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The Theory of Clouds

3.22  ·  Rating Details ·  411 Ratings  ·  81 Reviews
Akira Kumo miraculously survived the mushroom cloud over Hiroshima. Now an eccentric couturier living in Paris, he has the world’s largest collection of literature on clouds and meteorology, which he hires Virginie Latour to catalog. As they work, he tells her the stories of those who have devoted their lives to clouds: the English Quaker who first classified clouds, the p ...more
Paperback, 272 pages
Published September 8th 2008 by Mariner Books (first published 2005)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Jim Fonseca
Oct 06, 2013 Jim Fonseca rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A lively blend of fiction and non-fiction translated from the French. This book is a mini-history of the development of early meteorology. Basically it's a series of mini-biographies of the lives of early European cloud scientists. The vignettes are woven around a simple plot: an elderly, wealthy Japanese man is a collector of rare books about clouds. He hires a young woman to catalog his Paris library. That's pretty much the plot.


What makes the book fascinating are the bizarre lives that some
MacGuffin (n): The device, the gimmick, if you will, or the papers the spies are after... The only thing that really matters is that in the [story] the plans, documents or secrets must seem to be of vital importance to the characters. -- Alfred Hitchcock

Well, here it's clouds that are the MacGuffin. From these diaphanous, yet immensely heavy, objects (Audeguy tells us that a cloud weighs several thousand tons) Audeguy hangs his tale. Or rather his tales, for as it turns out, aside from Luke Howa
Jan 08, 2009 Keith rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
My feelings about this book can best be described as mixed. I was alternately enthralled and a bit bored, entranced and exasperated. Basically it breaks down like this: Tales of the factual and fictional historical figures who turned their gaze to the clouds - fascinating; Tales of the modern folks who turn their gaze back on these historical figures - rather tedious. That's not a hard and fast rule, but it works out generally. Basically, if Audeguy is talking about clouds, it's a good book, and ...more
Amanda Raab

I picked this up cuz one of the main characters is a librarian. Yeah, I'm easy. The story begins quite slowly - and it's a short book. But Audeguy pads the story with a bunch of wonderfully arcane trivia on the history of cloud taxonomy (for real) and meteorological history. Toward the end, a rather harrowing account of surviving Hiroshima in 1946 is thrown in. It works. But it's all a bit late in the day narrative-wise, and our lady librarian protagonist is nothing but a cipher. All I real
Mar 07, 2010 Lucid_kiwi rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2010
I was pleased to find out that the first man to come up with the Latin cloud names was a pharmacist (being a pharmacist student and struggling to see the poetic side of it).

The book is light, serene, airy. It didn't feel like it was a story about something in particular, it was just a peacefully and steadily flowing story. Some parts are a bit unusual and some plain weird but I'm guessing that was intentional to point out the absurdity of life (or maybe I'm it's just me). It was a shame that du
Niki Vervaeke
Sep 29, 2015 Niki Vervaeke rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Genoten van dit boek waarin een Japanse Couturier, gefascineerd door wolken en wolkenclassificaties, op ontroerende wijze verliefd wordt. Prachtig ineengeweven levensverhalen, geschiedsschrijving, romantiek, wetenschap en zoveel meer.

Bijgevoegde recensie is eigenlijk wat ik wou schrijven
Jan 18, 2009 Stephanie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It's been a while since I reviewed a book this highly... but it was poetic. Simple yet expansive in its imagery. Simply loved it.
Дали аз имах големи очаквания... обаче съм разочарована.
Историята на метеорологията през живота на един учен от зората на тази наука. Парадоксалното е, че той не публикува никога труда на своя живот, защото всъщност в него няма метеорология. Пътувал човекът, обиколил света, за да фотографира облаци, съставил Протокол от над 300 страници, обаче снимал други работи :) Паралелно с тази линия върви едно общуване между японски дизайнер, запленен от облаците, и една библиотекарка.
На мен ми се изгуби
Jul 31, 2008 Matt rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Light and airy, like a summer salad, or, fittingly enough, a sky full of cirrus wisps, The Theory of Clouds held my attention even while being mostly completely forgettable. The writing style is simple, clean, and the plot similarly straight-forward: two stories running parallel, one faux-historical, the other fictitious in a more modern setting. Only a day later, I must admit I couldn't tell you much about the novel -- not the kind of book that you sink into, or really absorb and are changed b ...more
Dec 05, 2008 Tara rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An unexpectedly sensual, meandering story involving a Japanese collector of meteorology books in Paris and his assistant. Lovely, sparse prose and a tone of yearning—but for what?—create the kind of book that pulls you through to the end.
Ron Charles
Next time you're lying on the grass staring at the sky, consider that one of those puffy white clouds floating overhead weighs millions of pounds. That ordinary miracle comes to mind while reading St¿phane Audeguy's strange first novel, which is equally buoyant and weighty, and puts one in the mood for reverie. Winner of the prestigious Maurice Genevoix prize in France, where the author teaches art history, The Theory of Clouds has drifted over to America in an elegant translation by Timothy Ben ...more
Perry Whitford
A Japanese born fashion designer turned collector living in Paris named Akira Kumo hires a young french librarian called Virginie Latour to catalogue his beloved collection of meteorological books and drawings.He talks her through the biographies of certain men who were both fascinated by and advanced our understanding of clouds, the study of which is known as Nephology.

