In ‘Cloud Cuckoo Land’, Anthony Doerr creates a patchwork of connections


Anthony Doerr’s “All the Light We Cannot See” won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2015. His new book, “Cloud Cuckoo Land,” follows three storylines and five protagonists. It encompasses the past, present and future.

To structure his new plot, Doerr looked to the distant past.

“Antonius Diogenes was a writer in Greece about 1,800 years ago,” said Doerr, who lives in Idaho with his wife and two sons. “I thought it would be fun to try and design my novel in his mind, so I made up pieces of writing that Diogenes could have written, and then I built a whole novel around it. them. It quickly became a great globetrotter’s tale. It’s full of nested stories, divided into 24 sections: my own attempt at a literary mash-up that drew inspiration from dozens of genres.

“We don’t know much about Diogenes because all of his books have been lost. We know he wrote a very long tale – many scholars call him a novel – called “The Wonders Beyond Thule”. Apparently he borrowed from both scholarly and folk sources, mixed existing genres, and possibly included the first literary trip to space.

Doerr, Richard Powers and Lauren Groff are among this year’s nominees on the National Book Awards long list of fiction, which also includes Honoree Fanonne Jeffers’ epic debut novel “The Love Songs of WEB Du Bois”, already selected by Oprah Winfrey and finalist for the Kirkus Prize. Doerr’s “Cloud Cuckoo Land” is his first novel since Pulitzer Prize-winning “All the Light We Cannot See”.

The award judges will narrow the lists on October 5 and the winners, who will each receive $ 10,000, will be announced on November 17 at a ceremony in Manhattan.

The Warwick College of Arts and Sciences and SHU will present Doerr this Friday at 7pm. This is a paid event.

Question: What is the theme of your book?

A: If there is only one theme in “Cloud Cuckoo Land”, it’s connection. No matter how separated we may seem – whether by culture, space, or time – we are all connected to each other, our ancestors, our great-grandchildren, and other species with whom we share this planet.

Question: Please describe one trait that your various characters have in common.

A: They are all deeply curious. They all act, at the end of the day, with a lot of decency and courage, and they all love stories. I chose these traits because I wanted to show that even characters with the seemingly smallest roles to play in the story can significantly affect lives in the future.

Question: What was your favorite time to write?

A: Probably the distant past. Omeir, for example, is a boy who grew up in the 15th century in the mountains of what we would now call Bulgaria. It’s a world where every event, from a storm to the birth of a calf, vibrates with supernatural significance. I loved researching and imagining his life: trying to evoke the richness, color, superstitions and mythologies of his everyday existence.

Question: Of your five main protagonists, which was the most difficult to write?

A: Probably Anna, a young girl who grew up in Constantinople in the 1440s. Every time she looked back I had to rush into my research. What was she wearing on her feet? What did she eat for breakfast? How limited would his life be? It would take me months to write a single scene.

Question: Konstance is a character from the future. Why is it relevant?

A: Since my goal was to dramatize how a single copy of an ancient text tumbles down in time – like a ball bouncing through the pegs of one of those Plinko boards on “The Price Is Right” – I knew very well. early on that I wanted to show how Diogenes’ text resonated in the past, present and future. If Konstance wasn’t here, in our future, as a reader, then the stewardship of all the previous characters would have seemed less relevant.

Question: Why did you dedicate this book to librarians?

A: Each of the five protagonists, at some point in their life, has a significant relationship with a librarian. Along the way, I hope a reader will see and feel how librarians can serve as the ultimate custodians of culture. They are the guardians, protectors, guardians and teachers of human memory.

Question: What was your editing process for this book?

A: I completed a draft in March 2020, then spent the entire pandemic editing the novel. There were a lot of cuts, of course, but also a lot of additions. My editor wanted to know more about Konstance’s relationship with his father, for example, and Seymour’s relationship with his mother, so I spent months developing and deepening these sections.

Question: Something you would like to add?

A: My wife’s sister lives in a mentally handicapped home in San Diego, so we travel there often. From Warwick’s to the Central Library to The Book Catapult, I can’t think of a better city for someone who loves to read and enjoys being outdoors.

Cloud Cuckoo Land ”by Anthony Doerr (Scribner, 2021; 640 pages)

Warwick’s and USD present Anthony Doerr

When: 7 p.m. Friday October 1

Or: Shiley Theater, University of San Diego, 5998 Alcala Park, Linda Vista.

Tickets: $ 30 (includes a copy of the book)

COVID-19 Protocol: USD requires all off-campus visitors to provide proof of vaccination as well as indoor face coverings.

Telephone: (858) 454-0347

In line:

Davidson is a freelance writer.

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