"Pseudepigrapha are falsely attributed works, texts whose claimed author is not the true author, or a work whose real author attributed it to a figure of the past." (Wikipedia)
|Cloud Cuckoo Land by Anthony Doerr.|
One theme ties the disparate stories together: the characters' great love of nature, especially birds, and above all, owls. In every story, the world is fragile, and there's a constant awareness in the twenty-first-century and future times of the decline of all species, of all the natural world. Somehow, thanks to the strange choices of times and places, this great fear for all living things does not become polemical, just phenomenal.
A challenging element of the novel is the presence of pseudo-ancient Greek texts, written in Greek characters, which I think the reader is expected to try to memorize and grasp, especially as the characters, especially Anna and Zeno, try to learn to read the text of the pseudepigraphic story by Diogenes. (A Greek author named Diogenes did exist, but his works are lost and Doerr made up the story in the novel.) I did not rise to this challenge, but just enjoyed reading the stories and their emerging connections. I also appreciate the role that the fictitious text plays in the other main theme of the novel, which is the idea that human literary accomplishment is fragile, and that wonderful books are constantly being lost, and vast numbers of great classics were lost long ago.
Absolutely anything else I would like to say about this amazingly readable book and the intricate way it weaves its six stories, would be a spoiler. Each character is highly sympathetic. Each story is very suspenseful and well-crafted. You could think of a wide variety of reasons why this book wouldn't work. It does work.
Here is a quote from author Anthony Doerr:
"The fragments that we still have of ancient Greek novels indicate that many of them were more experimental and playful than were originally thought: they apparently played with metafiction and historicity, even as they fell over themselves to be entertaining. Though we only have a few extant fragments of Antonius Diogenes’ writing, it’s clear he was interested in mashing up genres: myths, travel narratives, natural histories, romances, ghost stories, historical treatises, etc. I wanted my book to embrace that sense of playfulness, too, and I wanted to continually rotate the story around the running theme of a sieges-inside-sieges, libraries-inside-libraries, worlds-inside-worlds. Because what is a book if not a little self-contained universe that you get to hold in your hands? So, yes, I think it’s safe to say that Cloud Cuckoo Land was my attempt at a literary-sci-fi-mystery-young-adult-historical-morality novel." (source)
Book review © 2021 mae sander.
I must look to see if this book is on offer here, given your review.
Your review has set me thinking again about reading this book. I have a copy of it, and now I may give it a try.
Interesting is right.
I remember Diogenes from college, but am not sure I remember much about him or his work. I think this looks like a good read and knowing there is nature involved and of course, birds, it sounds wonderful.
I was hoping you’d review this one as your reviews are insightful and detailed. On Amazon & Goodreads the reviews are all over the place from boring and confusing one star ratings to great 5 star.
Very interesting. It seems as though it could be confusing with so many stories, but it sounds like it was well done.
Aptly named book!
I'm thinking about making this my first read of 2022.
You explained this book very well, I enjoyed reading your thoughts.
This is the best review I've seen yet... still not sure this book is for me though.
This was on my list to begin with and after reading this, remains on the list! I will look forward to it.
Wonderful review and, I have to admit that I find the description a bit intimidating. I have the audio and just picked up the print library copy - I will try it as I like different and Doerr is usually so good.
I loved All the light we cannot see by Anthony Doerr, will probably read this one if it crosses my path.
Thanks for sharing your lovely review.
So it seems like you liked this one quite a bit? Six stories in one book would usually be too much for me .... but perhaps I should try nonetheless. Thanks.
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