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Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell

Cloud Atlas (original 2004; edition 2004)

by David Mitchell (Author)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
13,806573266 (4.12)4 / 1277
Title:Cloud Atlas
Authors:David Mitchell (Author)
Info:Sceptre (2004), Edition: First Edition, 544 pages
Collections:English, Your library

Work details

Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell (2004)

  1. 120
    If on a Winter's Night a Traveler by Italo Calvino (Ludi_Ling)
    Ludi_Ling: Different yet both well-written approaches to meta-fiction.
  2. 112
    The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell (pgmcc)
    pgmcc: Really enjoyable set of related stories with the author's well deomonstrated skill
  3. 81
    The Years of Rice and Salt by Kim Stanley Robinson (TomWaitsTables, PghDragonMan)
    PghDragonMan: A theme of reincarnation used to balance Karma flows through the story.
  4. 51
    Riddley Walker by Russell Hoban (Rynooo, browner56, pfeldman)
    browner56: Highly imaginative works, particularly the phonetic recreations of the English language
  5. 40
    The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood (JenMDB)
  6. 84
    A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan (jbvm, souloftherose)
    jbvm: Without giving anything away, after you've read both you'll understand my recommendation.
    souloftherose: Both novels are occasionally experimental in style with interconnected short stories. They are also both very good.
  7. 40
    Number9Dream by David Mitchell (PghDragonMan)
  8. 30
    Life After Life by Kate Atkinson (JenMDB, sturlington)
    sturlington: Both have unusual narrative structures and explore the theme of reincarnation.
  9. 30
    Black Swan Green by David Mitchell (PghDragonMan)
  10. 20
    Gods Without Men by Hari Kunzru (Tinwara)
  11. 31
    Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann (novelcommentary)
  12. 21
    The Children of Men by P. D. James (JenMDB)
  13. 32
    Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel (generalkala)
    generalkala: Similar multi-strand, multi-era novel.
  14. 10
    The Islanders by Christopher Priest (tetrachromat)
  15. 10
    The Stone Gods by Jeanette Winterson (Anonymous user)
  16. 10
    TransAtlantic by Colum McCann (suniru)
  17. 10
    Girl Reading by Katie Ward (rarm)
    rarm: Girl Reading isn't as intricately constructed as Cloud Atlas, but both books use linked stories to carry a theme through the centuries and into the future.
  18. 10
    The Castle of Crossed Destinies by Italo Calvino (Ludi_Ling)
    Ludi_Ling: For those interested in disparate yet intertwining narratives of a somewhat fantastical nature.
  19. 00
    Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro (sturlington)
  20. 00
    Elysium by Jennifer Marie Brissett (ansate)

(see all 33 recommendations)


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English (556)  Dutch (6)  French (3)  German (3)  Spanish (2)  Finnish (1)  Czech (1)  Danish (1)  All languages (573)
Showing 1-5 of 556 (next | show all)
Wow. I really enjoyed this layered round of stories. Three set in the past and three in the future, five of them split around the central story. Each story has its own voice and style and they touch eachother with strange details and often by knowledge of the previous story. From the 19th century colonization of the South Pacific to the last remnants of human civilization - each story is interesting and unpredictable. Thanks! ( )
  cindywho | May 27, 2019 |
Cloud Atlas is a novel of interconnecting stories that take place throughout history from the 1800s until the future. I was really impressed that each of the stories had a very unique style that fit the time it took place in. I found each story challenging and interesting in their own way. Even the stories that I started out wanting to get through quickly eventually drew me in. The audio book version was very well done with each story having a unique narrator. This is the kind of book that a reader can think about and look for meaning in and I feel like I probably missed a lot. It was an impressive work that was a bit of a challenge to read, but I am glad that I did. ( )
  Cora-R | May 20, 2019 |
I just loved this. The radically different and juxtaposed styles amazed me, the stories and colorful characters thoroughly engrossed me, and the deep underlying theme of connectedness spoke to me deeply (perhaps more now than it might have in my younger years).

