Jason wrote:Maybe the Sarvastivadins (along with Parmenides and the Eleatics) had it right after all.
On its simplest level, Cloud Atlas is a set of six sharply
contrasting stories, each one capable of standing alone
as a complete tale, but only revealing its full resonance
when viewed in the context of the total work. ...
Yet the concept of a
“cloud atlas” appears elsewhere—for example, as a
symbolic representation of the transmigration of souls
—or in a rare recording of Frobisher’s composition that
figures as a plot elements in a separate story. The
multivalent meaning of this one element is an example
of the many prefigurings and reverberations that give
depth and suchness to this ambitious novel.
As a result, the linkages between the six narratives are
difficult, perhaps impossible, to summarize. But let me
propose a (Philip K.) Dicksian way of approaching this
interconnectivity. Imagine that the defining stories of
our lives are not rooted in reality, as many critics
assume, but in other stories. ...
On top of this intriguing structure, Mitchell
superimposes echoes of Nietzsche’s theory of eternal
recurrence. You may recall that this odd and seemingly
implausible philosophical concept proposes a universe
that does not advance chronologically, but merely
repeats itself, over and over again. This cyclical concept
of history does not presuppose any theistic doctrines,
but can be made congruent with a belief in
reincarnation. Mitchell clearly draws on this
metaphysical angle, and sets in motion story elements
that imply that the characters in his six tales may be
reincarnations of each other.
Of course, none of this is presented in the blunt, point-
by-point way that I have just outlined it. Mitchell
works his changes subtly, and even at his most
philosophical, he “clouds” his points in a fog of
ambiguity. He is, after all, a storyteller and not a
theoretician, and the narrative is never dislodged by
the higher order meanings. They merely float above
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