Cloud Atlas is the third novel by British author David Mitchell, published in 2004. It won the British Book Awards Literary Fiction award and the Richard & Judy "Book of the Year" award. A film adaptation directed by the Wachowskis and Tom Tykwer, and featuring an ensemble cast, was released in 2012.
Cloud Atlas is a work combining metafiction, historical fiction, contemporary fiction and science fiction.
Page-numbers refer to the 2004 Sceptre edition.
== The Pacific Journal of Adam Ewing (Part 1) ==
No organist played a Magnificat but the wind in the flue chimney, no choir sang a Nunc Dimittis but the withering gulls, yet I fancy the Creator was not displeazed.
"The Pacific Journal of Adam Ewing", p. 8Peace, though beloved of our Lord, is a cardinal virtue only if your neighbors share your conscience.
"The Pacific Journal of Adam Ewing", p. 16As many truths as men. Occasionally, I glimpse a truer Truth, hiding in imperfect simulacrums of itself, but as I approach, it bestirs itself & moves deeper into the thorny swamp of dissent.
"The Pacific Journal of Adam Ewing", p. 17The very words "California Bound" are dusted in gold & beckon all men thitherwards like moths to a lantern.
"The Pacific Journal of Adam Ewing", p. 22"To fool a judge, feign fascination, but to bamboozle the whole court, feign boredom."
"The Pacific Journal of Adam Ewing", p. 34
== Letters from Zedelghem (Part 1) ==
"The better organized the state, the duller its humanity."
"Letters from Zedelghem", p. 61That love loves fidelity [is] a myth woven by men from their insecurities.
"Letters from Zedelghem", p. 69People knelt in prayer, some moving their lips. Envy 'em, really I do. I envy God, too, privy to their secrets. Faith, the least exclusive club on Earth, has the craftiest doorman. Every time I've stepped through its wide-open doorway, I find myself stepping out on the street.
"Letters from Zedelghem", p. 75Whoever opined "Money can't buy you happiness" obviously had far too much of the stuff.
"Letters from Zedelghem", p. 75Et si vous nuisez à ma réputation, eh bien, il faudra que je ruine la vôtre!
"And if you threaten my reputation, oh well, I'll have to ruin yours!"
"Letters from Zedelghem", p. 76
== Half-Lives: The First Luisa Rey Mystery (Part 1) ==
Anything is true if enough people believe it is.
"Half-Lives: The First Luisa Rey Mystery", p. 99...the dizzying vividness of the images of places and people that the letters have unlocked. Images so vivid she can only call them memories.
"Half-Lives: The First Luisa Rey Mystery", p. 120They can extinguish awareness by dumbing down education, owning TV stations, paying "guest fees" to leader writers, or just buying the media up. The media—and not just The Washington Post—is where democracies conduct their civil wars.
"Half-Lives: The First Luisa Rey Mystery", p. 124I became a scientist because... it's like panning for gold in a muddy torrent. Truth is the gold.
"Half-Lives: The First Luisa Rey Mystery", p. 133Did I ever lie to get my story? Ten-mile-high whoppers every day before breakfast, if it got me one inch closer to the truth
"Half-Lives: The First Luisa Rey Mystery", p. 138
== The Ghastly Ordeal of Timothy Cavendish (Part 1) ==
"This old man here reckons his colostomy bag entitles him to jump the queue," says the skinhead, "and make racist slurs about the lady of Afro-Caribbean extraction in the advance-travel window."
"The Ghastly Ordeal of Timothy Cavendish", p. 160Sometimes the fluffy bunny of incredulity zooms around the bend so rapidly that the greyhound of language is left, agog, in the starting cage.
"The Ghastly Ordeal of Timothy Cavendish", p. 155 (Nook Edition)That autumn night long ago Ursula had served a blob of grilled cheese on a slice of shame on a breast of chicken. Righter there—right here. I could still taste it. I can taste it as I write these words.
"The Ghastly Ordeal of Timothy Cavendish", p. 164
== An Orison of Sonmi~451 (Part 1) ==
Your version of the truth is the only one that matters.Truth is singular. Its 'versions' are mistruths.
"An Orison of Sonmi~451", p. 187Rumors ricocheted around the dome: a Yoona had kidnapped a boy, no, a baby; no, a pureblood had kidnapped a Yoona; an enforcer had shot a boy; no, a fabricant had hit the seer whose nose was bleeding. All the while, Papa Song surfed noodle waves on His Plinth.
"An Orison of Sonmi~451", p. 195What is "poker"? A card game where abler liars take money off less able liars.
"An Orison of Sonmi~451", p. 209You speak like an aesthete sometimes, Sonmi. Perhaps those deprived of beauty perceive it most instinctively.