I tore through Cloud Atlas even in the midst of a whirlwind international trip, and I’m so glad I did. Now I can’t wait for my wife to finish so we can watch the movie together...! ( )
  alexpriest | May 9, 2019 |
Some readers may find certain aspects of Cloud Atlas frustrating - mystical elements, abrupt segues, six voices with varying degrees of likeability, a slow and convoluted path to the message, and the equivocal stance the denouement offers on what hope we might have for humanity. These are legitimate concerns; however, I found it all quite beautiful and magnificent in scope.

Despite being secular, or perhaps because of it, I adore mystical and religious themes in literature. Mitchell weaves them into his story in a manner which is both subtle and discreet. In particular, the six stories as compared to the six Paramitas of Buddhism is worthy of note. The abruptness of the transitions were a shock to the system but seemed a deliberate nod to Buddhist beliefs regarding the untrained soul's initial response to death and added to the overall experience of the book. The mastery required to write six distinct voices is impressive and imbued a sense of reality to the work. As for the slow build to a message of ambiguous hope or lack thereof, that is purely a matter of personal preference, and I love ambiguity as much as I love truthfulness in character.

Best of all, I find this to be a novel which not only holds up to being reread but offers even more to the repeat reader.

I received a complimentary copy of this book via a Goodreads giveaway. Many thanks to all involved in providing me with this opportunity. ( )
  Zoes_Human | May 5, 2019 |
Mitchell, David (2004). Cloud Atlas. London: Hodder & Stoughton. 2008. ISBN 9781844568819. Pagine 545. 6,04 €

Di David Mitchell ho parlato non molto tempo fa, per parlare dell’unico suo romanzo che avevo letto, The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, che mi era piaciuto moltissimo. Mi ripromettevo, ovviamente, di leggera altre opere di Mitchell, e soprattutto questo Cloud Atlas che è il suo romanzo più famoso. Avrei però lasciato passare più tempo (non mi mancano, per fortuna, né le cose da leggere né la voglia di farlo), non fosse che è imminente l’uscita del film tratto dal romanzo. Mia moglie aveva letto un post che invitava a leggere subito il romanzo e anch’io l’ho fatto subito dopo.

Nel frattempo è uscito il trailer del film dei fratelli due Wachowski (quelli di Matrix, per capirsi). Non guardatelo, se pensate vi possa impoverire il gusto della lettura.

Il talento di Mitchell è fuori dal comune: questo si capiva anche nei Mille autunni di Jacob de Zoet, ma qui siamo al limite, e forse al di là del virtuosismo. Il romanzo è costruito su 6 storie che si dispiegano fino a un certo punto, per poi interrompersi e cedere il passo alla successiva. soltanto la sesta storia si sviluppa integralmente. Conclusa la sesta storia si torna (e si conclude) la quinta, e così via fino alla conclusione della prima e dell’intero romanzo. Ogni storia si svolge in un periodo diverso, dal 1850 al lontano futuro, ed è scritta in uno stile e in un linguaggio differente. Alcuni fili tengono insieme le storie, dall’artificio abbastanza ovvio per cui i personaggi di una storia temporalmente successiva vengono in possesso del “testo” della precedente, a collegamenti più sottili come la “voglia” a forma di cometa sulla spalla dei protagonisti, al riferimento (polisemico) all’atlante delle nuvole del titolo, a una riflessione filosofica (e tensione morale) che è il vero connettivo del romanzo.

È un gioco abbastanza facile e piuttosto sterile cercare le somiglianze di famiglia del romanzo di Mitchell. Ma per quanto sterile e forse trito, è pur sempre un gioco, e si è mai visto che io mi perda un’occasione per giocare?

La prima cosa che viene in mente è Se una notte d’inverno un viaggiatore di Italo Calvino, per l’inanellarsi delle storie. Ma qui, a differenza che in Calvino (che ho letto quando uscì, nell’estate del 1979, ad Acquafredda di Maratea, ma che non ricordo bene e dovrei rileggere) in cui ognuna delle storie si interrompe e il romanzo-cornice si sviluppa linearmente, in Mitchell e nella Weltanschauung di questo suo romanzo la ciclicità, e dunque la permanenza delle pulsioni umane, è assolutamente essenziale.

