Ka: Stories of the Mind and Gods of India
by Robert Classo, translated by Tim ParksVintage Books, New York, New York © 1998 448 pp.
"A giddy invasion of stories -- brilliant, enigmatic, troubling, outrageous, erotic, beautiful." -- New York Times Book Review
"All is spectacle and delight, and tiny mirrors reflecting human foibles are set into the weave, turning this retelling into the stuff of literature." -- The New Yorker
[After reading a few pages of the CSS copy of Ka, I knew I needed my own copy of this literary retelling of Hindu and Buddhist myths of India. If you enjoyed Mary Renault's novelized accounts of Greek myths as a young adult (or adult), give Roberto Calasso a try. -- Jennifer K.]
"Suddenly an eagle darkened the sky. Its bright black, almost violet feathers made a moving curtain between clouds and earth. Hanging from its claws, likewise immense and stiff with terror, an elephant and a turtle skimmed the mountaintops. It seemed the bird meant to use the peaks as pointed knives to gut its prey. Only occasionally did the eagle's staring eye flash out from behind the thick fronds of something held tight in its beak: a huge branch. A hundred strips of cowhide would not have sufficed to cover it.
Garuda flew and remembered. It was only a few days since he had hatched from his egg and already so much had happened. Flying was the best way of thinking, of thinking things over. Who was the first person he'd seen? His mother, Vinata. Beautiful in her tininess, she sat on a stone, watching his egg hatch, determinedly passive. Hers was the eye Garuda held in his own. And at once he knew that that eye was his own. Deep inside was an ember that glowed in the breeze. The same he could feel burning beneath his own feathers." (p. 3)
"Prajapati was alone. He didn't even know whether he existed or not. 'So to speak.' iva. (As soon as one touches on something crucial, it's as well to qualify what one has said with the particle iva, which doesn't tie us down.) There was only the mind, manas. And what is peculiar about the mind is that it doesn't know whether it exists or not. But it comes before everything else. 'There is nothing before the mind.' Then, even prior to establishing whether it existed or not, the mind desired. It was continuous, diffuse, undefined. Yet, as though drawn to something exotic, something belonging to another species of life, it desired what was definite and separate, what had shape. A Self, atman--that was the name it used. And the mind imagined that Self as having consistency. Thinking, the mind grew red hot. It saw thirty-six thousand cups, and these too were made of mind." (p. 20)
-- submitted by Jennifer Knight
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