The Albatross

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This is an excerpt from the book Piranesi by Susanna Clarke.

Note the capitalization is intentional and follows how it was written in the book.

I saw a vision! In the dim Air above the grey Waves hung a white, shining cross. Its whiteness was a blazing whiteness; it far outshone the Wall of Statues behind it. It was beautiful but I did not understand it. The next moment brought enlightenment of a sort: it was not a cross at all but something vast and white, which glided rapidly towards me on the Wind.

What could it be? It must be a bird, but if I could see it at such a great distance, then it must be a bird of much greater size than the birds I was accustomed to. It swept on, coming directly towards me. I spread my arms in answer to is spread wings, as if I was going to embrace it. I spoke out loud. Welcome! Welcome! Welcome! was what I think I meant to say, but the Wind took my breath from me and all I could manage was: ‘Come! Come! Come!’

The bird sailed across the heaving Waves, never once beating its wings. With great skill and ease it tipped itself slightly sideways to pass through the Doorway that separated us. Its wingspan surpassed even the width of the Door. I know what it was! An albatross!

Still it continued, straight towards me, and the strangest thought came to me: perhaps the albatross and I were destined to merge and the two of us would become another order of being entirely: an Angel! This thought both excited and frightened me, but still I remained, arms outstretched, mirroring the albatross’s flight. (I thought how surprised the Other would be when I flew into the Second South-Western Hall on my Angel Wings, bringing him messages of Peace and Joy!) My heart beat rapidly.

The moment that he reached me – the moment that I thought we would collide like Planets and become one! – I gave out a sort of gasping cry – Aahhhh! In the same instant, I felt some sort of pent-up tension go out of me, a tension I did not know I had until that moment. Vast, white wings passed over me. I felt and smelt the Air those wings brought with them, the sharp, salty, wild tang of Faraway Tides and Winds that had roamed vast distances, through Halls I would never see.

At the last moment the albatross swung over my left shoulder. I fell to the Pavement. He flapped his wings in a frantic, panicked sort of way, stuck out his wiry pink legs and tumbled out of the Air into a sort of heap on the Pavement. In the Air he was a miraculous being – a Heavenly Being – but on the Stones of the Pavement he was mortal and subject to the same embarrassments and clumsiness as other mortals.

Have you read this book? I’d love to hear your thoughts in a comment below!

Piranesi – Summary

**I don’t usually do this, but I feel like this is a book best read not knowing much about the plot. I would suggest not reading the book summary, but here it is in case you’re interested.

In case you’re interested, here is the book summary from Goodreads:

Piranesi’s house is no ordinary building: its rooms are infinite, its corridors endless, its walls are lined with thousands upon thousands of statues, each one different from all the others. Within the labyrinth of halls an ocean is imprisoned; waves thunder up staircases, 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 lives to explore the house.

There is one other person in the house—a man called The Other, who visits Piranesi twice a week and asks for help with research into A Great and Secret Knowledge. But as Piranesi explores, evidence emerges of another person, and a terrible truth begins to unravel, revealing a world beyond the one Piranesi has always known.

For readers of Neil Gaiman’s The Ocean at the End of the Lane and fans of Madeline Miller’s CircePiranesi introduces an astonishing new world, an infinite labyrinth, full of startling images and surreal beauty, haunted by the tides and the clouds.

Copyright © 2021 by Susanna Clarke.

More details on Goodreads can be found here.

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