"An Orison of Sonmi~451", p. 209"Try this for deviancy: fabricants are mirrors held up to purebloods' consciences; what purebloods see reflected there sickens them. So they blame you for holding up the mirror." I hid my shock by asking when purebloods might blame themselves. Mephi replied, "History suggests, not until they are made to."
"An Orison of Sonmi~451", p. 222[...] If losers can xploit what their adversaries teach them, yes, losers can become winners in the long term.
"An Orison of Sonmi~451", p. 225Under the Enrichment Laws, consumers have to spend a fixed quota of dollars each month, depending on their strata. Hoarding is an anti-corpocratic crime.
"An Orison of Sonmi~451", p. 227[...] the verb remember is outside servers' lexicons.
"An Orison of Sonmi~451", p. 230
== Sloosha's Crossin' an' Evrythin' After ==
I'm shoutin' back more'n forty long years at myself, yay, at Zachry the Niner, Oy, list'n! Times are you're weak 'gainst the world! Times are you can't do nothin'! That ain't your fault, it's this busted world's fault is all! But no matter how loud I shout, Boy Zachry, he don't hear me nor never will.
"Sloosha's Crossin' an' Ev'rythin' After", p. 242[...] Smart'n'Civ'lize ain't nothin' to do with the color o' the skin, nay.
"Sloosha's Crossin' an' Ev'rythin' After", p. 258Valleysmen only had one god an' her name it was Sonmi. Savages on Big I norm'ly had more gods'n you could wave a spiker at. [...] But for Valleysmen savage gods weren't worth knowin', nay, only Sonmi was real.
"Sloosha's Crossin' an' Ev'rythin' After", p. 244Yay, Old Uns’ Smart mastered sicks, miles, seeds an' made miracles ord’nary, but it din’t master one thing, nay, a hunger in the hearts o' humans, yay, a hunger for more.
"Sloosha's Crossin' an' Ev'rythin' After", p. 272Valleysmen'd not want to hear, she answered, that human hunger birthed the Civ'lize, but human hunger killed it too. I know it from other tribes offland what I stayed with. Times are you say a person's b'liefs ain't true, they think you're sayin' their lifes ain't true an' their truth ain't true.
"Sloosha's Crossin' an' Ev'rythin' After", p. 273Then the true true is diff'rent to the seemin' true? said I.Yay, an' it usually is, I mem'ry Meronym sayin', an' that's why true true is presher'n'rarer'n diamonds.
"Sloosha's Crossin' an' Ev'rythin' After", p. 274[...] ev'ry drumbeat one more life shedded off of me, yay, I glimpsed all the lives my soul ever was till far-far back b'fore the Fall,[...]
"Sloosha's Crossin' an' Ev'rythin' After", p. 287But ain't dyin' terrorsome cold if there ain't nothin' after? Yay—she sort o' laughed but not smilin', nay—our truth is terrorsome cold.
"Sloosha's Crossin' an' Ev'rythin' After", p. 302 List'n, savages an Civ'lizeds ain't divvied by tribes or b'liefs or mountain ranges, nay, ev'ry human is both, yay. Old Uns'd got the Smart o' gods but the savagery o' jackals, an' that's what tripped the Fall. Some Savages what I knowed got a beautsome Civ'lized heart beatin' in their ribs. Maybe some Kona. Not 'nuff to sayso their hole tribe, but who knows one day? One day."One day" was only a flea o' hope for us.Yay, I mem'ry Meronym sayin', but fleas ain't easy to rid.
"Sloosha's Crossin' an' Ev'rythin' After", p. 303I watched clouds awobbly from the floor o' that kayak. Souls cross ages like clouds cross skies, an' tho' a cloud's shape nor hue nor size don't stay the same, it's still a cloud an' so is a soul. Who can say where the cloud's blowed from or who the soul'll be 'morrow? Only Sonmi the east an' the compass an' the atlas, yay, only the atlas o' clouds.
"Sloosha's Crossin' an Ev'rythin' After", 308
== An Orison of Sonmi~451 (Part 2) ==
Travel far enough, you meet yourself.
"An Orison of Sonmi~451", p. 320A Soul's value is the dollars therein.
"An Orison of Sonmi~451", p. 325Fantasy. Lunacy.All revolutions are, until they happen, then they are historical inevitabilities.
"An Orison of Sonmi~451", p. 326Unanimity would maintain order. Enforcers aren't all Union agents. Even Yoona~939 chose death over slavery.
"An Orison of Sonmi~451", p. 327Unanimity would maintain order. Enforcers aren't all Union agents. Even Yoona~939 chose death over slavery.
