New Delhi, Sep 20 (PTI) Piranesi sees his friend on Tuesdays and Fridays but he prefers to be alone at home mostly, making notes of everything he explores. This is not a story of someone in quarantine due to the coronavirus pandemic but the gist of English author Susanna Clarke's new novel.
Named 'Piranesi', it is about a man named Piranesi who lives in 'the House'. In his notebooks, day after day, he makes a clear and careful record of its wonders: the labyrinth of halls, the thousands upon thousands of statues, the tides which thunder up staircases, the clouds which move in slow procession through the upper halls.
He speaks to the birds; and brings tributes of food and water lilies to the House's Dead. Once in a while, he sees his friend, known as 'the Other'. But mostly, he is alone.
The character is a mixture of innocence and wisdom. Clarke says Piranesi possesses the knowledge and the skills to live successfully in his particular world. For him, every day is busy and meant for doing meaningful work. He is a very informed person.
Clarke's first novel 'Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell' was published in October 2004. A tale of 19th-century England, where two magicians emerge to change history, it was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize and shortlisted for the Whitbread First Novel Award.
'Piranesi', published by Bloomsbury, is her second novel.
For Piranesi, precision is very important in the writing of his journals and Clarke says in choosing words, in descriptions of places, people or emotions, one wants to be as specific as he or she is able to.
'In creating a piece of fiction I might start with an image and the image itself can be something quite small. C S Lewis said that all of the Narnia books began with the image of a faun in a snowy wood, carrying parcels. Or I might start with a character about which I know very little, just one or two things,' she says.
'The important thing is that the idea, whatever it is, has roots that it goes deep down into the imagination, into the unconscious. Because if it has roots, then it will, with a bit of watering and careful pruning, grow into something quite interesting,' Clarke adds.
Piranesi is a scientist, loves being a scientist and wants to know everything he can about the House/World.
If he could, he would catalogue every statue, map every hall, take every measurement. But in the end he knows that the House is more than the sum of facts about it. For Piranesi, knowing the House itself is more important than knowing facts about the House, Clarke says.
'Piranesi' was conceived and written long before lockdown. Clarke says the lockdown has opened her life up at the same time as it closed down other people's.
'Gatherings now take place on Zoom. I can take part from my sofa. I'm in regular contact with groups of people I couldn't have dreamt of before lockdown. When people start to meet again in the real world I shall be happy for them and for all of us, but I expect my world to get a little smaller,' she says.
She also loves to write in cafes as there is coffee, croissants and toast.
'People bring them to you. There's usually a little bit of background noise which can be helpful. You're surrounded by people working, making coffee, tidying up, working on laptops. I like the proximity of people doing their work, of people enjoying working,' Clarke says.
She even has apps of cafe sounds and rain sounds on her laptop which she finds useful when she is at home. She also listens to music.
She made three 'Piranesi' playlists, a sort of soundtrack, which she listened to over and over again as she finished the book. PTI ZMN RDS RDS