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Book of Clouds by Chloe Aridjis

Book of Clouds (2009)

by Chloe Aridjis

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1467117,502 (3.39)9
  1. 10
    The Blindfold by Siri Hustvedt (Tinwara)
    Tinwara: As in the Book of Clouds, The Blinfold has a young female protagonist looking for meaning and getting estranged from the world. I thought the atmosphere of the books was similar.

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English (6)  Dutch (1)  All languages (7)
Showing 1-5 of 6 (next | show all)
A whimsical story of Berlin where the city is the main character despite the oddity of the of the central figure. The ghostliness verging on spirituality attributed to buildings and places reminds you that the author is Mexican and not everything is as it seems. There are echoes of Pedro Paramo in the background. As good a guide to life in Berlin as any. ( )
  Steve38 | Sep 27, 2016 |
The writing was very lyrical and kept my interest. I cared about the protagonist and attempted to understand her. I feel it displayed the feelings I have regarding Berlin, although I would not attempt to live there. ( )
  suesbooks | Jul 2, 2014 |
A very quiet, meditative book about a Mexican woman adrift in Berlin. Tatiana is alienated from her family and her friends, cut off from the rest of the city, uninterested in forming a relationship with anyone. She gets a part-time job doing transcription work for a historian, goes on a few lacklustre dates with a fairly nondescript meteorologist, becomes slightly obsessed with a mentally ill woman, avoids her neighbours, develops insomnia. The book meanders along like this for most of the 200 pages, as aimless as the passage of a cloud across the sky, before something quite dramatic happens almost out of nowhere.

History plays a major role in the book, particularly the dark stories that lurk beneath the surface. There are plenty of those in Berlin, both from the Nazi and the Communist era, buildings in which people were imprisoned or tortured, now converted into schools, apartment buildings and water towers. Right at the beginning of the book, Tatiana sees what she believes is an aged Hitler dressed as a woman on an underground train. Then there’s the underground Gestapo bowling alley that Tatiana explores late at night and almost gets trapped inside when she runs away from her group to go and rub out the chalked scores from the board. There’s the upstairs part of her building, where nobody seems to live but from which strange noises appear. She goes up there, looking for ghosts perhaps, and finds a dark stain on the wall which reminds her of the scores she rubbed out:

“wondering whether this dark imprint was somehow mocking me, reminding me of the inevitable, which was, of course, that nothing can be truly rubbed away or blotted out, and how the more your try to rub something away the darker it becomes.”

This, it seems, is a major theme of the book. There’s not too much background about Tatiana’s life in Mexico so it’s never very clear what she’s trying to blot out, but she is definitely trying. I read in an interview that an earlier draft of this book had more of the Mexican backstory included, but was cut out from the final version. The effect is to leave much unanswered, which can be a good thing, but it also made it difficult to understand the character’s alienation.

Overall: beautiful, dreamy writing, lots of solitary musing and a good sense of the city of Berlin and its history. But the character is essentially solitary and self-absorbed, which can be frustrating. If you’re prepared to let things meander along, enjoy the elegant writing, appreciate the sharp observations and muse on the possible truths hidden in the shapes of the clouds, this would be a good read. But if you want a plot that develops or characters that interact with each other in comprehensible ways, this is probably not the book for you. ( )
1 vote AndrewBlackman | Aug 20, 2011 |
Book of Clouds is one of those lucid, dream-like books that I always find myself getting wrapped up in when I wind up reading one. There isn't much plot to speak of, it simply accounts a woman's experience living in Berlin and struggling with loneliness, as she works transcribing a book of a local historian. But the prose is teeming with poetry and metaphor, which fills the reader's mind with vivid imagery and reasons to not want to put the book down.

I confess, I didn't like the main character. That may have been intentional, considering how much I liked Aridjis' writing, but I found her character's rude and condescending demeanor very off-putting. Of course, it makes sense considering she is clearly a bit loopy at times, but it limited my enjoyment during certain sections of the book.

Still, it was a worthwhile read. It's also one of those books that would be perfect for group discussion. I'm calling it 'average' but I can see others liking it more. ( )
  Ape | Feb 15, 2011 |
The writer focuses on the relationship between a woman from Mexico and a professor with whom she is working. It is well-written and interesting although I'm not sure I'll ever be able to explain the plot of the book. It's that type of book. It's a great summer read. ( )
  HankIngram | Nov 23, 2010 |
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Ik zag Hitler in een tijd waarin van de Reichstag weinig meer over was dan een uitgebrand skeletachtig silhouet van wat het bouwwerk ooit was geweest en de Brandenburger Poort de doorgang eerder belemmerde dan verleende.
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Tatiana settles in Berlin, distancing herself from her family, and takes a job transcribing notes for historian, Doktor Weiss, who introduces her to Jonas, a meteorologist.

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