"An Orison of Sonmi~451", p. 327He said the giant was a deity that offered salvation from a meaningless cycle of birth and rebirth, and perhaps the cracked stonework still possessed a lingering divinity.
"An Orison of Sonmi~451", p. 329What you describe is beyond the... conceivable, Sonmi~451. Murdering fabricants to supply dineries with food and Soap... no. The charge is preposterous, no, it's unconscionable, no it's blasphemy! As an Archivist I can't deny that you saw what you believe you saw, but as a consumer of the corpocracy, I am impelled to say, what you saw must, must, have been a Union... set, created for your benefit. No such... "slaughtership" could possibly be permitted to xist. The Beloved Chairman would never permit it! The Juche would ionize Papa Song's entire exec strata in the Litehouse! If fabricants weren't paid for their labor in retirement communities, the whole pyramid would be... the foulest perfidy.Business is business.
"An Orison of Sonmi~451", p. 343-344[...] in a cycle as old as tribalism, ignorance of the Other engenders fear; fear engenders hatred; hatred engenders violence; violence engenders further violence until the only "rights," the only law, are whatever is willed by the most powerful.
"An Orison of Sonmi~451", p. 344Many xpert witnesses at. our trial denied Declarations could be the work of a fabricant, ascended or otherwise, and maintained it was ghosted by Union or a pureblood Abolitionst.How lazily "xperts" dismiss what they fail to understand.
"An Orison of Sonmi~451", p. 346
== The Ghastly Ordeal of Timothy Cavendish (Part 2) ==
Memories refused to fit, or fitted but came unglued. Even months later, how would I know if some major tranche of myself remained lost?
"The Ghastly Ordeal of Timothy Cavendish", p. 354The ghost of Sir Felix Finch whines, "But it's been done a hundred times before!"—as if there could be anything not done a hundred thousand times between Aristophanes and Andrew Void-Webber! As if Art is the What, not the How!
"The Ghastly Ordeal of Timothy Cavendish", p. 357We–by whom I mean anyone over sixty—commit two offenses just bu existing. One is Lack of Velocity. We drive too slowly, walk too slowly, talk too slowly. The world will do business with dictators, perverts, and drugs barons of all stripes, but being slowed down it cannot abide. Our second offense is being Everyman's memento mori. The world can only get comfy in shiny-eyed denial if we are out of sight.
"The Ghastly Ordeal of Timothy Cavendish", p. 360-361Once any tyranny becomes accepted as ordinary, according to Veronica, its victory is assured.
"The Ghastly Ordeal of Timothy Cavendish", p. 363Patience's design flaw became obvious for the first time in my life: the outcome is decided not during the course of play but when the cards are shuffled, before the game even begins. How pointless is that?
"The Ghastly Ordeal of Timothy Cavendish", p. 368What wouldn't I give now for a never-changing map of the ever-constant ineffable? To possess, as it were, an atlas of clouds.
"The Ghastly Ordeal of Timothy Cavendish", p. 373"Now you just look here, you grebo, you can go shag your bloody sporran if you think—" One of his teeth splashed into my Kilmagoon, fifteen feet away. (I fished the tooth out to keep as proof of this unlikely claim, otherwise no one will ever believe me.)
"The Ghastly Ordeal of Timothy Cavendish", p. 385
== Half-Lives: The First Luisa Rey Mystery (Part 2) ==
The actual past is brittle, ever-dimming + ever more problematic to access + reconstruct: in contrast, the virtual past is malleable, ever-brightening + ever more difficult to circumvent/expose as fraudulent.The present presses the virtual past into its own service, to lend credence to its mythologies + legitimacy to the imposition of will.
"Half-Lives: The First Luisa Rey Mystery", p. 392Whoever said money can't buy you happiness[...] obviously didn't have enough of the stuff.
"Half-Lives: The First Luisa Rey Mystery", p. 394
cf. "Letters from Zedelghem", p. 77: Whoever opined "Money can't buy you happiness" obviously had far too much of the stuff.What if trying to avoid the future is what triggers it all?
"Half-Lives: The First Luisa Rey Mystery", p. 401"[...]The corporation is the future. We need to let business run the country and establish a true meritocracy.""Not choked by welfare, unions, 'affirmative action' for amputee transvestite colored homeless arachnophobes...""A meritocracy of acumen. A culture that is not ashamed to acknowledge that wealth attracts power...""... and that the wealthmakers—us—are rewarded. When a man aspires to power, I ask one simple question: 'Does he think like a businessman?'"Luisa rolls her napkin into a compact ball. "I ask three simple questions. How did he get that power? How is he using it? And how can it be taken off the sonofabitch?"
