Books

Cloud Atlas

Cloud Atlas is a book by David Mitchell.

David Mitchell

A reluctant voyager crossing the Pacific in 1850; a disinherited composer blagging a precarious livelihood in between-the-wars Belgium; a high-minded journalist in Governor Reagan's California; a vanity publisher fleeing his gangland creditors; a genetically modified "dinery server" on death-row; and Zachry, a young Pacific Islander witnessing the nightfall of science and civilisation — the narrators of Cloud Atlas hear each other's echoes down the corridor of history, and their destinies are changed in ways great and small.

In his captivating third novel, David Mitchell erases the boundaries of language, genre and time to offer a meditation on humanity's dangerous will to power, and where it may lead us. (From Vintage Canada)

David Mitchell is an English novelist and screenwriter. His other novels include The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, Black Swan Green, Number9Dream, Ghostwritten and The Bone Clocks.

From the book

No morphine: no use, the doctor said.

The boy would die within the hour, and morphine was in short supply. He was saving it for the soldiers--for American soldiers, he added, checking the wall clock, then his watch, then me. It was four o'clock, 1600 hours Alaskan War Time, on July 6, 1945, a mere thirty-four days before fighting in Japan officially ended. The boy was Japanese.

When I was a boy, I was told a writer should date his age from the day he started writing. I can't remember why I was told this; I just remember that I liked it enough to repeat it over the years to those who might benefit from the wisdom. To anyone. To people like my drill sergeant.

He had a quick reply: a soldier should date his age from the day he started killing.

If that's so, I was even younger than the world took me for back then. An eighteen-year-old sergeant, I'd been in the army for ten months, waging a secret war, from Alaska, for six. I'd trained in bomb disposal. I'd learned to speak some Yup'ik, I'd fallen in love with a woman who talked with touch, I'd shot a bar glass out of my captain's hand.

And now, in that tiny room, in a mission infirmary just inland from the Bering Sea, the weather cool and wet, I was sitting at the side of a boy who was dying.

I was AWOL.

And for the first time since putting on a uniform, I was crying.

At eleven, the boy died. At midnight, I turned three days old.


From Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell ©2004. Published by Liam Callanan.

Interviews with David Mitchell

The British writer talks about his exhilarating, entertaining and elegant novel Cloud Atlas. 52:37
David Mitchell, bestselling author of The Bone Clocks and Cloud Atlas, returns with a story set in the psychedelic music scene of 1960s London in his new novel Utopia Avenue. He’s also just co-written the screenplay for the upcoming return of The Matrix films. Mitchell joined guest host Talia Schlanger to tell us more. 20:12

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