The Forty-Nine Steps

Roberto Calasso, Author, John Shepley, Translator University of Minnesota Press $35 (290p) ISBN 978-0-8166-3098-1
In contrast to Hitchcock's 39, Roberto Calasso prefers The Forty-Nine Steps, the number indicated by the Talmud as the correct amount of exegetical phases in moving toward full Torah passage elucidation. Calasso, the Milanese publisher of Adelphi Edizioni, produced what Gore Vidal called ""a perfect work like no other"" in The Marriage of Cadmus and Harmony, a retelling and cultural investigation of the origins of the Greek myths. These 49 steps (actually 21 chapters) move forward in time to take on 20th-century literature as it developed in the wake of Freud, Nietzsche and Marx. From the varying fascinations with the case of Daniel Paul Schreber to the red threads spun out by Karl Kraus and ""Brecht the Censor,"" Calasso (as rendered here by Pasolini's translator John Shipley) moves light and fast, but stays grounded, throwing off ideas of his own at every turn. (Aug.)
Reviewed on: 08/01/2001
Release date: 08/01/2001
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