Saturday, May 24, 2014

Review: Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell

First published:-2004

Read in:- April, 2014

Star rating:-

There's the sound of a deeply contented sigh emanating from the lips of someone clutching this book to herself like a long-lost friend, a bead of tear perched precariously atop disorderly eyelashes. And there's the barely audible sound of her turning the pages ricocheting off the pliant walls of time and space, sculpting a minuscule dent on the surface of a collective fate and this perplexing cosmic interconnection. 

She cannot properly articulate her awe or even fathom her own bewilderment at being rendered so tearfully sentimental by another case of 'old wine in new bottle'. Now she longs to believe that any or all of her trivial actions will lift her out of her predestined prison and place her somewhere on the crisscrossing grid of timelines and geographical boundaries, enable others to hear the distinct echo of her shout into the void. She just by herself is insignificant, not even a mere drop in the pool of time and she fears this looming threat of obscurity above all. But then David Mitchell gently reminds her that mute resignation to the 'natural order of things' is cowardice and billions and billions of droplets like her coalesce to form the ocean itself. She can will herself to shape the world any way she can. 

American notary, Adam Ewing sails reluctantly across the Pacific aboard The Prophetess, unaware of the events that will set into motion a change of heart which will contribute toward the making of history. 

A disinherited, arrogant and musically gifted Robert Frobisher chronicles the making of his avant garde 'Cloud Atlas' sextet in a series of letters addressed to his dear friend from distant Zedelghem.

Dauntless Luisa Rey doggedly pursues the truth and exposes the nexus between the Nixon administration and corporate corruption, emerging victorious against the tide of adverse circumstances. 

Ageing, pedantic and self-important vanity publisher Timothy Cavendish endures a 'ghastly ordeal' partly as comeuppance for his lifelong selfishness but manages to emerge from his own predicament with a reformed worldview. 

Fabricant Sonmi~451 rises above the 'catechisms' of institutionalized servitude to 'corpocratic' masters in futuristic Korea to light the spark of revolution. 

In a post-apocalyptic Hawaii, valleysman Zachry witnesses mankind on the brink of a choice between complete annihilation and survival through self-reform. 

And master puppeteer David Mitchell pulls all their strings from the background.

As she delights in her newfound admiration for the sweeping scope of this masterpiece and Mitchell's ambitious foray into the Matryoshka-doll structured story-telling, she doesn't fail to notice the accusations of gimmickry and pretensions, of self-indulgent writing, of 'trying too hard', of 'contrivances' and acknowledges the legitimacy of these opinions. 
But then she remembers Robert Frobisher answering Mitchell's detractors on his behalf. 

"Revolutionary or gimmicky? Shan't know until it's finished, and by then it'll be too late..."
Do you blame her for chuckling at the man's foresight and wit?

Enthralled, she notices the parallels drawn between the rabid consumerism of our times and a 'predatory society' based on principles of the empowered devouring the disenfranchised and the voiceless, the invisibility of the aged in the eyes of the young and unwrinkled, carefully inserted allusions to virulent sexism, racism and xenophobia through the ages, the enthusiastic nod given to cross-cultural harmony and freedom of sexuality and she wonders if Mitchell has left any of the issues haunting mankind since times immemorial unexplored. 

Thus as Mitchell tips his hat to the likes of Melville and Calvino, to prose stylists like Joyce and Nabokov, to the traditions of intertextual witticisms and metafictional references, to all the disparate voices and genres that help enrich the body of literature today, she tips her hat to Mitchell's genius and the sheer audacity of his vision.

Unhappily she then takes cognizance of the fact that never again will she read 'Cloud Atlas' for the first time. 
But then again, she might.

   photo C136E66569D294E4D5DA2D8124D4FF69.png

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