While I was in Paris, I went to a book reading at the bookstore Shakespeare & Company. The place was completely packed with books and people and the atmosphere was warm and friendly. The magical environment of Shakespeare & Co., and the good wine certainly contributed to the success of this enjoyable evening.
The author Chloe Aridjis read from her debut novel “Book of Clouds.” I bought the book the same evening and I read it few weeks later. At the beginning I was captivated by the words. And then by the story, a complex, multi-layered story, and poetically almost magically, weaved .
Tatiana, a young Mexican Jew woman, settles in Berlin in the early part of the twenty-first century, and cultivates a solitude life, she finds herself “needing other people less and less.” She has a part-time job as a transcriber for an elderly historian named Doktor Weiss, but was she has really become is “a professional in lost time” in a city which “ran on its own chronometric scale.”
Through the historian he meets Jonas, a meteorologist, who as a child in the East Germany found that the shape shifting and ever gone clouds offered him a sense of freedom.
Their paths intersect, the past merges with the present, and while city unfolds its secrets, dreams fuse with reality, violence takes the shape of a senseless, cloudy dream bringing change in their lives.
I liked this book. I liked the melancholic, wistful and lyrical tone, the atmospheric description of Berlin, the development of the characters.
I like the followed passage because it shows very convincingly and in a theatrical way why I find it difficult, or rather unpleasant to work in a public library. Like the narrator, I prefer the solitude of a room.
“Apart from the delight of listening for hours to a mesmeric voice, it was a blessing to work at my own desk in an empty room in Weiss’s apartment, infinitely more pleasing than working at the library, which I’d had to do an occasion in the past, as recently as for my last job at the psychology magazine, and though libraries were fine places, actually, I always found it impossible to complete the tasks I had been assigned for the simple reason that the more often I went there the more aware I became of the other readers, and the more aware I became of the other readers the more I noticed the profusion of nervous tics and compulsive behaviour which seemed to flourish in these places. Pretty soon it was impossible to concentrate on anything, what with the girl to my right chewing her nails and the girl to my left digging at her head, and it did not take long to realize that most people are fidgeters, as is synaptic activity were encouraged by endless scratching and fidgeting, and before long I had the impression I was in a room with eighty scholarly monkeys, busily delousing as they sat reading their books or typing at their computers, and at those rare moments when I looked up and no one was doing anything I felt as if a truce had been called or an angel were flying overhead and, out of deference, the monkeys had removed their paws from their faces and hair.”