Piranesi, by Susanna Clarke

Piranesi by Susanna Clarke

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Reading “Piranesi”, I mostly felt unbelievably bored: Piranesi lives in a house with infinite halls; some of them submerged, in some there is an ocean and all feature statues depicting people of all kinds. Piranesi has developed a kind of faith based upon the house and how he feels it cares for him; even going as far as considering himself the child of the house.

We witness Piranesi as he wanders the halls of the house; fishing, talking to birds, the statues and the skeletons of the other thirteen people Piranesi believes to have lived in the house and, consequently, in the entire world because to Piranesi the house is the world.

There is one other living person in Piranesi’s little house – the Other! The Other is – like Piranesi – some kind of (pseudo-)scientist who devises occult rituals to find “Great and Secret Knowledge” and for years, Piranesi has almost religiously and unquestioningly followed the Other’s instructions, believed what the Other believes and catered to the Other’s whims.

This is where my issues with the book start: Piranesi is extremely naive and only very late in the “story” starts questioning what he’s being told. He thinks of himself as a scientist but instead of actually applying scientific methods, Piranesi shys away from looking too closely at the facts as he comes across them.

Piranesi is the archetypical “noble savage”; a wild human, uncorrupted by modern civilization, innocent and, thus, prone to deception. His house which he reveres as a deity – “The Beauty of the House is immeasurable; its Kindness infinite.” – “gives him life” and Piranesi believes himself to be in actual communication with the house itself.

This kind of glorification of one lifestyle which is perceived by a modern author as pure and unadulterated is something I absolutely abhor. Combined with the pseudo-religious elements and the absence of an actual story (I refuse to accept the poor excuse of “transgressive thinking” as one) this makes for the second-worst reading experience for me in 2021.

One out of five stars.

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