Quest’ultimo aspetto è anche collegato a una simbologia ricorrente nei vari episodi, quella dell’ascesa e della discesa, dal senso abbastanza trasparente.

Un altro tema importante e ricorrente, come abbiamo accennato, è quello della voglia a forma di cometa che suggerisce che i protagonisti siano reicarnazioni l’uno dell’altro e che i temi della Storia (e delle storie che ne sono gli avatar contingenti) si ripetano, anche se in configurazioni sempre mutevoli, che impediscono di realizzare una mappa statica, un atlante delle nuvole. Ha detto lo stesso Mitchell, in un’intervista alla BBC:

All of the [leading] characters 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.

Non penso di essere il primo a dirlo, ma il tema della “voglia” come rinvio alla reincarnazione è il connettivo utilizzato nel capolavoro di Mishima Yukio, Il mare della fertilità, in cui il protagonista Honda Shigekuni insegue per tutta la vita (e per tutta la tetralogia) le reincarnazioni di Matsugae Kiyoaki, con le sue 3 voglie sul fianco. Lo stesso Mishima, che terminò la tetralogia il giorno stesso del suo suicidio, lascia aperto il dubbio se la reincarnazione sia realtà o illusione. [Che Mishima si sia suicidato ritualmente (seppuku) il giorno del mio diciottesimo compleanno è soltanto una coincidenza e io non ho nessuna "voglia".]

Ma più che Calvino e Mishima, a me Cloud Atlas ha fatto pensare a Chapter 24, una canzone di Syd Barrett (a sua volta ispirata agli I-Ching, direi) che compare sul primo album dei Pink Floyd, The Piper at the Gates of Dawn.

All movement is accomplished in six stages,
and the seventh brings return.
The seven is the number of the young light.
It forms when darkness is increased by one.
Change return success.
Going and coming without error.
Action brings good fortune…

The time is with the month of winter solstice,
when the change is due to come.
Thunder in the Earth, the course of Heaven.
Things cannot be destroyed once and for all.
Change return success.
Going and coming without error.
Action brings good fortune…

All movement is accomplished in six stages,
and the seventh brings return.
The seven is the number of the young light.
It forms when darkness is increased by one.
Change return success.
Going and coming without error.
Action brings good fortune…

Se volete leggere altre recensioni oltre alla mia, vi rimando alla pagine dedicata al romanzo da the complete review , che trovate qui. Ho anche preparato una pagina di recensioni su Storify.

* * *

Fine della recensione. Di seguito le mie annotazioni, che non siete obbligati a leggere. Riferimenti numerici all’edizione Kindle.

That love loves fidelity, she riposted, is a myth woven by men from their insecurities. [1182]

[…] pretty frightful at 1st sight, still worse at the 2nd. [1410]

Several dead bottles of Trappist beer later, I asked Elgar about the Pomp & Circumstance Marches. ‘Oh, I needed the money, dear boy. But don’t tell anyone. The King might want my baronetcy back.’ Ayrs went into laughter-spasms at this! ‘I always say, Ted, to get the crowd to cry Hosanna, you must first ride into town on an ass. Backwards, ideally, whilst telling the masses the tall stories they want to hear.’ [1415]

I’ve never loved anyone except myself and have no intention of starting now […] [1453]

Anything is true if enough people believe it is. [1668]

[…] every scientific term you use represents two thousand readers putting down the magazine […] [1691]

[…] every conscience has an off-switch hidden somewhere. [1734]

“‘Power.” What do we mean? “The ability to determine another man’s luck.” [2232]

‘Yet how is it some men attain mastery over others while the vast majority live and die as minions, as livestock? The answer is a holy trinity. First: God-given gifts of charisma. Second: the discipline to nurture these gifts to maturity, for though humanity’s topsoil is fertile with talent, only one seed in ten thousand will ever flower – for want of discipline.’ Grimaldi glimpses Fay Li steer the troublesome Luisa Rey to a circle where Spiro Agnew holds court. The reporter is prettier in the flesh than her photograph: So that’s how she noosed Sixsmith. He catches Bill Smoke’s eye. ‘Third: the will to power. This is the enigma at the core of the various destinies of men. What drives some to accrue power where the majority of their compatriots lose, mishandle, or eschew power? Is it addiction? Wealth? Survival? Natural selection? I propose these are all pretexts and results, not the root cause. The only answer can be, “There is no ‘Why’. This is our nature.” “Who” and “What” run deeper than “Why.” [2236]

