to grasp almost the whole of human culture . . . I think of myself as reasonably familiar with the Bible, and yet I found myself checking again and again to be sure that Calasso was not making it all up." —Stephen Greenblatt, The New York Times Book Review
"Calasso . . . once again muses eloquently on the Bible in this 10th entry in his series dedicated to exploring ancient myths and the human search for meaning . . . Readers with any level of biblical knowledge will benefit from Calasso’s far-ranging insights." —Publishers Weekly
"Beautiful, intellectually thrilling, and possessed of a kind of empyrean wryness that makes it unlike anything else . . . And, thanks in part to the heroic patience and skill of translator Tim Parks, it is often straightforwardly enjoyable and funny." —Tim Smith-Laing, The Telegraph