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Piranesi

by Susanna Clarke

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
3,6451932,959 (4.18)215
From the New York Times bestselling author of Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, an intoxicating, hypnotic new novel set in a dreamlike alternative reality. Piranesi's house is no ordinary building: its rooms are infinite, its corridors endless, its walls are lined with thousands upon thousands of statues, each one different from all the others. Within the labyrinth of halls an ocean is imprisoned; waves thunder up staircases, rooms are flooded in an instant. But Piranesi is not afraid; he understands the tides as he understands the pattern of the labyrinth itself. He lives to explore the house. There is one other person in the house-a man called The Other, who visits Piranesi twice a week and asks for help with research into A Great and Secret Knowledge. But as Piranesi explores, evidence emerges of another person, and a terrible truth begins to unravel, revealing a world beyond the one Piranesi has always known. For readers of Neil Gaiman's The Ocean at the End of the Lane and fans of Madeline Miller's Circe, Piranesi introduces an astonishing new world, an infinite labyrinth, full of startling images and surreal beauty, haunted by the tides and the clouds.… (more)
  1. 130
    The Magician's Nephew by C. S. Lewis (Michael.Rimmer, KayCliff)
  2. 81
    Slade House by David Mitchell (CGlanovsky, jonathankws)
  3. 60
    House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski (hubies)
    hubies: Piranesi is not scary, but in both books there is this mystifying, unpeopled world of impossible (and perhaps infinite) house-like space. Also: cryptic diary entries, unstable mind, short film as a plot device.
  4. 52
    The Secret History by Donna Tartt (sparemethecensor)
  5. 30
    Collected Fictions by Jorge Luis Borges (jakebornheimer)
  6. 21
    The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern (MonarchVal)
    MonarchVal: Dark of night. Not everything explained.
  7. 10
    The Affirmation by Christopher Priest (tetrachromat)
  8. 10
    The Magician by W. Somerset Maugham (CGlanovsky)
    CGlanovsky: Aleister Crowley-esque figure
  9. 00
    The Wall by Marlen Haushofer (ateolf)
  10. 00
    In the Labyrinth by Alain Robbe-Grillet (defaults)
    defaults: More desolate, minimalist and Beckettian. You may enjoy this if you enjoyed the first half of Piranesi but was a little let down by the second.
  11. 00
    The Memory Theater by Karin Tidbeck (Aquila)
    Aquila: There's a similarlity of background and form in these two books - alternate worlds and amnesia and intellectual cults. And yet they are quite different stories.
  12. 13
    The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton (casvelyn)
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» See also 215 mentions

English (182)  German (1)  Italian (1)  Portuguese (Brazil) (1)  All languages (185)
Showing 1-5 of 182 (next | show all)
I read this in two days while I had covid. The best thing about it was the fever dream where I was wandering through an endless calm beautiful lonely marble world. Really the loveliest dream I have had in years. ( )
  andrewlorien | Dec 2, 2022 |
Five stars.

- Amazing writing
- Fascinating world
- A very sympathetic main character
- A really great reading experience

A vast and complete story told in a pretty concise package, without making you feel like anything was missing or too thin. I simply enjoyed this a whole lot.

Might come back later to write a more coherent review. ( )
  tuusannuuska | Dec 1, 2022 |
"The beauty of the House is immeasurable; its Kindness infinite."

"Piranesi's House is no ordinary building: its rooms are infinite, its corridors endless, its walls lined with thousands upon thousands of statues. Within the labyrinth of halls an ocean is imprisoned; waves thunder up staircases, rooms are flooded in an instant."

When the narrative opens, it is difficult to discern the era or the context of the world Piranesi inhabits, aside from the rules he himself explains: his observations of the Tides, the Statues, and the unique calendars he has created that are far from aligning anywhere near our own. This ambiguity immediately drops any disbelief and simply immerses the reader into the reality of Piranesi's world, at least as it appears.

