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Piranesi

by Susanna Clarke

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
1,0395114,419 (4.27)55
"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)
Recently added byWindUpAnne, private library, folyfy, Kickstart2, AanchalB, Joanna_gln, regrettable, dooney, alliecatt
  1. 30
    The Magician's Nephew by C. S. Lewis (Michael.Rimmer)
  2. 00
    Wittgenstein's Mistress by David Markson (defaults)
  3. 00
    The Anubis Gates by Tim Powers (fluxpin)
    fluxpin: Similar atmosphere, though taken in a somewhat different direction.
  4. 00
    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.
  5. 00
    The Magician by W. Somerset Maugham (CGlanovsky)
    CGlanovsky: Aleister Crowley-esque figure
  6. 00
    Collected Fictions by Jorge Luis Borges (jakebornheimer)
  7. 00
    Slade House by David Mitchell (CGlanovsky)
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» See also 55 mentions

English (49)  French (1)  All languages (50)
Showing 1-5 of 49 (next | show all)
Book about forgetting
  RuiXueEr | Jan 15, 2021 |
An intriguing outing to an alternate world, where an unknowing but knowledgeable victim of abuse finds a place for who he is. Transgression as motivator or means of transporting persons to another world is an interesting concept. ( )
  quondame | Jan 11, 2021 |
Piranesi lives in the House. The House is the World and the World is the House, and as a scientist he is determined to explore and record as much of the World as he can:

‘To this end I have travelled as far as the Nine-Hundred-and-Sixtieth Hall to the West, the Eight-Hundred-and-Ninetieth Hall to the North and the Seven-Hundred-and Sixty-Eighth Hall to the South. I have climbed up to the Upper Halls where Clouds move in slow Procession and Statues appear suddenly out to 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 these 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 knows that at least fifteen people have existed in the world. There is himself and the Other (who are both alive), and then there are the thirteen dead, whose skeletal remains Piranesi tends with offerings of water lilies and water and food. As he goes about the House, he records all that he discovers in his meticulously kept journals, of which there are now ten. Piranesi never forgets anything about the House, but it is clear that there are some things which he has forgotten. Why, for instance, did he decide to label his first two journals ‘December 2011 to June 2012’ and ‘June 2012 to November 2012’? Such an aesthetically unpleasing system! His current naming convention is much more sensible: his last completed journal is labelled ‘Sixteenth Day of the Tenth Month in the Year I travelled to the Nine-Hundred-and-Sixtieth Western Hall, to the Fourth Day of the Fifth Month in the Year the Albatross came to the South-Western Hall.’ And why does the Other call him Piranesi at all, when he is almost certain that that is not his name?

As the Other begins to warn Piranesi about another person who may exist in the Halls, a ‘sixteenth person’, he is forced to question more and more about his World. And the reader, looking in from a very different perspective, also questions more and more about the World, but the questions asked (and the answers arrived at) are rarely the same.

This is a truly wonderful book. ( )
2 vote SandDune | Jan 3, 2021 |
Piranesi -- although that is not actually his name -- lives in a seemingly infinite House of vast rooms full of statues, partially flooded by the sea. He is alone, except for fish, birds, thirteen dead people, and a man he thinks of as the Other, who visits twice a week and says a lot of cryptic things.

It's a wonderful, magical, fascinating, deeply strange setting, with a wonderful, mysterious, fascinating, deeply strange narrator. And it really is Clarke's choice of narrator that makes this short novel so good. It's very, very easy to imagine a much more conventional-feeling version of this basic story written from some other POV, with "Piranesi" in the role of a simple plot device, but while that might have been vaguely interesting, it would never have been anywhere near this memorable. And not just because I got quite attached to the guy, either, although that certainly does help. ( )
1 vote bragan | Jan 2, 2021 |
Showing 1-5 of 49 (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.
added by Cynfelyn | editThe Guardian, Paraic O'Donnell (Sep 19, 2020)
 

» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Clarke, Susannaprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Finke, AstridTranslatorsecondary 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.
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(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.
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