Roberto Calasso was up to the last moment engaged in editorial work and writing as evidenced by the release, on the same day of his death, of two volumes of memoirs, Bobi and Memè Scianca. In fact, in addition to his activity as editor and president of the Adelphi publishing house, Calasso was also one of the most important Italian writers of the last century, as evidenced by his extensive work published by the Milanese publishing house that he helped to found with Roberto “Bobi” Bazlen and Luciano Foà.
Trying to label the nature of Calasso’s work in a stringent way would lead us astray, because Calasso was not just an editor nor just a writer, as evidenced by the acribia with which the catalog of the publishing house is built that ranges, always with extreme attention and erudition, between literature and philosophy, mythology and neuroscience, history and religion. In the project of a new publishing house that Bazlen spoke of in Calasso in 1962 there was the publication of Nietzsche’s work omnia (extraordinary work in which Calasso also played a decisive role with the translation of Ecce homo and the writing of the vertiginous essay that accompanies it) and a decisive idea, that of publishing “unique books”, those in which “it is immediately recognized that something has happened to the author and that something has ended up depositing itself in a writing”. Bazlen died shortly after, in 1965, but Calasso will continue to grow thanks to his teachings and the guidance of Foà, becoming a complex and extraordinary literary figure in which the work of a writer is accompanied by that of the editor and merges with that of the erudite reader. .
Starting from 1971 the publishing house will be directed by Calasso who already seemed to have in his family history the omen of a life in contact with books: son of the famous jurist Francesco and Melisenda Codignola, in turn daughter of the pedagogist Ernesto, founder of Nuova Italia publishing house, Calasso was born in Florence in 1941 where he will soon spend his nights reading the books in the family library, such as Wuthering Heights (“I believe that until then I did not know exactly what passion is – and after that night I knew “). In 1974 Calasso published his first book, Impuro folle, a strange novel that combines narration with psychoanalytic reflection in the shadow of the psychiatric internment of Daniel Paul Schreber (whose diary, Memories of a nervous di Calasso, inaugurates one of the prestigious Adelphian series, “The series of cases”) and since 1983 with La ruina di Kasch he begins to build his great unique work which with the latest La tablet of destinies (2020) has eleven volumes. These books converge the existence and thought of Calasso, but also everything that Adelphi’s catalog collects, from Greek mythology (The marriage of Cadmus and Harmony) to Indian mythology (Ka), from Kafka (K.) to Baudelaire (La Folie Baudelaire), from the Gambattista painter Tiepolo (Il rosa Tiepolo) to the Old Testament (The book of all books). And then there are the extraordinary books that tell about his profession, such as The imprint of the publisher or One hundred letters to a stranger, his conception of literature (Literature and the gods) or the relationship with the authors who have marked his world view (The forty-nine steps). In the last Bobi, Calasso recounts the birth of Adelphi and the decisive role played by Bazlen in his literary training path (“Everything Bobi said about books was what attracted me most, struck me and then brooded, trying to connect the points, sometimes very far away “) and writes that after talking and discussing with him there came” another way of breathing, obviously. And a strange unreasonable euphoria that blew over everything ». These are the same feelings that arise from reading Calasso’s books, an euphoria that is based on the hermeneutic possibilities that emerge from his books, but also from the secret and unpredictable paths that arise from the catalog of his publishing house, an infinite multiplier of correspondences that it constitutes an invaluable legacy.
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