Friday, January 28, 2011
Cloud Atlas as Homage
The Burgess homage does not end there, however. Burgess was a professor of linguistics, and his unsurpassed understanding of language shows up primarily in his ability to invent his own. (I refer you most famously to A Clockwork Orange, and most infamously to the screenplay for Quest for Fire.) In two of the novellas of Cloud Atlas, David Mitchell lets us watch human language disintegrate in the near and distant future, in a systematic, entirely scientific way. Slang and abbreviations take over first, and then parts of speech drop off so that that nouns must be used as verbs. Burgess would have been proud.
I submit that Cloud Atlas is not only an experiment, but is also a gift from one of Britain's best living novelists to one of the greatest in that nation's history.