on 19 October 2003
This is an engrossing work with an amazing range of reference. Travelling from Etruscan wall paintings to Javan and Balinese masks, from preclassical apotropaic rituals to Christian constructions of evil and the devil, Napier makes a compelling case about the fundamental processes of the human mind that set up crosscultural and transhistorical associations between the masking traditions of various non-Christian peoples that otherwise cannot anymore be documented to have had historical contact. Through the persistent reation between the leonine face and the apotropaic mask, Napier manages to show cogently that the way in which non-Christians processed the ideas of transformation and change, and the paradox that ensues when one approaches mutability not as an aberration but as a fundamental precondition of existence, has created various affinities in their masking traditions that cannot be otherwise accounted for. The book is difficult, even cryptic in its use of language, not least because, as the author of the foreword points out, Napier often seeks out to clinch his thesis on the subliminal. But if one is patient enough to cut through Napier's cryptic style, one will discover a book of genuine brilliance.