‘A piece of advice, Richter, on how to succeed in the security business. Would you like to hear this piece of advice, son?’
‘I would, sir.’
‘The dumbest dog can sit and watch. What takes brains is knowing when to look away. […]‘ [2467]

Normandy: Cornwall with something to eat. [2899]

“‘Unlimited power in the hands of limited people always leads to cruelty.”’ [3117: è una citazione di Solženicyn]

If that sounds unlikely, Hae-Joo said, I should remember that many major events in the history of science were the results of similar serendipitous accidents. [3951]

‘What if the differences between social strata stem not from genomics or inherent xcellence or even dollars, but differences in knowledge?’
The professor asked, would this not mean that the whole Pyramid is built on shifting sands? [3981]

Prejudice is permafrost. [3994]

All revolutions are the sheerest fantasy until they happen; then they become historical inevitabilities. [6005]

Every nowhere is somewhere. [6065]

My fifth Declaration proposes how the law was subverted. It is a cycle as old as tribalism. In the beginning there is ignorance. Ignorance engenders fear. Fear engenders hatred, and hatred engenders violence. Violence breeds further violence until the only law is whatever is willed by the most powerful. What is willed by the Juche is the creation, subjugation and tidy xtermination of a vast tribe of duped slaves. [6337]

How lazily ‘xperts’ dismiss what they don’t understand! [6374]

Seneca’s warning to Nero: No matter how many of us you kill, you will never kill your successor. [6419]

Amateurs talk strategy, professionals talk logistics. [6555]

‘We – by whom I mean anyone over sixty – commit two offences just by existing. One is Lack of Velocity. We drive too slowly, walk too slowly, talk too slowly. The world will do business with dictators, perverts and drug barons of all stripes, but being slowed down, it cannot abide. Our second offence is being Everyman’s memento mori. [6564]

‘The most singular difference between happiness and joy is that happiness is a solid, and joy a liquid’ [6601: è una citazione di J. D. Salinger]

It’s true, reading too many novels makes you go blind. [6610]

(Know thine Enemy trumps Know thyself.) [6687]

[…] Chelsea Hotel in Washington Square […] [6732: curioso errore, non so se di Mitchell o di Timbo Cavendish. C'è un altro errore alla posizione 8343, quando Frobisher attribuisce a Franz Schubert un incidente alla mano intervenuto suonando, che è invece accaduto a Robert Schumann]

[…] from insider to liability. [7381]

Eva. Because her name is a synonym for temptation: what treads nearer to the core of man? Because her soul swims in her eyes. Because I dream of creeping through the velvet folds to her room, where I let myself in, hum her a tune so – so – so softly, she stands with her naked feet on mine, her ear to my heart and we waltz like string-puppets. After that kiss, she says, ‘Vous embrassez comme un poisson rouge!’ and in moonlit mirrors we fall in love with our youth and beauty. Because all my life, sophisticated, idiotic women have taken it upon themselves to understand me, to cure me, but Eva knows I’m terra incognita, and explores me unhurriedly, like you did. Because she’s lean as a boy. Because her scent is almonds, meadow-grass. Because if I smile at her ambition to be an Egyptologist she kicks my shin under the table. Because she makes me think about something other than myself. Because even when serious she shines. Because she prefers travelogues to Sir Walter Scott, prefers Billy Mayerl to Mozart and couldn’t tell C-major from a sergeant-major. Because I, only I, see her smile a fraction before it reaches her face. Because Emperor Robert is not a good man – his best part is commandeered by his unperformed music – but she gives me that rarest smile, anyway. Because we listened to nightjars. Because her laughter spurts through a blow-hole in the top of her head and sprays all over the morning. Because a man like me has no business with this substance ‘beauty’, yet here she is, in these soundproofed chambers of my heart. [8130-8140]

