Roberto Calasso, Renaissance Man of Letters, Dies at 80

“Calasso carved a new niche as an intellectual, seeing myth as true, certainly as true as science,” said Tim Parks, who on the English translation of “The Marriage of Cadmus and Harmony” Mister Callaso, said in an interview. . “Their implication is always that we are as subject as our ancestors were to the forces that find our name in Zeus or Venus or Jehovah or Shiva.”

In a 2012 interview with The Paris Review, Mr. Callasso spoke of humanity’s pursuit of the superiority, whether through art, nature or religion, as his central intellectual pursuit. “All my books are related to possession,” he said. “Ebreza – euphoria – is a word associated with possession. The word in Greek is frenzy, madness. For Plato it was the main path of knowledge.”

Roberto Calasso was born in Florence, Italy in 1941 to a family of eccentric intellectuals. His maternal grandfather, Ernesto Codignola, was a professor of philosophy at the University of Florence and founded a publishing house, La Nuova Italia. His father, Francesco Calasso, taught the history of law at the University of Florence, and his mother, Melisenda Calasso, was a literary scholar and translator.

With the rise of fascism in Italy, his father was persecuted for his anti-fascist views. When Roberto was 3, the family went into hiding after his father was imprisoned and accused of plotting to kill Giovanni Gentile, an intellectual who considered himself a founding philosopher of Italian Fascism.

In 1954, his family moved to Rome, where Mr. Callaso fell in love with cinema and Greek and Roman literature and mythology. In 1962, when he was 21, he began working at the newly formed publishing house Adelphi Edizioni, with the promise that it would be a place where editors could “publish the books we really liked, Mr Calasso told The Paris Review.

A decade later, he became editorial director and developed a reputation for his distinctive taste and his passion for publishing under-appreciated authors such as Robert Walser and the German poet Gottfried Benn.

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