"Half-Lives: The First Luisa Rey Mystery", p. 403Judith Rey watches the young woman. Once upon a time, I had a baby daughter. I dressed her in frilly frocks, enrolled her for ballet classes, and sent her to horse-riding camp five summers in a row. But look at her. She turned into Lester anyway.
"Half-Lives: The First Luisa Rey Mystery", p. 415
== Letters from Zedelghem (Part 2) ==
We cut a pack of cards called historical context—our generation, Sixsmith, cut tens, jacks, and queens. Adrien's cut threes, fours, and fives. That's all.
"Letters from Zedelghem", p. 442Another war is always coming, Robert. They are never properly extinguished. What sparks war? The will to power, the backbone of human nature. The threat of violence, the fear of violence, or actual violence, is the instrument of this dreadful will… The nation state is merely human nature inflated to monstrous proportions. QES, nations are entities whose laws are written by violence. Thus it ever was, so ever shall it be.
"Letters from Zedelghem", p. 444"Oh, diplomacy," said M.D., in his element, "it mops up war’s spillages; legitimizes its outcomes; gives the strong state the means to impose its will on a weaker one, while saving its fleets and battalions for weightier opponents."
"Letters from Zedelghem", p. 444[...] science devises ever bloodier means of war until humanity’s powers of destruction overcome our powers of creation and our civilisation drives itself to extinction. [...] Our will to power, our science, and those v. faculties that elevated us from apes, to savages, to modern man , are the same faculties that'll snuff out Homo sapiens before this century is out!
"Letters from Zedelghem", p. 444-445Boundaries between noise and sound are conventions, I see now. All boundaries are conventions, national ones too. One may transcend any convention, if only one can first conceive of doing so.
"Letters from Zedelghem", p. 460People are obscenities. Would rather be music than be a mass of tubes squeezing semisolids around itself for a few decades before becoming so dribblesome it'll no longer fucntion.
"Letters from Zedelghem", p. 470Books don't offer real escape but they can stop a mind scratching itself raw.
"Letters from Zedelghem"
== The Pacific Journal of Adam Ewing (Part 2) ==
[...] of all the world's races, our love—or rather our rapacity—for treasure, gold, spices & dominion, oh, most of all, sweet dominion, is the keenest, the hungriest, the most unscrupulous! This rapacity, yes, powers, our Progress; for ends infernal or divine I know not. Nor do you know, sir. Nor do I overly care. I feel only gratitude that my Maker cast me on the winning side.
"The Pacific Journal of Adam Ewing", p. 489Scholars discern motions in history & formulate these motions into rules that govern the rises & falls of civilizations. My belief runs contrary, however. To wit: history admits no rules; only outcomes. What precipitates outcomes? Vicious acts & virtuous acts. What precipitates acts? Belief. Belief is both prize & battlefield, within the mind & in the mind’s mirror, the world. If we believe humanity is a ladder of tribes, a colosseum of confrontation, exploitation & bestiality, such a humanity is surely brought into being, & history’s Horroxes, Boer-haaves & Gooses shall prevail. You & I, the moneyed, the privileged, the fortunate, shall not fare so badly in this world, provided our luck holds. What of it if our consciences itch? Why undermine the dominance of our race, our gunships, our heritage & our legacy? Why fight the “natural” (oh, weaselly word!) order of things? Why? Because of this: — one fine day, a purely predatory world shall consume itself. Yes, the Devil shall take the hindmost until the foremost is the hindmost. In an individual, selfishness uglifies the soul; for the human species, selfishness is extinction. Is this the doom written within our nature? If we believe that humanity may transcend tooth & claw, if we believe divers races & creeds can share this world as peaceably as the orphans share their candlenut tree, if we believe leaders must be just, violence muzzled, power accountable & the riches of the Earth & its Oceans shared equitably, such a world will come to pass. I am not deceived. It is the hardest of worlds to make real. Torturous advances won over generations can be lost by a single stroke of a myopic president’s pen or a vainglorious general’s sword.
The Pacific Journal of Adam Ewing, p. 507-508One fine day, a purely predatory world shall consume itself. Yes, the Devil shall take the hindmost until the foremost is the hindmost. In an individual, selfishness uglifies the soul; for the human species, selfishness is extinction.
"The Pacific Journal of Adam Ewing", p. 508A life spent shaping a world I want Jackson to inherit, not one I fear Jackson shall inherit, this strikes me as a life worth the living.
The Pacific Journal of Adam Ewing, p. 508I hear my father-in-law's response[...] "Naïve, dreaming Adam. He who would do battle with the many-headed hydra of human nature must pay a world of pain & his family must pay it along with him! & only as you gasp your dying breath shall you understand, your life amounted to no more than one drop in a limitless ocean!" Yet what is any ocean but a multitude of drops?
The Pacific Journal of Adam Ewing, p. 508-509
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