Luke Howard was a London Quaker from the early 19th century who established the nomenclature of clouds still used today (cumulu
Apr 16, 2009 Beatrice rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: lit
The cloud is a lovely thing: a confession that this novel certainly engages and elaborates. But clouds are, somewhat unfortunately, the only dynamic presence in this story full of hollow and vaporous human characters. Perhaps this is the point, but it seems an injustice.

We look at clouds from both sides: standing on an alpine peak just above them (before the age of the airplane), we suffer with a painter who wants to capture them, we confront the ultimate doom cloud that was Hiroshima.

And there
Feb 13, 2011 Theresa rated it really liked it
The beautifully written story of Akira Kumo, who miraculously survived the atomic bombing on Hiroshima and is now living in Paris. He has hired Virginie from the local library to help catalog his vast meteorology collection. A collection that is missing one book – a copy of Richard Abercrombie’s book on meteorology. Only one copy exists – the original and Abercrombie’s only heir has no intention of selling or donating the book.

While going through his collection, Akira explains the history of clo
Jul 12, 2012 Kyra rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: contemporary
An interesting story about an old man telling tales on how painters and scientists became so involved with clouds, how it affected their lives and on how the clouds changed history. Clouds may have been and still is underappreciated but after reading this book, one may find oneself gazing at the clouds and finally understanding why people like us admire them so. Yes, I repeat, us, because I too have been awestruck by clouds most of my life and as of the moment, I don’t know any person close to m ...more
Dec 12, 2007 Mike rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: artsy-fartsy people, history buffs, cloud lovers
I got this book from the "Discover New Writers" program at work. I should have known better; I'm rarely in the mood for "art for art's sake" or any other fancy way of saing "it doesn't make sense," but I was weak, and a little bored with economics books, so I thought I'd try it.

I can see why it's on the Discover program as it is very unique. The book alternates between two stories, one a fictional story occurring today, and a historical story of a couple centuries ago about the first meterologis
Feb 18, 2011 Kerfe rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Audeguy mixes truth and invention to form a greater whole. Fictional and historical characters' lives and actions blend and blur across oceans and times. There is scientific fact, natural history, History, and the atmosphere of particular cultural times and places.

What is a cloud? Is it what we see, what we imagine, what we write about and paint? Or can it be reduced to equations, used to predict, even alter, natural events?

Naming, categorizing, organizing: attempts to guide and control, to hold
May 09, 2009 Daniel rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
At first, he didn’t paint at all; he simply stared at the wild and unsettled expanse he wanted to capture. The sky reveals itself to you when you approach it straight on. If you try to take it quickly the results can be blinding—look at one of the painter Turner’s storms. On the other hand, if you proceed too slowly, the result is cold and unfaithful, like something produced by one of the art academies. The best thing is to plant yourself squarely in the spot you have chosen, standing straight i ...more
Paul Mitchell
I have to honestly say I wish I hadn't been so compelled to read this book. That's an odd thing to say. I was fascinated by the layers of storytelling, and even more fascinating by the talk of clouds, which is a subject I find fascinating. But I'll admit that I felt misled by the book's title and premise, and kept turning the page in search of the book I thought I would be (and wanted to) be reading.

I don't think, as a gay man, I can truly appreciate this book which, I feel, suggests a need to a
Shocking. Reviews made me think this is a slow-paced, very well written book about mainly - meteorology. It is, and I would have thoroughly enjoyed this book (5 stars). But this book is so much more. Even individually many elements would have been shocking for me - but having in the same book a weird sexual photographic fetish and a dreadful, inhuman hunting scene which still makes me cry (the authors clearly anti-hunt attitude doesn't soften it) is just too much. I'm not sure how to rate it - b ...more
Jan 21, 2008 Bill rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I got back and forth on this book. I kept expecting a narrative turn in the story that would somehow bring together some of the interesting ideas present in this book. However, as I finished it, I felt that the author never really delivered on that point, and it ultimately held the novel back.

