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Bookmarks Issue: 
32-Jan-Feb-2008
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A-The Theory of CloudsParisian couturier and Hiroshima survivor Akira Kumo, owner of the world's largest collection of books about clouds, hires Virginie Latour to put his library in order. While they work, Akira regales Virginie with tales of the scientists and artists devoted to, and sometimes driven mad by, the study of clouds. Then he sends Virginie to London in search of the only volume missing from his library, The Abercrombie Protocol, written by a 19th-century meteorologist. Abercrombie's quest to document every variation of cloud led him to the jungles of Borneo and to a realization that changed his life forever-that secrets of the past inevitably shape the present.
Harcourt. 272 pages. $24. ISBN: 0151014280

Baltimore Sun 4 of 5 Stars
"It's difficult to impart the lyricism and intensity of Audeguy's novel, which is far more than the esoteric history of clouds. ... This is an extraordinary bit of fiction, incorporating layer upon layer of history mixed with that Proustian pathos." Victoria A. Brownworth

Minneapolis Star Tribune 4 of 5 Stars
"The Theory of Clouds belongs to that curious subset of novels in which ideas and intellectual work are foregrounded and matter almost as much as human beings. ... Like [the late, great W. G.] Sebald, Audeguy keeps to an even, stately narrative pace that becomes ever more hypnotic." Brigitte Frase

South FL Sun-Sentinel 4 of 5 Stars
"The Theory of Clouds, for all its stylistic delicacy, is a novel of great ambition. ... But it is as intricately plotted as any thriller, with gems skillfully embedded throughout." Chauncey Mabe

Toronto Star 4 of 5 Stars
"We have here an interesting potpourri of a narrative, mixing fact and fiction, with a definite moral attached: watch what you watch." Philip Marchand

Washington Post 4 of 5 Stars
"The first volume of a planned trilogy, it's an amorphous story, alternately static and turbulent, a subtle mixture of history and fiction, tragedy and comedy, that's likely to look like something different to everyone who reads it. ... All the characters in The Theory of Clouds remain distant, emotionally impenetrable in a way that seems downright un-American, but nonetheless their elliptical stories are enchanting, the way they drift into one another, growing less coherent and more absurd." Ron Charles

Critical Summary

French film historian Stephane Audeguy has penned a remarkable first novel in The Theory of Clouds. Compared in his native France to Julian Barnes and Kazuo Ishiguro, his lovely, poetic prose (nary a line of dialogue to be found) and charming, melancholy tone won over American critics. Audeguy skillfully layers history, myth, and fiction as he explores the enigma of intellectual passions, human nature, and the nature of clouds. Though the novel struck some critics as quintessentially French in its ruminations, characters, and underlying sense of sadness, they nonetheless pronounced it "unpretentious and readable" (South Florida Sun-Sentinel). Winner of France's prestigious Maurice Genevoix Prize, The Theory of Clouds-"an exquisite, eccentric read" (Baltimore Sun)-should please American readers as much as their French counterparts.