An Enchantment – Leisure News

[ad_1]

The narrator of Susanna Clarke’s book, a young man whose name might be Piranesi, speaks to us with endearing directness. He lives alone, he says, in soaring marble halls, surrounded by clouds, tides and beautiful statues.

His closest companions are the skeletal remains of 13 people. But wait, he’s not entirely alone. There’s an “Other”. Indeed, that man is the one who bestowed the name

Piranesi upon the narrator. The Other is similar in age and appearance, but he is not always present and he is not very nice. There are birds too, and seaweed and fishes. The seaweed must be dried to be used as fuel, the fish must be caught for food.

None of it makes any sense! We follow Piranesi around in a fog of uncertainty, alternately afraid for and charmed by him. He is genuinely kind, with a child-like openness. It’s impossible not to love him. It’s equally impossible to believe that he’s telling us the truth. These infinite halls, for instance, cannot possibly exist in reality. Yet his daily life follows the usual laws of physics: in order to set the seaweed alight, he needs matches. In order to reach the upper level of the mansion, he can’t just float, he needs to climb up. Then those journals he keeps, how did he get them? When did he learn to write? The questions pile up, restless as the tides that thunder through these halls.

The seething water is a reminder that, even though Piranesi seems at peace with his fate, darkness is afoot. There have been disappearances and deaths. A mystery is waiting to reveal itself, but of course we can’t see it because we’re buried in the heart of it without a clue that it was there. The cleverness of the plotting lies in the way that a conventional mystery has been turned inside out.

Clarke is a wonderful writer. Her 2006 novel, Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, was almost too rich with wit and artifice. This one, by contrast, is deceptively slight. It’s deeper on the inside than its modest size suggests. What appears to be a mildly engaging narrative puzzle becomes a meditation on personal history, loyalty, trust and truth.

Piranesi’s journals move the narrative along with wonderful economy, deepening the uncertainty about what is or isn’t true. When, for instance, he finds that entries have been made without his knowledge, in his own handwriting, he has no choice but to doubt his sanity.

Piranesi’s struggle to maintain control over the chronology of events becomes the central thread of suspense. Unlike the ball of twine that Theseus used while escaping the Minotaur’s cave, Piranesi’s thread serves only to bind himself and the reader ever more tightly within the darkness.

Shadows multiply within the great halls, new characters emerge from between the fault-lines of memory, even as the doubts that pecked at us in the early pages begin to fade. The dream-like quality of the book is maintained so gently, so lightly, that we barely know we are asleep, until we awake. Smiling at its beauty.

[ad_2]

Source link

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *