(urth) Cloud Atlas and Typhon

David Stockhoff dstockhoff at verizon.net
Sun May 18 05:14:19 PDT 2014

Interesting. I'll have to read that---I don't know anything about it.

I have one question to start: is Mitchell Catholic?

On 5/18/2014 3:23 AM, Carter, Nicholas (British Council) wrote:
> I'm reading Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell at the moment. In the middle 
> narrative, set some thousands of years in a future post-apocalyptic 
> Hawaii, the narrator and his companion climb to the top of a mountain, 
> using for part of the journey forbidden metalled roads built by the 
> ancients. At the top of the mountain they enter a compound of solar 
> and stellar observatories.
> /Ten--twelve temples waited here'n'there, white'n'silv'ry an' 
> gold'n'bronze with squat bodies'n'round crowns an' mostly windowless. 
> The nearest un was jus' a hun'erd paces away, an' we set off for it 
> first. I asked if this was where Old Uns worshiped their Smart./
> //
> Haunted by a feeling of unrightness, of being watched, the narrator 
> watches as his companion finds a way into the central building.
> /How she got that observ'tree door open, I ain't knowin' so don't 
> mozzie me. A sort of umb'licky cord b'tween the door's dusted 'n'rusty 
> niche an' her orison-egg worked in a beat or two. ... A sharp hiss as 
> the observ'tree door cracked open. Air guffed out stale'n'sour like it 
> was breathed b'fore the Fall an', yay, so it prob'ly was. In we 
> stepped an' what did we find?/
> /Describin' such Smart ain't easy. Gear there was what we ain't 
> mem'ried on Ha-Why, so its names ain't mem'ried neither, yay, almost 
> nothin' in there could I cogg. Shimm'rin' floors, white walls 
> 'n'roofs, one great chamber, round'n'sunk, filled by a mighty tube 
> wider'n a man an' longer'n five what Meronym named a radyo 
> tel'scope what was, she said, the furthest-seein' eye Old Uns ever 
> made. Ev'rythin' white'n'pure as Sonmi's robes, yay, not one flea o' 
> dirt 'cept what we tromped in. Tables'n'chairs sat round waitin' for 
> sitters on balconies made o' steel so our foots gonged./
> And
> / This gen'rator's innards was diff'rent from other buildin's. The 
> Prescient woman glowed with fass'nation as we stepped into the echoey 
> chambers, but I din't. See, I knowed we wasn't alone in there. 
> Shipwoman din't b'lief me, o' course, but in the biggest space where a 
> mighty iron heart stood silent was a sort o' throne s'rounded by 
> tables o' littl' windows an' numbers'n'all, an' on this throne was a 
> died Old-Un priest slumpin' under an arched window. The Prescient 
> swallowed hard an' peered close. A chief stron'mer, I reck'n, she 
> spoke hushly, he must o' soosided here when the Fall came, an' the 
> sealed air's saved his body from rottin'. A priest-king not a chief, I 
> reck'ned, in such a wondersome palace. She got to work mem'ryin' ev'ry 
> inch o' that doomin' place on her orison while I 'proached nearer that 
> priest-king from the world o' perfect Civ'lize. His hair straggled an' 
> his nails was hooky an' the years'd shrunk'n'sagged his face some 
> sure, but his Smart sky clothes was spiff'n'fine, sapphires pierced 
> his ear, an' he mem'ried me of Unc' Bees, same hoggy nose, yay./
> //
> Unlike in BOTNS, the body only has one head and doesn't come back to 
> corporeal life. Nonetheless, the narrator is tempted, or imagines he 
> is tempted by the long-dead figure, who he conflates with his tribe's 
> Satan-figure. He resists the temptation.(The companion is a visitor a 
> figure from a more technologically-advanced strand of survivors, who 
> are benign in intent but who on principle won't aid the local populace 
> beyond the level of the current technology they have reached or aid 
> them in their battles with their savage enemies)
> The extracts above are of course closer in voice to  Riddley Walker 
> than Severian, and I've found no reference at all to Wolfe in 
> Mitchell's interviews. Mitchell freely confesses to pastiche in the 
> novel, (Hoban, William Gibson, Chandler, Isherwood, Melville etc ) and 
> so I think it's unlikely he's referencing BoTNS. He comes from the 
> tradition of literary authors dabbling in science fiction, anathema to 
> many SF fans. However, he does at least, in Borges, Lewis Carroll, 
> Nabokov and others, share some of the same influences as Wolfe. I 
> wonder how the two authors' separate paths led them to haunted 
> mountain tops and the preserved artefacts of a crumbled, 
> self-defeating civilisation, presided over by the preserved body of a 
> hubristic 'king'.
> //
> //
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