Piranesi owes a lot to Borges. I suspect Susanna Clarke knows that you know this and moves on. The book radiates an atmosphere all its own: this world is a warren of chambers, the lower ones washed clean by tidal floods, the higher ones washed by light and air. All are filled with classical statuary, many in poses that seem to convey an enigmatic message. Piranesi is the permanent occupant of this world--he knows no other, now-- and is visited from time to time by the mysterious Other. But where does the Other come from, and where does he disappear to? This question is the motor of this elegantly written and artfully structured novel, but what sticks in the mind is that classical, clean, slightly menacing world of statues. This is a book that, for all its restraint, feels as if it was plucked from the unconscious, which accounts for its haunting, ambiguous, powerful beauty.
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Victoria Chang--February 23
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