“The Beauty of the House is immeasurable; its Kindness infinite.”
Piranesi is a fantasy fiction by the English author Susanna Clarke. Winner of the Women’s Prize for Fiction 2021, the book is narrated by the title character Piranesi about his life in a labyrinth like House filled with countless halls and statutes.
The House is infinitely large and it has multiple halls connected by endless corridors. It has clouds in the upper halls and an ocean in the lower halls. Occasionally, when the tides come in, some of the rooms are flooded as the water rises up to the staircases. The are some fishes and birds and whatever lack in the House are in the form of statutes in various forms and sizes. Some are in life size and some enormously large. Apart from Piranesi, there’s only another human in the House to whom he refers to as “the Other”. Piranesi regards the Other as a higher intelligent person and follows his instructions. The Other meets with Piranesi twice a week and asks for help for with his research, A Great and Secret Knowledge.
Piranesi keeps a journal and notes down from every statues he had seen to his discussion with the Other as well as the map of the stars to the schedules of the tides. There are several other halls in the House Piranesi has yet to explored. As he keeps exploring in the House, Piranesi finds the existence of another person. Slowly he discovers a world beyond he knows. From the fragment of traces he found in the rooms to his old journal entries, he begins to learn about the terrible truth about the Other.
For such a short book, it seemed like a long journey at the start of the book but I pick up the pace after some pages. Rich with mysteries for Piranesi to unfold, the writer unravels the existence of the House as well as why and how Piranesi is in it. What is real and what is magic in this world? Such questions are explored in tantalising yet absorbing narrative. Along with Piranesi, I have a chance to saunter through the halls of the House and witness the beauty of each statute and appreciate the tranquility of the House in its peculiar labyrinth. I also get to experience the adventurous journey of the world other than his own.
This is such a poignant read with an unforgettable character. It is easy for one to get lost in a fantasy world especially when it is a complex structure with enticing beauty in it. Self discovery and one’s perspective in life are presented with intricate yet convincing narrative. So impressed as well as speechless. This post could probably a rather dull review despite Clarke’s crafty and inventive storytelling. It’s a kind book I will read it again in future. I will definitely revisit the halls of the House, take a closer look at the statutes and of course listen to Piranesi talking about his discoveries. I’d also recommend you to visit the House and when you do, I’d like to share some words by Piranesi himself.
“May your Paths be safe, your Floors unbroken and may the House fill your eyes with Beauty.”