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Piranesi

by Susanna Clarke

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
5,4522661,867 (4.2)255
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. 91
    Slade House by David Mitchell (CGlanovsky, jonathankws)
  3. 70
    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. 30
    Collected Fictions by Jorge Luis Borges (jakebornheimer)
  5. 52
    The Secret History by Donna Tartt (sparemethecensor)
  6. 10
    The Magician by W. Somerset Maugham (CGlanovsky)
    CGlanovsky: Aleister Crowley-esque figure
  7. 10
    The Affirmation by Christopher Priest (tetrachromat)
  8. 10
    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.
  9. 33
    The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton (casvelyn)
  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. 11
    The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern (MonarchVal)
    MonarchVal: Dark of night. Not everything explained.
  12. 01
    The Wall by Marlen Haushofer (ateolf)
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» See also 255 mentions

English (259)  Dutch (1)  Italian (1)  German (1)  All languages (262)
Showing 1-5 of 259 (next | show all)
A parallel world maps a mysterious dramatic transformation of the main characters consciousness. The story is engaging and unravels with dramatic turns. The descriptions of fantastic world are immersive even though clearly surreal.

The only problem is that many continuity questions lay in unclear resolution. What is the albatross, where are these halls, these statues, the others, what are they in this world? ( )
  yates9 | Feb 28, 2024 |
Yes I finished this at 1:45 in the a.m. and yes I will be talking about it all damn day tomorrow. Instant classic. A story told through documents, an abundance of unreliable narrators, and an endlessly debatable and never totally explained setting are all strong pluses for me.

EDIT: I can see the merit of arguments this is meant as christian apologia, but honestly fuck that shit. In my humble atheist jewish naturalist nerd opinion Piranesi's "anti-progress" "innocence" is scientific inquiry and appreciation of the intense beauty and complexity of the natural world. The closer we look the more we see and understand how stereotyped and oversimplified the stories we tell ourselves about it, which center us and our personal concerns, are. Obsessing about who created the House and whether They/It care about us personally is yet another limiting, self-centered story that has less than nothing to do with appreciating and striving to understand Its wonders. See also: [b:Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead|51648276|Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead|Olga Tokarczuk|https://i.gr-assets.com/images/S/compressed.photo.goodreads.com/books/1565725457l/51648276._SX50_SY75_.jpg|8099373].

EDIT: Now I've discussed it with Sam and we both agreed that while it was partly responding to C.S. Lewis, it was definitely not agreeing with him. Piranesi's "innocence" is a reaction to trauma that was inflicted on him.

Also, could the memory loss be unrelated to the House and more about the circumstances? It seems like only two people suffered memory loss, and they were both unwilling visitors.
( )
  caedocyon | Feb 26, 2024 |
What pure fun reading this novel was! Just a joy. Susanna Clarke has finally followed up her debut novel [b:Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell|14201|Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell|Susanna Clarke|https://i.gr-assets.com/images/S/compressed.photo.goodreads.com/books/1357027589l/14201._SY75_.jpg|3921305] sixteen years later with Piranesi, which shares some similarities with her debut - including that quality of being an absolute delight to read - but which differs enough to make it a unique work. In my esteem this may launch her up there with [a:Donna Tartt|8719|Donna Tartt|https://images.gr-assets.com/authors/1409871301p2/8719.jpg], who has taken a decade between each of her three fabulous novels.

Clarke's debut novel combined the heritage of Dickens and Austen with fantasy in what felt really fresh and new. Piranesi doesn't feel like either of those writers, it's considerably more circumscribed - fewer pages, fewer characters, smaller realm of action (though ironically set in an apparent infinite labyrinth of classical architecture). It shares a general essence however of treating magic as a real existing thing, though largely cast off by the modern world, now hidden and found only by a few. In Piranesi, magic left our world when we stopped believing in it and one "transgressive thinker" correctly deduced that it had to go somewhere, and was able to discover how to open a door to other worlds, including the world our protagonist exists in.

This world is a never ending maze of halls and vestibules, a somewhat crude representation of our physical reality in that there are three levels of rooms, the bottom containing the deep waters and the top containing the clouds. Other than sea creatures, and birds which fly through and live in the middle level as well (the presence of birds must have some symbolism but I'm not sure what it is), the only living creatures here are Piranesi and another man who bestowed this name upon him, whom Piranesi refers to as The Other, whom he only occasionally sees. Every room, on each level, is packed with marble statuary. Millions, billions of statues altogether. These statues I think bear some relation to Plato's idea of Forms. Piranesi suggests this when talking to a person from our "real world" near the novel's end:
'Yes,' said Raphael. 'Here you can only see a representation of a river or a mountain, but in our world - the other world - you can see the actual river and the actual mountain.'

This annoyed me. 'I do not see why you say I can only see a representation in this World,' I said with some sharpness. 'The world "only" suggests a relationship of inferiority. You make it sound as if the Statue was somehow inferior to the thing itself. I do not see that that is the case at all. I would argue that the Statue is superior to the thing itself, the Statue being perfect, eternal and not subject to decay.'


If Piranesi is existing in a world something like Plato's idea of Forms (which Plato said do not exist in any material condition, so it's certainly not an exact comparison), it is a world of ideas. Living in a world of ideas suggests cutting oneself off from real life and from other people, and Piranesi is indeed that. He has completely forgotten about the "real world", completely forgotten about his family and friends, and completely forgotten his "real" identity. He is happy in his pure world of ideas, and reluctant to leave. "The Beauty of the House is immeasurable; its Kindness infinite," he says in the novel's opening. Why give that up for the pain of that other world?

He is reluctant to do so, but when the opportunity presents itself, he ultimately agrees to return to our world so as not to be alone. That's the problem after all with living in the world of ideas, living in your own head, pure as it may seem there. He is however changed from the person he was before, a person who was said to be arrogant and difficult to like. It seems rather like descriptions of people who have undergone a near death experience (NDE), say they visited another world while technically dead, and come back to life, but changed - more kind, more loving, less concerned with material things. Walking through a city park, looking at the people he passes, the novel's final line repeats that line from the open: "The Beauty of the House is immeasurable; its Kindness infinite." Only it now seems to apply to a different House, a loving benediction for ourselves and for our known world.

An excellent way to start the new year of reading. ( )
  lelandleslie | Feb 24, 2024 |
Tip: do not read ABOUT this book before you read the actual book.
Book Twitter had been raving about this book, so I bought it on a whim. I was not disappointed. Recommended for fans of The Goblin Emperor.
( )
  jd7h | Feb 18, 2024 |
An amazing book. It takes a Borgesian fantastical setting and places a compelling mystery inside of it.

The World is an enormous House which have many Rooms that contain Statues. (The capitalization is a part of this World.)

Our protagonist, who is called Piranesi but does not think that is their name, tells us the story through journal entries, as they live in this world.

But every early on, questions start forming for both Piranesi and the reader. (Though the reader has separate and additional questions from Piranesi.) They know an Other, who mystifies the protagonist but which we find very recognizable, and refers to our 'normal' world.

The book gives revelations of it's mystery in a perfect order and continues to leave you with questions even as the book finishes in a very satisfactory way.

If you like weird fiction, whimsical fantasy, or esoteric philosophy, you can't go wrong with this book. ( )
  JasonMehmel | Feb 9, 2024 |
Showing 1-5 of 259 (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
Susanna Clarkeprimary authorall editionscalculated
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.)
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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.

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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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