ATHENS (Reuters) – Italian writer Roberto Calasso, “a literary institution in one person” whose erudite explorations of myth and literature have been translated into more than 20 languages, died at age 80, publisher Adelphi said on Thursday .
The son of an anti-fascist university professor, Calasso was born in Florence in 1941 and quickly displayed prodigious literary intelligence, reading Proust’s monumental “In Search of Lost Time” at the age of 13.
Fluent in several languages, his best-known works are “The Ruin of Kasch”, “Ka” and “The Nuptials of Cadmus and Harmony”, a world version of Greek mythology, but his subjects ranged from ancient gods to painter Tiepolo and writers like Kafka and Baudelaire.
He has also established a prominent position in Italian cultural life as director of the prestigious Milan publishing house Adelphi Edizioni, which he worked for nearly 60 years and bought in 2015 to prevent it from being sold to the Mondadori group.
The difficulty of classifying Calasso was summed up by writer Italo Calvino who said that “The Ruin of Kasch” was about two things. The first would be the French statesman Talleyrand. The second, everything else.
The Paris Review once called him a “one-person literary institution” and, with his esoteric mix of interests – from Marlon Brando to 17th-century writers on hieroglyphics – he has become one of the most internationally recognized Italian writers.
(By James Mackenzie)
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