Random thought: Two versions of Cloud Atlas?


I’m struggling to get through the book I’m reading at the moment. Too distracted by the Olympics.

An article in the Guardian caught my attention today, given that it concerns David Mitchell (the novelly one, not the comedic one) and Cloud Atlas.

I read Cloud Atlas around 9 years ago. Too long ago to have written a review. It was my first encounter with Mitchell, and I took to him immediately. There were elements to the book that I remember not liking – the vernacular of the future humans at the apex (or nadir, depending on whether you see the novel as a crescendo followed by a diminuendo or vice versa) and some of the cod philosophy – but I loved the structure and the idea of a repeating soul that doesn’t understand what its purpose is.

Because I’m quite taken with the idea of parallel universes and Hugh Everett’s theory of many worlds, as I read more of Mitchell’s books, I also loved that characters from Cloud Atlas originated in earlier books by Mitchell and popped up in subsequent ones.

The article intrigued me. There is the straightforward explanation that it was down to one editor leaving and changes to the US manuscript made when a new editor was appointed three months later not being made in the UK manuscript. I want to think of it as another parallel world, though. That the UK edition is one of many iterations of the story, along with the US edition, but that these two somehow ended up being in the same world. A literary Quantum Leap, if you will. The spaghetti of time crossing itself and a manuscript with a disappearing editor leaking through. Oh, boy!

I like David Mitchell’s own take on it:

I’d ask readers to view the difference between the Cloud Atlases less like a director’s cut versus the original release and more like two very slightly different versions of the same song, recorded with the same musicians, in the same room, at the same session, with differences of only a few notes and a few words, which you can only spot if you concentrate intently.

It makes me want to get my hands on a US edition to see whether I’m in the wrong parallel universe.

2 thoughts on “Random thought: Two versions of Cloud Atlas?

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