infobox Book |
name = Cloud Atlas
image_caption = First edition cover
author = David Mitchell
language = English
Hodder and Stoughton
release_date = 2004
media_type = Print (Hardback &
pages = 544 (first edition, hardback)
isbn = 0-340-82277-5 (first edition, hardback)
Black Swan Green
"Cloud Atlas" is a 2004 novel, the third book by British author David Mitchell. It won the
British Book AwardsLiterary Fiction Award and the Richard & JudyBook of the Year award, and was short-listed for the 2004 Booker Prize, Nebula Award, Arthur C. Clarke Award, and other awards placing it among the most-honored works of fiction in recent history.
The book consists of six nested stories that take us from the remote South Pacific in the nineteenth century to the far future after a nuclear
apocalypse. Each tale is revealed to be a story that is read (or watched) by the main character in the next.
The Pacific Journal of Adam Ewing
Pacific Ocean, circa 1850. Adam Ewing, an American notary's account of a voyage home from the remote Chatham Islands, east of New Zealand. The next character discovers this story as a diary on his patron's bookshelf.
Letters from Zedelghem
Zedelgem, Belgium, 1931. Robert Frobisher, a penniless young English musician, finds work as an amanuensisto a composerliving in Belgium. This story is saved in the form of letters to his friend (and implied lover) Rufus Sixsmith, which the next character discovers after meeting Sixsmith.
Half-Lives: The First Luisa Rey Mystery.
California, 1975. Luisa Rey, a journalist, investigates reports of corruption and murder at a nuclear power plant. The next character is sent this story in the mail, in the form of a manuscript for a novel .
The Ghastly Ordeal of Timothy Cavendish
United Kingdom, early 21st century. Timothy Cavendish, a vanity presspublisher, flees the brothers of his gangster client. The next character watches a movie dramatisation of this story.
An Orison of Sonmi~451
Nea So Copros (
Korea), dystopiannear future. Sonmi~451, a genetically-engineered fabricant (clone) server at Papa Song's diner, is interviewed before her execution after she rebels against the society that created and exploited her kind. The next character sees this story projected holographically in an "orison," a futuristic recording device.
Sloosha's Crossin' an' Ev'rythin' After
Hawaii, post-apocalypticdistant future. Zach'ry, a tribesman living a primitive life after most of humanity dies during "the fall," is visited by Meronym, a member of the last remnants of technologically-advanced civilisation. This story is told when the protagonist is an old man, to seemingly random strangers around a camp-fire.
Mitchell has said of the book: "All of the [leading] characters except one are reincarnations of the same soul ... identified by a birthmark. ... The "cloud" refers to the ever-changing manifestations of the "atlas", which is the fixed human nature. ... The book's theme is predacity ... individuals prey on individuals, groups on groups, nations on nations." [cite web | url=http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/arts/bookclub/ram/bookclub_20070603.ram | title=Bookclub| date=2007-06 | accessdate=2008-04-19 | work=BBC Radio 4]
tructure and style
The book's style was inspired by
Italo Calvino's " If On A Winter's Night A Traveller", which contains several incomplete interrupted narratives. Mitchell decided [cite web | url=http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A17232-2004Aug19.html | title=Washington Post| date=2004-08-22 | accessdate=2008-04-19 ] to add a 'mirror' in the centre of his book so that each story could be brought to a conclusion.
Apart from the central story ("Sloosha's Crossin' an' Ev'rythin After"), which is uninterrupted, each story breaks abruptly off half-way through, to be followed by the first half of the next story. The interrupted story then appears within the next one, with the protagonist reading or watching the first half of its text; for example, in "An Orison of Sonmi~451," Sonmi~451 describes watching a film about the life of Timothy Cavendish, but she is only able to watch 50 minutes before her story is also interrupted. Each story ends with its protagonist finding the second half of this story, which is then printed after it.
"Cloud Atlas"'s six novella structure has been described as nesting in a
Matryoshka dollfashion, a description perhaps imprecise, as the plots, themes, and especially voice and setting vary greatly (not merely the size and scope). The stories do bracket and interlock one another into a whole stronger than its constituent parts, but each story could be successfully read independently of the related other five. Sloosha's Crossin' an' Ev'rythin' After,is science fictionreminiscent of the post-apocalyptic world of Riddley Walkerby Russell Hoban.
An Orison of Sonmi~451,also science fiction, recalls the futuristic dystopian worlds of
Aldous Huxleyand Margaret Atwood.
The Ghastly Ordeal of Timothy Cavendishrevisits a minor character from Mitchell's earlier novel "
Ghostwritten" in a modern comedy.
Half-Lives: The First Luisa Rey Mysteryalso uses a "Ghostwritten" character and is written in a style reminiscent of an
Letters from Zedelghemsees Robert Frobisher compose the "Cloud Atlas Sextet," which consists of six nested solos arranged in the same manner as the narratives in "Cloud Atlas". Mitchell has noted [cite web | url=http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A17232-2004Aug19.html | title=Washington Post| date=2004-08-22 | accessdate=2008-04-19 ] that the characters Robert Frobisher and Vyvyan Ayrs were (very) loosely inspired by Eric Fenby and
Frederick Delius(Fenby was an amanuensis to the great English composer).
The Pacific Journal of Adam Ewingwas inspired by the works of
Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.
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