Cloud Cuckoo Land
In the besieged city of Constantinople in 1453, in a public library in Lakeport, Idaho, in the present day, and on a spaceship bound for a vastly distant exoplanet decades from now, an ancient text provides solace, mystery, and the most profound human connection to five characters in peril. It is the story of Aethon, who longs to be turned into a bird so that he can fly to the paradise of Cloud Cuckoo Land, a better world.
Twelve-year-old Anna lives and works in the house of Kalaphates, where women toil all day embroidering the robes of priests. She is too restless to be good at embroidery. She learns to read from an old Greek tutor she encounters on her errands in the city. And in an abandoned priory, she finds a stash of old books, one of which is Aethon's story, which she reads to her sister as the walls of Constantinople are bombarded by Ottoman armies. Anna escapes, carrying only a small sack with bread, salt fish—and the book.
Outside the city walls, there is Omeir, a village boy, conscripted along with his beloved pair of oxen to fight in the Sultan's conquest. His oxen have died; he has deserted. His life and Anna’s will be joined.
In Lakeport, Idaho, in 2020, Seymour, a young activist determined to save the earth, sits in the public library with two homemade bombs in pressure cookers—another siege. Upstairs, eighty-five-year old Zeno, a retired snowplow driver, a former prisoner-of-war, and an amateur translator, rehearses five children in a play adaptation of Aethon's adventures.
On an interstellar ark called The Argos, Konstance is alone in a vault with a cot, sacks of Nourish powder, and access to all the information in the world—or so she is told. She, too, knows of Aethon, through her father, who has sequestered her to protect her. It is the story that sustains her.
Konstance, Anna, Omeir, the children in the library. Like Marie-Laure and Werner in All the Light We Cannot See, they are dreamers and misfits on the cusp of adulthood, who survive through their own resilience and resourcefulness, and through story. Their offering to us is hope.
Cloud Cuckoo Land is a hauntingly beautiful and redemptive novel about stewardship—of the book, of the Earth, of the human heart.
Daisy Meyrick manages the translation rights for Cloud Cuckoo Land