There is only one inhabitant of this world aside from Piranesi, that we know of, aptly coined The Other. His existence is equally ambiguous, lost in his experiments and rituals that are not explained in full, because Piranesi does not truthfully understand them either. Thus, we are introduced to this world through this awestruck and careful narrator, who holds the House in great regard and yet reveres it as an entity of simple and constant structure. There is a strange naivety in the way that Piranesi describes the House to us.

The balance of the world is shifted as Piranesi begins to speak of the possibility of a 16th person, beyond himself, the Other, and the 13 respected Dead. It is at this moment that we are brought gracefully and wholly into the narrative:

"And You. Who are You? Who is it that I am writing for? Are you a traveler who has cheated Tides and crossed Broken Floors and Derelict Stairs to reach these Halls? Or are You perhaps someone who inhabits my own Halls long after I am dead?"

Beyond the introduction, the bounds of the world quickly begin to unravel. We question the Other's motives, the existence of more people in the world, the relationship between Piranesi and the House, and all of it is revealed in a series of roundabout twists and turns that border on the sharp edge of meditatively hypnotic, never expected and yet always, I felt as though all of the pieces were falling into place exactly as they were meant to be.

Clarke utilizes the trope of an unreliable narrator in a strange and endearing way — the reader (or at least I as the reader experienced this) trusts Piranesi wholeheartedly. We experience the House in the same way that he does, put our trust in it the same way he does. And ultimately, this leaves the conclusion in the novel in our own hands.

Giovanni Battista Piranesi, for which Piranesi is named, was an Italian Classical archaeologist, architect, and artist, famous for his etchings of Rome and of fictitious and atmospheric "prisons". That his name plays such a large role in this work suggests to the reader that there is a component of a prison in the House, but the trust we are given in Piranesi and his narrative makes this thought seem obsolete in the face of the "immeasurable kindness".

"I was in a house with many rooms; that the sea sweeps through the house; and that sometimes it swept over me, but always I was saved.

Without spoiling the novel and its nuances, I will say that Piranesi leaves us questioning the slim differences between ethereal labyrinth and inescapable prison, but in the end, the word we trust, as we trust in the beautiful, rich, and wonderful descriptions of the House itself, is in eventuality, Piranesi's.

Intricately and atmospherically built, I would highly recommend this thrilling work be on everyone's TBR pile for 2022. ( )
  MROBINSON72 | Nov 19, 2022 |
"The Beauty of the House is immeasurable; its Kindness infinite" writes the person called Piranesi in his journal. He lives in the House along with the Other and he wanders it Labyrinthian passages and halls exploring this magical world. While he sees the House as a beautiful and wondrous place, the other simply sees it as a means to gain secret knowledge that will allow him power and control. This is an imaginative novel that explores our world and its beauty through the metaphor of the House. It looks at the way we approach life - as a wonderous journey of exploration and beauty or as an endless search to gain and exercise power. Clarke's imagery is poetic and beautiful and the characters are mysterious though revealed as the reader continues their search alongside Piranesi. There is much to digest in this tale and it might take take more than one reading to find it all. ( )
  Al-G | Nov 14, 2022 |
“I am determined to explore as much of the World as I can in my lifetime... I have climbed up to the Upper Halls where clouds move in slow procession and Statues appear suddenly out of the Mists. I have explored the Drowned Halls where the Dark Waters are carpeted with white water lilies. I have seen the Derelict Halls of the East where Ceilings, Floors – sometimes even Walls! – have collapsed and the dimness is split by shafts of grey Light. In all the places I have stood in Doorways and looked ahead. I have never seen any indication that the World was coming to an End, but only the regular progression of Halls and Passageways into the Far Distance.”

