Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers
Single-mindedness is a virtue with which Akira Kumo, Hiroshima survivor and successful couturier, is intimately acquainted. Reinventing himself, he fled war-torn Japan and moved to Paris, where he established a reputation as a designer with an exquisite eye and a quick hand. Decades have passed since his miraculous survival; he is now wealthy and respected and is finally able to pursue his true passion: collecting every work about clouds and meteorology in existence.
Kumo hires Virginie, a young librarian, to catalog the works he possesses and to track those he has yet to acquire. Virginie's interest in clouds is limited to weather patterns, so she finds Kumo's fascination with them mysterious and unsettling. At work in his library, Kumo regales her with stories of those whose devotion has equaled his own: the Quaker Luke Howard, a contemporary of Goethe's who spent his life classifying clouds; Carmichael, an artist who spent a year painting them; and Abercrombie, a photographer who filled portfolios with his catalogs of clouds. It is not until Virginie embarks on an unexpected trip to London to secure an elusive work of Abercrombie's that she discovers a passion of her own.
Intertwining stories both real and fanciful, Audeguy has fashioned a splendidly original first novel reminiscent of the lyricism of Kazuo Ishiguro and the keen intelligence of Julian Barnes, yet fully his own.
(Holiday 2007 Selection)
Next time you're lying on the grass staring at the sky, consider that one of those puffy white clouds floating overhead weighs millions of pounds. That ordinary miracle comes to mind while reading Stephane Audeguy's strange first novel, which is equally buoyant and weighty, and puts one in the mood for reverie. Winner of the prestigious Maurice Genevoix prize in France, where the author teaches art history, The Theory of Clouds has drifted over to America in an elegant translation by Timothy Bent. 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…The novel is composed almost entirely of Kumo's stories to Virginie and, later, her stories to him, and yet despite all this talking, The Theory of Clouds contains not a single line of dialogue. Audeguy conveys everything here himself. Part of the book's magnetism, in fact, stems from its unfailingly consistent tone, the kind of quiet voice you can't help but lean in to hear.
The Washington Post
A specialized, sensual history centers this novel from French historian Audeguy, winner of the Académie Française's Prix Maurice Genevoix. Virginie, an aimless young librarian, is hired by Hiroshima survivor and Paris couturier Akira Kumo, who seems much younger than he is, to categorize his obsessive library of cloud and meteorological-related material. While Virginie works, Kumo tells stories of other cloud gazers in history, including the fictional John Constable-like painter Carmichael, who spent a year painting clouds, to the consternation of his father, and the photographer Abercrombie, who left behind the much speculated upon cloud book that bears his name. As Kumo's past begins to come into focus, Virginie is drawn into his life. Audeguy's prose, lyrical in translation, mostly manages to contain sudden shifts of time and explorations of cloud lore. Beautifully written and imaginatively structured, Audeguy's book is as diaphanous as its subject. (Sept.)Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Ever since witnessing the cloud that formed over Hiroshima when the atom bomb was dropped, Akira Kumo has been enchanted by clouds. Assisted by French librarian Virginie Latour, Kumo seeks the legendary notebook of cloud study, The Abercrombie Protocol, and attempts to investigate the mystery surrounding its author: in the late 19th century, meteorologist Richard Abercrombie suddenly switched from photographing clouds to female sexual organs. Dotting this adventure tale are anecdotes about historical and imaginary characters, such as Luke Howard, Goethe, William S. Williamsson, and a painter called Carmichael, which provide an overview of the evolution of meteorology. The unusual blend of science and concupiscence stimulates consideration of the need to strike a fine balance between mind and flesh. This debut novel by French author Audeguy, published in France in 2005, is the first of a trilogy (followed by Only Sonand a work in progress) that contemplates "the relationship between man, nature, technology, and history." Audeguy rekindles our appreciation of nature as we face the current climatic dilemma of global warming. Strongly recommended for public and academic libraries.
Age-indeterminate Hiroshima survivor and 20-something librarian form an unlikely alliance while studying cloud-seekers in Audeguy's debut. The shadow of W.B. Sebald looms like cumulonimbus over this novel. In his Paris hotel particulier with its glassed-in third story, Japanese designer Akira Kumo is briefing Virginie, whom he's hired to catalogue his considerable archive on the science and art of cloud observation. Structured as a series of tales exchanged by the pair, the action ranges across two centuries of weather, depicting Quaker missionary Howard, the first man to classify clouds (c. 1802), Carmichael, whose sky paintings eventually drove him mad, and most exhaustively, Richard Abercrombie, an explorer and scientist who journeyed the globe hoping to best his rival, Williamsson, with a photographic atlas of world climates. A mushroom cloud has shaped Kumo's life: His true age (in 2005) could be anything from 71 to 80-plus, due to destroyed birth records, his suppressed memories and his compulsion to continually start anew. Gradually the truth emerges: His parents died in air raids, and his sister was vaporized by the bomb at Hiroshima-Kumo was saved because he was skinny-dipping in a pond. He sends Virginie to London to scout out the missing lynchpin of his collection: the fabled Abercrombie Protocol, supposedly the compendium Abercrombie completed after his world tour. After a brief affair with Abercrombie's grandson, Virginie secures the Protocol. She returns to Paris to find Kumo wheelchair-bound after an abortive suicide leap off his balcony. The Protocol chronicles Abercrombie's disillusionment in a Borneo jungle as he witnesses the death of a noble orangutan at the hands ofboorish Englishmen. Abercrombie, a 49-year-old virgin, becomes a determined libertine: The Protocol, it will appear, is largely photographs of women's genitalia. Bent's supple translation enlivens potentially dry meteorological meditations. Readers might wish for more stage time with Kumo and Virginie, which is not possible in a novel that exalts intersecting motifs over character. Unconventional and memorable.
The Bloomsbury Review
[A] luminous first novel.
From the Publisher
FRENCH PRAISE FOR THE THEORY OF CLOUDS
"A cyclonic fiction illuminated by flashes of genius." --Elle
"An impressive first novel . . . Belongs up there with the works of Jonathan Coe, Julian Barnes or Kazuo Ishiguro." --Les Inrockuptibles
"A Proustian first novel, climatic, ambitious, and splendid." --Politis