Reputation is everything. [8168]

Reputation is king of the public sphere, not private. [8181]

Not quite déjà vu, more jamais vu. [8205]

To wit: history admits no rules; only outcomes.
What precipitates outcomes? Vicious acts & virtuous acts.
What precipitates acts? Belief. [9023]

Yet what is any ocean but a multitude of drops? [9046: le parole conclusive, e la chiave, di tutto il romanzo] ( )
  Boris.Limpopo | Apr 29, 2019 |
Showing 1-5 of 556 (next | show all)
It felt like reading multiple stories from six different authors all on a common theme, yet all these disparate characters connect, their fates intertwine, and their souls drift across time like clouds across a globe.
Cloud Atlas is powerful and elegant because of Mitchell's understanding of the way we respond to those fundamental and primitive stories we tell about good and evil, love and destruction, beginnings and ends. He isn't afraid to jerk tears or ratchet up suspense - he understands that's what we make stories for.

» Add other authors (14 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Mitchell, Davidprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Brick, ScottNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Campbell, CassandraNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Guest, Kim MaiNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Heyborne, KirbyNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lee, JohnNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Matthews, RichardNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Mijn, Aad van derTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Oldenburg, VolkerTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Series (with order)
Canonical title
Original title
Alternative titles
Original publication date
Important places
Important events
Related movies
Awards and honors
For Hana and her grandparents.
First words
Beyond the Indian hamlet, upon a forlorn strand, I happened on a trail of recent footprints.
Oh, once you've been initiated into the Elderly, the world doesn't want you back.
Sometimes the fluffy bunny of incredulity zooms around the bend so rapidly that the greyhound of language is left, agog, in the starting cage.
The stationmaster's whistle blew on time, the locomotive strained like a gouty proctor on the pot before heaving itself into motion.
"Are you mad?"
Always a trickier question than it looks. "I doubt it."
Souls cross ages like clouds cross skies.
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
Publisher's editors
Publisher series
Original language
Canonical DDC/MDS

References to this work on external resources.

Wikipedia in English (2)

Book description
The book consists of six nested stories that take us from the remote South Pacific in the nineteenth century to a distant, post-apocalyptic future. Each tale is revealed to be a story that is read (or watched) by the main character in the next.
Haiku summary
Looping, linking time/
chaining space, land seasalt drifting/
visual lyric threads
The literary
equivalent of Marmite –
you love or hate it.

Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0375507256, Paperback)

Now a major motion picture starring Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Susan Sarandon, and Hugh Grant, and directed by Lana and Andy Wachowski and Tom Tykwer

A postmodern visionary who is also a master of styles of genres, David Mitchell combines flat-out adventure, a Nabokovian lore of puzzles, a keen eye for character, and a taste for mind-bending philosophical and scientific speculation in the tradition of Umberto Eco and Philip K. Dick. The result is brilliantly original fiction that reveals how disparate people connect, how their fates intertwine, and how their souls drift across time like clouds across the sky.
“[David] Mitchell is, clearly, a genius. He writes as though at the helm of some perpetual dream machine, can evidently do anything, and his ambition is written in magma across this novel’s every page.”—The New York Times Book Review

“One of those how-the-holy-hell-did-he-do-it? modern classics that no doubt is—and should be—read by any student of contemporary literature.”—Dave Eggers

“Wildly entertaining . . . a head rush, both action-packed and chillingly ruminative.”—People
“The novel as series of nested dolls or Chinese boxes, a puzzle-book, and yet—not just dazzling, amusing, or clever but heartbreaking and passionate, too. I’ve never read anything quite like it, and I’m grateful to have lived, for a while, in all its many worlds.”—Michael Chabon

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:21:11 -0400)

(see all 8 descriptions)

Recounts the connected stories of people from the past and the distant future, from a nineteenth-century notary and an investigative journalist in the 1970s to a young man who searches for meaning in a post-apocalayptic world.

(summary from another edition)

» see all 9 descriptions

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