Cloud Cuckoo Land by Anthony Doerr is a masterpiece. It seems so simple, but isn’t that the art of it all? To take something immense and complicated and intricate and craft it into something so seemingly uncomplicated? You read it with ease. The message is achingly clear. Yet beneath it all are spiraling webs of detail, research, and thought combined with hours upon laborious hours of writing, editing, and research. It’s 622 pages of a wrenchingly beautiful story (or stories), and I loved every moment of it.
I finished reading and collecting these 22 quotes from Cloud Cuckoo Land on one of the worst days in my recent memory. Thankfully, not because of anything truly horrible, like death, tragedy, or sickness, but just random day-to-day life. You exercise, you do yoga, practice mindfulness, and then––wham. All the things you can’t control come crashing in. The technology that is technically supposed to make your life easier sucks the hours away as you try to fix it.
But, back to the book.
As someone who recently purchased an Oculus Quest 2, the scenes with Konstance on the perambulator inside the Atlas held a familiar feel. How easy it is to get lost in the “real” world, while also realizing that while what you’re seeing is real and does exist somewhere on Earth, you’re not actually living it. It’s only a glimmer, a taste of the actual thing. I have loved the virtual experience of standing in front of Petra or on a glacier or atop the Great Wall of China, but I know it would never replace seeing those locations firsthand.
If I have any criticisms of Doerr’s latest book, it’s just that I wanted more. A few more details to flesh out the ending. A little more to fill in the chinks. But, my imagination has filled in the gaps, which perhaps was his intent.
22 Quotes from Cloud Cuckoo Land by Anthony Doerr
1. “But books, like people, die. They die in fires or floods or in the mouths of worms or at the whims of tyrants. If they are not safe-guarded, they go out of the world. And when a book goes out of the world, the memory dies a second death.” Cloud Cuckoo Land, Anthony Doerr (pg. 52)
2. “Each morning comes along and you assume it will be similar enough to the previous one––that you will be safe, that your family will be alive, that you will be together, that life will remain mostly as it was. Then a moment arrives and everything changes.” Cloud Cuckoo Land, Anthony Doerr (pg. 64)
3. “…the littlest streams, high on the mountain, small enough to dam with your hand, would eventually join the river, and that the river, though quick and violent, was but a drop in the eye of the great Ocean that encircles all the lands of the world, and contains every dream everyone has dreamed.” Cloud Cuckoo Land, Anthony Doerr (pg. 159)
4. “…already I have seen things I did not know how to dream.” Cloud Cuckoo Land, Anthony Doerr (pg. 164)
5. “The things that look fixed in the world, child––mountains, wealth, empires––their permanence is only an illusion. We believe they will last, but that is only because of the brevity of our own lives. From the perspective of God, cities like this come and go like ant-hills.” Cloud Cuckoo Land, Anthony Doerr (pg. 172)
6. “To what saints’ days will bishops wear brocaded copes if the time of man on earth is ending?” Cloud Cuckoo Land, Anthony Doerr (pg. 228)
7. “There are many people in this world…who do not care to what purposes their engines are put. So long as they are paid.” Cloud Cuckoo Land, Anthony Doerr (pg. 229-230)
8. “It was so cold that when the hairy wildmen who lived there spoke, their words froze and their companions would have to wait for spring to hear what had been said.” Cloud Cuckoo Land, Anthony Doerr
9. “Boil the words you already know down to their bones…and usually you find the ancients sitting there at the bottom of the pot, staring back up.” Cloud Cuckoo Land, Anthony Doerr (pg. 247)
10. “Eventually I grew weary: I had traveled so far, yet was no closer to my destination than when I began. I was a fish inside a sea inside a bigger fish inside a bigger sea, and I wondered if the world itself swam also inside the belly of a much greater fish, all of us fish inside fish inside fish…” Cloud Cuckoo Land, Anthony Doerr
11. “Turn a page, walk the lines of sentences: the singer steps out, and conjures a world of color and noise in the space inside your head.” Cloud Cuckoo Land, Anthony Doerr (pg. 315)
12. “Why can’t healing happen as quickly as wounding? You twist an ankle, break a bone––you can be hurt in a heartbeat. Hour by hour, week by week, year by year, the cells in your body labor to remake themselves the way they were the instant before your injury. But even then you’re never the same: not quite.” Cloud Cuckoo Land, Anthony Doerr (pg. 334)
13. “How do men convince themselves that others must die so they might live?” Cloud Cuckoo Land, Anthony Doerr (pg. 378)
14. “You can cling to this world for a thousand years and still be plucked out of it in a breath.” Cloud Cuckoo Land, Anthony Doerr (pg. 384)
15. “Sometimes the things we think are lost are only hidden, waiting to be rediscovered.” Cloud Cuckoo Land, Anthony Doerr (pg. 408, 474)
16. “That’s what gods do, they spin threads of ruin through the fabric of our lives, all to make a song for generations to come. Not now, gods, Not tonight. Let these children stay children for another night.” Cloud Cuckoo Land, Anthony Doerr (pg. 439)
17. “…he that knows all that Learning ever writ, knows only this––that he knows nothing yet.” Cloud Cuckoo Land, Anthony Doerr (pg. 483)
18. “In a life you accumulate so many memories, your brain constantly winnowing through them, weighing consequence, burying pain, but somehow by the time you’re this age you still end up dragging a monumental sack of memories behind you, a burden as heavy as a continent, and eventually it becomes time to take them out of the world.” Cloud Cuckoo Land, Anthony Doerr (pg. 542)
19. “…he could live a thousand more years and never make sense of the world.” Cloud Cuckoo Land, Anthony Doerr (pg. 566)
20. “…the truth is infinitely more complicated, that we are beautiful even as we are all part of the problem, and that to be a part of the problem is to be human.” Cloud Cuckoo Land, Anthony Doerr (pg. 568)
21. “The world as it is is enough.” Cloud Cuckoo Land, Anthony Doerr (pg. 568)
22. “Forgetting, he is learning, is how the world heals itself.” Cloud Cuckoo Land, Anthony Doerr (pg. 585)