Archive for February, 2022

Cloud Cuckoo Land

Friday, February 4th, 2022

By Anthony Doerr

The Short Take:

This beautifully written book is a must. Especially if you love books or rejoice in the recovery of lost things. It’s also a story of survival–both of people and a (fictional) story by the ancient Greek, Antonius Diogenes. Enjoy!


This novel, from the author of the fantastic All the Light We Cannot See, tracks remnants of an ancient Greek story from the 15th century to the future. While it couldn’t be more different in content the writing is just as superb as his other work, It carries you from a spaceship to Constantinople to Idaho to Korea. All while surrounding a fractured, ancient story with tales about those who love it even as it slowly disappears.

It’s a hard book to describe, with different compelling characters on different continents at different times. But Doerr knows how to turn a patchwork into a beautiful quilt that warms your heart and excites your imagination.

An important thread in this narrative is how many writings have been lost over time. For example, of the assumed 40 plays (could have been more) written by Aristophanes only 11 remain intact. Most of them are lost forever, unless rediscovered in some musty attic or abandoned ruin. While the text credits the very real Diogenes with writing Cloud Cuckoo Land, the story is Doerr’s invented fantasy about a foolish shepherd who goes on a wild adventure, turning into a donkey, a fish, and a crow. Various phases of this story’s existence are wound around two young people on opposite sides of the sack of Constantinople, a friendship formed during the Korean War, a disturbed young man who finds a friend in an owl and then loses him, and a young girl on a spaceship destined for a planet she’ll never see.

In lesser hands this might not work but Doerr makes a splendid puzzle out of it, bringing the pieces together at just the right time. It’s brilliant.

A Little Plot:

A girl in a futuristic vault writes lines from a story on scraps of paper. In contemporary Idaho, five children rehearse the play Cloud Cuckoo Land under the direction of the 86-year-old man who translated it; outside sits a young man with a bomb and a gun. A poor girl steals manuscripts from an abandoned an abbey in Constantinople in order to raise money to save her sister. All of them are involved in the survival of a single story.

For more about Anthony Doerr and his work, click here.


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February 2022