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‘La Folie Baudelaire’ By Roberto Calasso

If you took Roberto Calasso’s head and shook it you would hear a great rattle and jangle. Inside, shining and curious pieces, many of them, but many of them disconnected. This Italian writer, publisher, and savant does not pursue an idea; he ambushes it from half a dozen vantage points as it goes by. Sometimes it never does go by.

In the enchanting “The Marriage of Cadmus and Harmony” he retold a selection of episodes from Greek mythology in a fashion so personal and idiosyncratic that they might have happened to him. In the tangled and overly ambitious “The Ruins of Kasch,” he feels his way through Europe’s Romantic period, not narrating it so much as conveying it by signals flashed from a hand-held mirror.

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