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Friederike von Rauch on Piranesi
3 May, 2021
‘The beauty of the house is immeasurable, its kindness infinite.’
I felt very close to this book, although fantastic fiction is not my favorite genre. I absolutely loved the precise descriptions of the house in its grandeur, with all its many halls and sculptures, and its enormous ‘benevolence’ towards its inhabitant. I visualise it like my cherished Roosenberg Monastery in Belgium by Dom Hans von der Laan, which upon entering I immediately feel a sense of calm, a quasi-instinctive repose. I believe some spaces have a soothing effect on me, they help me reflect and see things differently, more vivid and clear. Piranesi’s house is no ordinary building: its rooms are infinite, its corridors endless, its walls lined with thousands of statues, each different from the others. An ocean is trapped in the labyrinth of corridors; waves thunder up the stairs, rooms are flooded in an instant. But Piranesi is not afraid; he understands the tides as he understands the pattern of the labyrinth itself. He has devoted his life to exploring it. And the further he ventures into the corridors, the closer he comes to the truth – the truth about the world beyond. We know nothing at first; we accompany Piranesi on his daily tasks, which are almost as mysterious as his house. We get to hear his thoughts as we read his entries in his journals in his own style of speech. Susanna Clarke soon introduces another person, the so-called Other, and this is where the story comes to a head: on the one hand, the mystery continues to grow (if at all possible) and, on the other hand, we learn the first clues and background stories, among others about Piranesi’s past and the origin of the house. As time goes on and after some twists and turns with other characters and doors, we learn all the amazing and surprising secrets about this remarkable place. This book is extraordinary, fascinating, even spectacular: not only in terms of plot but also in setting and language. It is a work of uncanny fiction, a novel that grabs, confuses, and moves, mostly all at once.