Cover Image: The Celestial Hunter

The Celestial Hunter

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Member Reviews

I had known Calasso via reputation rather than reading, yet the blurb for this volume was so captivating I found myself having to rapidly consume his work starting with The Ruin of Kasch. This is a powerful book, in the old sense of the world, Calasso is interested less in the scientific and the philosophic than the mythic and the true. (though references to philosophical and classical texts may be found passim).

Much of the book concerns how man became first an imitator (via animistic worship) and then a wielder of power (as a hunter) and the subsequent fallout, from times Palaeolithic to Modern. Indeed, the book is named after one of the very few (semi)securely reconstructable pan-human myths, that of the celestial hunt. In it (various are, well, varied) a human born from an animal (ursine or ungulate) heads off and eventually learns to hunt. When he is about to unwittingly kill his mother, some god intervenes and mother and son – hunter and hunted – are whisked away into the sky where they will forever more form a constellation.

 This division between mankind and animalkin – murkier than we would comfortably admit – animates the book. It is a powerful answer both to e.g Morton’s Humankind (2017) and its assumption that we effectively severed ourselves from and put ourselves above our animal brethren some 20 generations ago and modern hippy-dippy we are all one nature writing. But whilst Calasso sees the movement towards hunting and sacrifice the great animus of modern humanity, this is not some sort of new original sin, some hairier recreation of Caine and Abel, but a new mythic and cyclical truth. Now it is we who are sacrifice as well as sacrificer. We have built a society that is outwardly secular but, with no outlet or even recognition for these primal influences, we begin to turn upon ourselves.

This is a book that is somehow weightier than it is lengthy. It undoubtedly warrants re-reading. I think, via Calasso’s use of Greek myth, this may well be the single greatest bit of Classical Reception to come out of 2020.  It is vivid and original, and I leave off knowing I will return to it before the year is done.
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A rich and fascinating study of the mythology surrounding Orion. I found it a little turgid in places but I think that was partly an effect of trying to read it too fast. Calasso seems to know *everything.*
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