Finished reading Cloud Atlas just a while ago – this book is quite a masterpiece, although it could get rather inaccessible at times because of the multitude of transformations that the English language itself goes through in the six different eras where the stories are set, but that is the genius of the book itself which alone deserves the recognition that the book has garnered. It was very much unlike the movie, for which I was only awake at the credit scenes to see how Halle Berry transformed from a white woman of the 1900s’ to a Prescient woman in a post-apocalyptic world with many silver chains attached on her head – the effects were one of the reasons why I wanted to read the book after watching the movie in a half-asleep state. In the book, there was probably a hint of only one character being reborn over and over again, symbolised by the recurrence of the birthmark – but the book had many scenes that could be parallel across all six lives, a major theme that recurred throughout the book. Besides the language, it was pure genius how Mitchell weaved one story to another and how they all connected in a perfect fit – no spoilers here, gotta read for yourself.
Throughout the book, I was poignantly in love with Robert Frobisher, despite his jackass tendencies; the fact that he was played by a British charm like Ben Whishaw in the movie made the character even more affable – couldn’t help but read all of Frobisher’s story in a British accent in my head. A young man with a heavy heart, intoned throughout all his letters; couldn’t help but feel poignant about it.
“An electrical thrill that, like Adrian, I know I am to die. Pride, that I shall see it through. Certainties. Strip back the beliefs pasted on by governesses, schools and states, you find indelible truth at one’s core. Rome’ll decline and fall again. Coratzar’ll sail again and, later, Ewing will too, Adrian’ll be blown to pieces again, you and I’ll sleep under Corscian stars again, I’ll come to Bruges again, fall in and out of love with Eva again, you’ll read this letter again, the Sun’ll grow cold again. Nietzsche’s gramophone record. When it ends, the Old One plays it again, for an eternity of eternities.
Time cannot permeate this sabbatical. We do not stay dead long. Once my Luger lets me go, my birth, my next time around, will be upon me in a heartbeat. In thirteen years from now we’ll meet again at Gresham, ten years later I’ll be back in this same room, holding this same gun, composing this same letter, my resolutions as perfect as my many-headed sextet. Such elegant certainties comfort me.”
“Scholars discern motions in history & formulate these motions into rules that govern the rises & falls of civilisations. My belief runs contrary, however. To wit: history admits no rules; only outcomes.
What precipitates outcomes? Vicious acts & virtuous acts.
What precipitates acts? Beliefs.
Belief is both prize & battlefield, within the mind & in the mind’s mirror, the world.”
“‘Another war is always coming, Robert. They are never properly extinguished. What sparks wars? The will to power, the backbone of human nature. The threat of violence, the fear of violence, or actual violence, is the instrument of this dreadful will. You can see the will to power in bedrooms, kitchens, factories, unions and the borders of states. Listen to this and remember it. The nation state is merely human nature inflated to monstrous proportions. QED, nations are entities whose laws are written by violence. Thus it ever was, so ever shall it be. War, Robert, is one of humanity’s two eternal companions.'”
Also read another book similar in vein about eternal return, the theme so clearly resonated within Cloud Atlas – called the Unbearable Lightness of Being, a book gift from Pong last sem. In Unbearable Lightness of Being, the concept of eternal return was challenged through the characters’ debauchery and varying definitions of love. Didn’t much enjoy it though, probably because of excessive hedonism by a few of the main characters.
Anyways, here’s in order of what I read this summer break.
1. A Lady’s Cyclist Guide to Kashgar – a mediocre book to be honest, the story was slow, with no proper climax; got it as a first ever book gift from Pong and he thought I would like it because I was still cycling back then; started reading since 2012 but only finished it this year.
2. The Unbearable Lightness of Being
3. The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed out of the Window and Disappeared – a light funny black comedy that kept me turning the pages throughout to see what would happen in the end; the kind of book where just as you thought the story couldn’t get any more bizarre, it got even more so
4. Norwegian Wood – simple storyline, but loved the surrealism that translators of Murakami’s works could always bring out in the piece (except of course 1Q84, that damn book), theme of loneliness recurring throughout and maybe even considered suicidal (?)
5. The Help – funny but dark at times as there was some attempt to challenge racism and paint the reality of Civil Rights Movement; it pissed me off at times to see the reality of Southern racism back in the ’60s but the ending was unexpected, comical, and a tad bittersweet
6. The Lottery – a good cheerful break after the Norwegian Wood and the Help; got frustrated at the simple language though, but that added realism to it because the story was after all told by a mentally challenged 30 year old man
7. Cloud Atlas – masterpiece, period
8. Three of Harry Potter books – re-reads for the umpteenth time actually; refusing to finish Goblet of Fire, in denial of Voldemort’s return
9. Lord of the Flies – still in progress, been trying to read since secondary school and never finished it (for seven years already – been borrowing it every time, just to return it after getting 100 pages into it; it’s not even that long!); the lack of climax and proper dialogue hamper my progress greatly and simply put me off reading – shall finish it before this semester ends
Kinda finished 11 books in total this summer; hopefully I’ll get to read more, including these:
1. Museum of Innocence
2. The Book Thief
4. Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore
It’s been a long post. Gotta prep for classes next week now.