Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell
David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas deserves the accolades that have been heaped upon it. It’s well-written, compelling, bewildering, and entertaining. The postmodern novel is written like a Russian nesting doll, with each story wrapping around the one in-between it, with through lines of theme and symbol wound into each story. At the same time, the book is dense and difficult to find sense or obvious meaning in these through-lines.
Most compelling was the skill with which Mitchell adopts different voices and writing styles to accommodate the vast time and place differences in his stories. The book is a marvel for this reason alone, glorious prose aside.
This book has been written about enough that I won’t belabor the issue with another review. Instead, two quotes I like.
“I we believe that humanity my transcend tooth & claw, if we believe divers races and creeds can share this world as peaceably as the orphans share their candlenut tree, if we believe leaders must be just, violence muzzled, power accountable, & the riches of the Earth & its Oceans shared equitably, such a world will comet o pass. I am not deceived. It is the hardest of worlds to make real. Torturous advances won over generations can be lost by a single stroke of a myopic president’s pen or a vainglorious general’s sword.” (508)
“Exposition: the workings of the actual past + the virtual past may be illustrated by an event well known to collective history, such as the sinking of the Titanic. The disaster as it actually occurred descends into obscurity as its eyewitnesses die off, documents perish + the wreck of the ship dissolves in its Atlantic grave. Yet a virtual sinking of the Titanic, created from reworked memories, papers, hearsay, fiction–in short, belief–grows ever more “truer.” The actual past is brittle, ever-dimming and ever more problematic to access + reconstruct: in contrast, the virtual past is malleable, ever-brightening + ever more difficult to circumvent/ expose as fraudulent.” (394)
Worth a read, but a long one (that was, for me, difficult to get into).