Song of Kali
Hardcover 1st edition
|November 1, 1985|
|Media type||Print (hardcover & paperback)|
|Awards||World Fantasy Award, 1986|
Song of Kali is a horror novel published in 1985 by Dan Simmons. It was the winner of the 1986 World Fantasy Award. The story deals with an American intellectual who travels to Calcutta, where he becomes embroiled in mysterious and horrific events at the centre of which lies a cult that worships Kali.
Robert Luzcak is sent by the magazine he works for to Calcutta to locate recently written poetry alleged to have been written by a poet, M. Das, who has been thought dead for the last eight years. He travels there with his Indian wife and their infant child.
On arriving, he is met by Krishna, a local intellectual who claims to have been asked to assist them by a mutual friend. The next day he meets with the local writers guild who were the source of the few bits of poetry that made their way to America. When he asks to meet Das, he is told that it is out of the question. Robert considers leaving Calcutta at this point, his duty done, but feels that something is missing and that he doesn't have enough material for an interesting article at this point. The night before he and his family are to leave, Krishna returns and takes Robert to a man who can provide him with information relevant to his story.
The man tells how he and a friend had tried to join a religious secret society dedicated to Kali, a Hindu goddess associated with death and destruction. One of the prerequisites was for each initiate to bring a corpse to a secret temple, there to be laid at the feet of a statue of Kali. One of the corpses, bloated and decayed after being dredged from the river, is chosen by Kali and vivified by her, becoming animated. The corpse is that of the poet, Das.
Armed with this tale, Robert again insists on the writers guild allowing him to see Das. This time they agree. He is brought to the poet, who seems to be in the advanced stages of leprosy. Das seems to corroborate the story of his return from death, but Robert again refuses to believe it. Robert is given an extensive collection of Das's poetry, which is very different from his earlier work, describing dark, mystical, grotesque, and apocalyptic happenings. Das asks him to bring him books of poetry, making a reference to a certain poem to covertly hint that he really wants the means to shoot himself.
Becoming concerned at the eerie, and sometimes frightening, events that he has experienced, Robert attempts to send his wife and child home, but they are unable to get a flight. Concealing a gun (given to him previously by Krishna) in one of the books he has bought for Das, he returns to the poet. He leaves the books and goes, but, as he exits the house, hears two gunshots. Das is dead. Robert is captured by guards and knocked unconscious. He awakens to find himself in a temple of Kali, where the statue of the goddess seems to come to life and attack him, but it is unclear whether this ever really happens. He is taken by the cultists again and finds himself being taken somewhere in the back of a truck, but manages to escape with Krishna's help. He returns to the hotel, only to find that their child has been kidnapped.
After a couple of days of dead-end leads, a couple is caught trying to smuggle jewels hidden within the child's body. With their child dead, Robert and his wife return to America. Robert decides to destroy the poetry, and, gradually, their relationship returns to normal. Robert is tempted to go back to Calcutta on a revenge shooting spree, but manages to resist at the last moment, and finally comes to terms with the events after that.
Whispers can still be heard, though, of the Song of Kali, the condition of humanity dominated by hatred and violence, perfectly embodied by the squalor and chaos of Calcutta.
- Song of Kali at Worlds Without End