Cloud Cuckoo Land by Anthony Doerr: True literature lovers will need to hold their hats, and likely a good glass of wine to journey through the lives of our 5 seemingly unconnected heroes and anti-heroes, to come to an end that delivered catharsis in spades in Cloud Cuckoo Land.
In our disposable world wherein most things are either replaceable or ephemeral, an Ancient Greek codex containing the lost work of Antonius Diogenes becomes a linchpin to link the past, future and present. Anna, an orphan within the walls of Constantinople in the 15th century, discovers the codex whilst pilfering the ruins of a nearby castle, whilst Omeir, a Bulgarian farmer born with a cleft palate and a gentle soul is forced to join the caravan with his two twin oxen Moonlight and Tree who are headed on the new Sultan’s demands to conquer Anna’s city. Zeno, having survived the Korean War after falling in love with Rex who shared his passion for ancient tales and the Ancient Greek world, begins translating the codex in the town library in the early 2020s and Seymore, our unlikely terrorist, is determined to blow up the real estate next to the town library for destroying acres of forest that housed great western grey owls, and in particular, his true companion Trustyfriend. And finally, Konstance, stuck aboard the Argos several years into the future after the world has allegedly destroyed itself, who is trying to solve the big riddles and answer the big questions, all the while being drawn back to her father’s home town in Australia that contains more than just his childhood memories.
Each character had elements that made them remarkable and ahead of their time, yet, for the most part, they were relatively ordinary people trying to live their best lives. At times profound, and at times a puzzle, the connection between each was predominantly tied to Cloud Cuckoo Land, a tale that dares the stranger to read on, for what you will learn will amaze you – and thus, by proxy, this punctuated as a clever literary device that spoke to both the characters in the original text, the 5 whose journey we travel on and our own, as readers in our own right. In many ways, there were some truly tragic moments that were woven throughout and in spite of this, powerful themes of belonging, connectedness, finding home, and embracing life in all its glory remained front and centre to highlight both the dangerous and beautiful nature of hope.
For the most part however, it is the broader grand narratives that global truths that get held under the microscope to present an almost unbiased view of humanity, our stories, our horrors and the forgivable qualities and our redemptive nature that appear to keep us going. Summarily, this is an exquisite read, and whilst it is not easy nor can be devoured in hours, it is without a shadow of a doubt worth every moment.
Publication: 28th September 2021 | Scribner |
Thirteen-year-old Anna, an orphan, lives inside the formidable walls of Constantinople in a house of women who make their living embroidering the robes of priests. Restless, insatiably curious, Anna learns to read, and in this ancient city, famous for its libraries, she finds a book, the story of Aethon, who longs to be turned into a bird so that he can fly to a utopian paradise in the sky. This she reads to her ailing sister as the walls of the only place she has known are bombarded in the great siege of Constantinople. Outside the walls is Omeir, a village boy, miles from home, conscripted with his beloved oxen into the invading army. His path and Anna’s will cross.
Five hundred years later, in a library in Idaho, octogenarian Zeno, who learned Greek as a prisoner of war, rehearses five children in a play adaptation of Aethon’s story, preserved against all odds through centuries. Tucked among the library shelves is a bomb, planted by a troubled, idealistic teenager, Seymour. This is another siege. And in a not-so-distant future, on the interstellar ship Argos, Konstance is alone in a vault, copying on scraps of sacking the story of Aethon, told to her by her father. She has never set foot on our planet.