My Brief Flirtation with ‘Cloud Atlas’

She’s that mysterious woman hidden by the shadows and neon light at the corner of a party, drink in hand, eyes looking at you disinterested. She’s clothed in pink silk and when she moves, it’s like her dress tells you the hint of a story. You’re surrounded on all sides by other people, but you’re not interested in any of them because at that moment, you want to know more about this woman. You want to spend the whole night on the balcony, glasses in hand, unearthing what makes her who she is, finding out why that initial glimpse provoked you into believing that she’s so alluring. That’s Cloud Atlas.

I first encountered Cloud Atlas while on holiday in Yercaud. I was there with my family for a couple of days, chilling out and relaxing. In my relaxed state of mind, I wandered over to the hotel library, which was pretty useless and obviously targeted at certain age groups when the glimpse of pink attracted my eyes to it. Intrigued, I picked it up and went through the process of checking the synopsis out and reading the praise it had received.

Something close to what I saw on the front

Something close to what I saw on the back

And so, I took it back to my room, determined to read it soon. When I logged on to my computer and googled it, I discovered that Tom Tykwer (Run Lola Run) and the Wachowski Brothers (they made a little known trilogy with the title ‘Matrix’ in them) were adapting it into an epic movie. I thought to myself: this had to be FATE (because I’m a student of cinema and I found this book and they’re making….you get what I’m saying?)! It couldn’t be anything else, it meant I had to start reading it. And so I did, which resulted in the most enriching experience I have had with a book till date.

Cloud Atlas jumps across different stories in different timelines, but they’re all strangely connected (from what I remember, the pianist in Europe find Adam Ewing’s journal in the bookcase and Luisa Rey’s friend is connected to the pianist). The timelines are cut mid sentence and the layout of the book is like a Mobius strip ( a term I got from Doc Jensen ranting about LOST) that revisits the same story lines and presumably concludes them.

Mitchell populates his prose with wit, humor and a whole dollop of awesomeness as he weaves his intricate tale. I haven’t even got halfway through the book, because I had to leave the book behind at the hotel before we left. One of the worst decisions ever made. I should have just stolen it against my better judgement. It’s like biting into a strawberry for the first time. It’s all over the place in a mind blowing way.

And now the movie adaptation running at 160 minutes is making the rounds at festivals and people seem to be raving about it. I’ve purposely avoided any reviews or trailers, waiting to be able to finish talking to that woman. My dad saw one of these reviews from Toronto and asked me about it. I had tried persuading him to buy the digital Kindle version, but to no avail. I saw my chance and took it and downloaded the $4.32 kindle edition. 3 seconds later, the woman was back, staring me in the face. I didn’t start reading immediately obviously, because I wanted to get in that state of mind where you have to savor each word that your eyes see. Enjoy every moment, not like how I was with Harry Potter, whose prose had the flair of a pig scribbling the alphabet. I’m still waiting to get there, for when I do, nothing, not my job, not my online courses, not cinema, nothing will come in the way of me spending time with Cloud Atlas, for I truly believe it’s one of those books that has to be read before you die simply for its whimsical nature. Just look at the Amazon reviews if you don’t believe me, millions of people feel this way. And from what I’ve read so far, the stories aren’t UNIQUE. It’s the way he deals with them that is.

To Cloud Atlas, the woman who will steal your heart in a split-second. I’ll talk more about her as soon as my conversation is over, which I hope doesn’t happen quickly.


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