David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas, heralded elsewhere, is pronounced unreadable by Telegraph reviewer

David Mitchell’s third novel, Cloud Atlas, has garnered “rave reviews in such diverse publications as The Times, Time Out, The Observer, Spectator, Big Issue and Times Literary Supplement” but won’t be reviewed in the Telegraph:

Our reviewer, Harry Mount, found Mitchell’s work impossible to finish: “Cloud Atlas is wilfully confusing and impenetrable, jumping from 19th-century Sydney to 1930s Belgium to 1970s California, sometimes making the jump in mid-sentence.

“The historical bits are awash with ludicrous olden-days dialogue: ‘O, diresome bad things was gettin’, yay.’ There are no desks, but there are escritoires. The whole book shouts: ‘I am so clever that I don’t need to entertain you.'”

Some readers initially found Mitchell’s Ghostwritten difficult but pressed on and became convinced of its “mind-bending invention.” Lawrence Norfolk, writing for the Independent late last month, recalled:

My first reaction to the work of David Mitchell was to hurl it across the room. In the winter of 1998, Tibor Fischer and I were separately sifting through the vast, open submission that would later become an anthology called New Writing 8. Sometimes our respective manuscript piles shrank to ankle height. More usually they hovered about knee-level. Most of the submissions ranged from competent but dull, to those of interest only to clinical psychiatrists. And then, rarely, there were the surprises. Towards the end of the selection process, with the anthology already bulging at the seams, the arrival of what seemed to be several very long short stories was, at best, unwelcome. Even more so when others of these “short” stories arrived from the same source: a young Englishman living in Hiroshima. Eventually, a 700-page manuscript piled up. It seemed the only way to check its growth was to read it….

Tibor and I came independently to the same conclusion: our anthology would have to be 80 pages longer.

(First link via The Literary Saloon.)


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