Piranesi lives in a labyrinth in a crumbling house with multiple stories, where the sea washes into the lowest floor. Its halls and corridors are filled with statues. This book contains a unique combination of nature and architecture with an innocent and trusting protagonist. It has a dreamlike quality. I suggest going into it knowing as little as possible about the plot. I let it unfold around me and became absorbed in Piranesi’s world. It certainly engages the brain and can be interpreted in numerous ways. It is also a beautifully told story filled with gorgeous imagery and literary references. Most likely, this book is going to inspire a “love it or hate it” response. I loved it!
( )
  Castlelass | Oct 30, 2022 |
Showing 1-5 of 182 (next | show all)
Here it is worth reflecting on the subject of Clarke's overt homage. The historical Piranesi, an 18th-century engraver, is celebrated for his intricate and oppressive visions of imaginary prisons and his veduta ideate, precise renderings of classical edifices set amid fantastic vistas. Goethe, it is said, was so taken with these that he found the real Rome greatly disappointing. Clarke fuses these themes, seducing us with imaginative grandeur only to sweep that vision away, revealing the monstrosities to which we can not only succumb but wholly surrender ourselves.

The result is a remarkable feat, not just of craft but of reinvention. Far from seeming burdened by her legacy, the Clarke we encounter here might be an unusually gifted newcomer unacquainted with her namesake's work. If there is a strand of continuity in this elegant and singular novel, it is in its central pre-occupation with the nature of fantasy itself. It remains a potent force, but one that can leave us - like Goethe among the ruins - forever disappointed by what is real.
 
How fantastic to have a bestselling novel with an index right at its heart.
added by KayCliff | editThe Indexer, Paula Clarke Bain
 

» Add other authors (1 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Clarke, Susannaprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Ejiofor, ChiwetelNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Finke, AstridTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Mann, DavidCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Molnár, Berta EleonóraTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rizzati, DonatellaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
"I am the great scholar, the magician, the adept, who is doing the experiment. Of course I need subjects to do it on".

The Magician's Nephew, C. S. Lewis
"People call me a philosopher or a scientist or an anthropologist. I am none of those things. I am an anamnesiologist. I study what has been forgotten. I divine what has disappeared utterly. I work with absences, with silences, with curious gaps between things. I am more of a magician than anything else."

Laurence Arne-Sayles, interview in The Secret Garden, May 1976
Dedication
For Colin
First words
When the Moon rose in the Third Northern Hall I went to the Ninth Vestibule to witness the joining of three Tides.
Quotations
The Beauty of the House is immeasurable; its Kindness infinite.
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
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From the New York Times bestselling author of Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, an intoxicating, hypnotic new novel set in a dreamlike alternative reality. Piranesi's house is no ordinary building: its rooms are infinite, its corridors endless, its walls are lined with thousands upon thousands of statues, each one different from all the others. Within the labyrinth of halls an ocean is imprisoned; waves thunder up staircases, rooms are flooded in an instant. But Piranesi is not afraid; he understands the tides as he understands the pattern of the labyrinth itself. He lives to explore the house. There is one other person in the house-a man called The Other, who visits Piranesi twice a week and asks for help with research into A Great and Secret Knowledge. But as Piranesi explores, evidence emerges of another person, and a terrible truth begins to unravel, revealing a world beyond the one Piranesi has always known. For readers of Neil Gaiman's The Ocean at the End of the Lane and fans of Madeline Miller's Circe, Piranesi introduces an astonishing new world, an infinite labyrinth, full of startling images and surreal beauty, haunted by the tides and the clouds.

No library descriptions found.

Book description
Piranesi has always lived in the House. It has thousands, if not an infinity, of rooms and corridors, imprisoning an ocean. A watery labyrinth. Once in a while he sees his friend, The Other, who needs Piranesi for his scientific research into A Great and Secret Knowledge. Piranesi records his findings in his journal. Then messages begin to appear; all is not what it seems. A terrible truth unravels as evidence emerges of another person and perhaps even another world outside the House’s walls.
Haiku summary
To Piranesi
the House is everything, but
changes are afoot.
(passion4reading)
The world in a house.
Let your imagination
fly and explore it.
(passion4reading)

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