What is the nature of magic? What is the nature of reason? Should one cancel the other? And who is trapped in a great confusion?
In her new novel Piranesi, British writer Susannah Clarke confines the inner more than the magic like spells; A spell that appears to be the fabric of the universe and is as powerful as a cosmic engine – yet non-fragile.
Clarke shocked readers with an enchanting story 16 years ago in his debut novel, Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norell, the return of magic to England. Then those of us who fell in love with his world were waiting for a long time. (Thankfully, Jonathan Strange is not nearly there waiting for Magic to return.)
Our title character, Piranesi, is another strange companion. He lives in a world where words exist for crisps, biscuits, and sausage rolls – but the items themselves don’t, nor does he think it’s weird.
He sees this world as beautiful, and is filled with excitement, considering it. he should be rescued.
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The world – he calls it home – consists of endless classical halls, like an ancient temple. Piranesi has spent years trying to find the last of these connected rooms, Through the windows he has seen only the courtyard and the walls. But above the House, he can see a boundless sky with sun, moon and stars. Unexpectedly, an ocean is trapped in the lower floor – the submerged hall; Its tides and waves hit the stairs.
Many are filled with idols placed in niches or placards, although some statues emerge directly from the wall, such as struggling to be born, she thinks. Pirnacey’s favorite is a faun, smiling faintly with one finger to gently press her lips; Peranesi feels that he means to comfort her. At one point when in distress, Peranesi – who is about 35 years old – plunges himself into the arms of the giant cub.
In moments like this – such as when he climbs a statue of a bee-hunting woman during a flood, but not like an anchor, again, there was a living thing that could have saved him – the sweetness, the innocence of Piranesi Love for this world is devastating to read. Clarke’s writing is clear, incisive – he can clear your heart in just a few words. We have fallen into loneliness in these brief but insurmountably gentle interactions. The concept comes out of his mind about what he longs for most.
Every Tuesday and Friday Piranesi meets a man whom he calls another. Meetings never last more than an hour. Unlike the veins, Pirnelli is dressed, with his long hair tied in shells and pieces of fishbone, the other having a trim beard, wearing immaculate clothing, well-cut suits, and shining his fine shoes.
Others sees a very different world. Nothing survives here. Just the endless deserted rooms are all the same, the bird is full of figures covered in sh ** t.”. “
Across the worlds – magical and scientific; Jonathan is enigmatic and profane in both Strange and Piranesi. As Mary Currie meets Cleopatra on Mary’s Beach. The mystery of Piranesi culminates in a trunk with light-like motions yet – it’s hard not to move, even when each sentence, each revelation wants to dull you. We learn how it happens that Piranesi knows the words of our world, but lives in another – one where magic still thrives.
What the Piranesi calls the House, the other one calls the Labyrinth – and it all comes with that word.
Labyrinths walk like an undercurrent in Clark’s first novel, Jonathan Strange. His wife Arabella considers whether it can be blissful to be lost in someone. Lady Poole replies, “The joy of losing yourself in the labyrinth comes very quickly.” Both novels explore what magic is and how we relate to it. But Piranesi reaches more depth into its own labyrinth; The title derives its name from an 18th-century Italian artist – Giovanni Battista Piranesi – famous for a series of elaborate fictitious bridges, staircases, and vaults prints, often described as labyrinths. The Venetian artist himself called him a “fictional prison”.
But in Piranesi, Clarke begins to ask: Is anyone always the worse for being lost? What is a real prison?
Humans want connection and knowledge – but how do we define those quests? How do we reach those paths? In this seductive, parodic novel both worlds come with magic and reason, beauty and warmth, danger and destruction. How do we do the same? How do we bear the pain of our borders, and what should we give to survive?