The story has a slow somewhat detached feeling to it, which fit nicely in with the fact that it was basically a rumination on clouds by two of the main characters (who are seperated out by a hundred years.
Sally Atwell Williams
When I first started reading this book, I wasn't sure that I would finish it. But as I read on, I wanted to find out what the Abercrombie Protocol was. The tale revolves around a famous aging Japanese fashion designer who lives in Paris, France. Besides being a fashion designer, Akiro has also spent much of his later life collecting original books and papers of scientists involved in the study of clouds. He hires a young woman, Virginie, who works for a library to catalog his entire collection, ...more
Sep 08, 2013 Nyx rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Es liest sich für seine völlig dialog-freie Form erstaunlich gut und jeder Freund von Kunjungtiven hat seine schiere Freude. Und erstaunlicherweise geht es sogar viel um Wolken, was für mich das Beste an dem Buch war. Aber nachdem einen schon am Anfang ein erster Schrecken ereilte, der darauf hinwies, dass mal wieder alles auf einer sexuellen Schiene landet, soll sich die Vorahnung bestätigen. Als ginge das heutzutage noch anders. Die "Rückblicke" waren hierbei noch am Interessantesten, wie Mens ...more
Dec 04, 2007 Hilary marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Parisian couturier and Hiroshima survivor Akira Kumo, owner of the world’s largest collection of books about clouds, hires Virginie Latour to put his library in order. While they work, Akira regales Virginie with tales of the scientists and artists devoted to, and sometimes driven mad by, the study of clouds. Then he sends Virginie to London in search of the only volume missing from his library, The Abercrombie Protocol, written by a 19th-century meteorologist. Abercrombie’s quest to document ev ...more
Kimberly Ann
I wasn't sure if there was something distinctly "French" about this book that made its narrative seem looping and odd or if I was projecting French-ness onto it because I didn't quite like/"get" where it was going most of the time. I liked the stories within the stories but the larger frame holding them all together didn't develop its characters well enough for me to say I liked this much as a novel as a whole. But I did read the whole thing and rather quickly? I am for sure somewhere between tw ...more
Dec 01, 2014 Kyle rated it liked it
Shelves: book-club
Part of the novel that worked best were the ones involving the most research: a possible history for the inventor of meteorology, the dedication of artists to perfect their method and an eye-witness account of the destruction following the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. None of this, however, is acknowledged by the author - at least not in this translation - which makes it all the more incredible that these elements could be woven into a story about book collectors. Obviously someone likes to read ...more
i wish i read this in the original french. this book left me with a very forlorn feeling... it charts the obsessions of various characters with clouds, spanning the 18th c. till present day. the book reinforces something forest and i have been talking about a lot lately--how exploring our own obsessions means sacrificing our ability to relate to other people. i thought very much about anais nin and her theory of people as self-contained spheres, spending our whole lives trying to get as close as ...more
Jan 03, 2008 Jeff rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
"The Theory of Clouds" is a very interesting book that manages to be both academic and playful at the same time. It tells the story of a couturier named Kumo who lives in the shadow of Hiroshima's mushroom cloud and dedicates his life to collecting historical treatises on clouds and meteorology. Kumo's story melds with that of his predecessors, other men over the centuries who have sought answers about clouds -- what they are, what they mean, and how they can be understood. Ultimately, this is a ...more
Mar 03, 2008 Nami rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
what i really appreciate about this book is the relationship between humanity and nature. there are moments in which the writing is so beautiful it made me pause and smile, even if it was revealing a sad truth. that said, i also felt that there were entire chapters of the novel that left me bored, where i found myself wanting very much to skip ahead and get it over with. still, i'm glad for the experience, which was overall positive
Jun 30, 2013 Arjuna rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
What interests me during the first part is literally the passion about the clouds and how they are seemed painted in the author's words. However, even though I got the part where it converged to the deeper meaning behind the cloud theory, I was kinda bored on how the author presented the narrative. It was fairly touching more on the 'id' part of psychology of a person that you really wouldn't want to know.
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Stéphane Audeguy (born 1964 Tours) is an award-winning French novelist and essayist.
He studied literature at the University of Paris, where he also taught. He served as an assistant professor at the University of Virginia at Charlottesville between 1986 and 1987. He returned to France and now lives in Paris where he teaches art history and film history at a local high school.
More about Stéphane Audeguy...

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“What we call 'time' isn't chronological but spatial; what we call 'death' is merely a transition between different kinds of matter.” 7 likes
“Of all the world's civilizations, America was the one that most needed losers.” 2 likes
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