Margarita Latunsky works at an art museum in Saint Petersburg while planning a heist.
Who is he, you ask, holding forth in a loud voice about what Agnolo Bronzino really meant to say half a millennium ago in Florence? He is a lecturer, exposing his erudition like a flasher in Smolnogo Park.
Agnolo di Cosimo (1503 – 1572), usually known as Bronzini, was a Florentine Mannerist painter. He was mainly a portraitist but also painted many religious subjects, and a few allegorical subjects.
I can’t find Smolnogo Park.
 Reference (and another reference to a “big black Zil,” see Post 2, note ):
Where many years ago I used to drive with my politburo minister, sipping cocktails in the back of his big black Zil.
noun – the principal policy-making committee of a Communist Party.
I turn my back to all that, spinning on my heel, and do a mazurka across the slippery wooden floor.
noun – a lively Polish dance in triple time.
Eve and the Serpent by Delacroix.
Ferdinand Victor Eugene Delacroix (1798 – 1863) was a French Romantic artist regarded from the outset of his career as the leader of the French Romantic school.
Delacroix painted an Adam and Eve but I can’t find a painting of Eve and the Serpent. I think this painting may be an invention for Ghostwritten.
There will come a time, not long from now, when he will see whose web he has been stuck in during the last year. And so will the Serious Crime Police Squad.
Britain has a Serious Crime Police Squad; the closest approximation I can find for Russia is OMON (Special Purpose Mobility Unit), which was a system of special police units of Federal Police within the Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs.
I’m going to tell you a secret. Everything is about wanting. Everything. Things happen because of people wanting. Watch closely, and you’ll see what I mean.
Head Curator Rogorshev will be prettying himself up in his private washroom now. Not many men get to manicure their own corpse.
All these new shops, Benetton.
Bentton Group is a global fashion brand, based in Ponzano Veneto, Italy. The name comes from the Benetton family who founded the company in 1965.
He used to tell me stories of the ocean, Sakhalin, the White Sea, submarines under the ice.
Sakhalin is a large Russian island in the North Pacific Ocean. It is Russia’s largest island, and is administered as part of Sakhalin Oblast. It is just off the east coast of Russia and just north of Japan.
“This bone china is a last surviving luxury,” he says, “real Wedgwood.”
Real butter in a Wedgwood butter dish.
Josiah Wedgwood and Sons, commonly known as Wedgwood, is a fine china, porcelain, and luxury accessories company founded in 1759.
Today is Heroes’ Day, so nobody is on the scaffolding.
Heroes of the Fatherland Day (or Heroes Day) is celebrated on December 9th in Russia.
“That’s Russian Constructivism for you! Kadinsky’s an absolute cinch, from a copyist’s point of view.”
Constructivism was an artistic and architectural philosophy that originated in Russia beginning in 1913 by Vladamir Tatlin. This was a rejection of the idea of autonomous art.
Wassily Wassilyevich Kandinsky (1866 – 1944) was a Russian painter and art theorist. He is credited with painting one of the first purely abstract works. (His work is amazing.)
When Jerome rattles on like this, I feel I’m no longer in the room with him.
“Oh, St. Ciaran above.”
Clear Island folklore said that a person who slept in Ciaran’s Tomb would turn into either a crow or a poet.
Ciaran of Saigir (5th century – ~530) was one of the Twelve Apostles of Ireland and is considered the first saint to have been born in Ireland. He is sometimes called Saint Ciaran the Elder. He was born on Clear Island (Post 4, note ).
When I want something from a woman I get angry. When I want something from a man I pout.
I offered her a Benson and Hedges.
Benson & Hedges is a British brand of cigarettes.
I’ve never noticed the windows above the Glinka Capella, how graceful they are.
The Academic Glinka Capella is the oldest concert hall in Saint Petersburg.
All I remember about Tatyana’s flat is a sober clock, which dropped tocks like pebbles down a deep shaft.
The grandfather clock’s pendulum grated like a spade digging far below.
I like this echo between stories of the ominous sound of time.
“Sometimes I imagine that I’ll walk out into the corridor and bump into an eighteenth-century Count of Archangel.”
Arkhangelsk, a city in the north of European Russia, is also known in English as Archangel.
“If there’s no love, what keeps good in a different cage from evil?”
“Why do I hate God? Zoroaster, Manichean heresies, (…) Thingysky’s pyramid.”
Zoroaster is another name for Zarathustra, the prophet of ancient Iran.
Manichaesim was a major religion that was founded by the Iranian prophet Mani in the Sasanian Empire. Manichaeism taught an elaborate dualistic cosmology describing the struggle between a good, spiritual world of light, and an evil, material world of darkness.
Thingysky’s pyramid is likely a tease on something (Skoreski’s pyramid or something), but I’m not sure what.
Tatyana whisked me onwards, but the Thewlicker’s goose between her legs flew faster than mine.
Thewlicker’s goose is a phrase that only appears in David Mitchell books (it also shows up in number9dream). Even “Thewlicker” by itself refers back to Mitchell’s works.
I could put on that pair of unladdered red fishnet tights.
noun – untorn
Frothing tapeworms of blood were wriggling free from my lover’s eyes and nostrils. White as suet, white as suet.
A weapon men use against women is the refusal to take them seriously.
 Last line:
None of this happened. None of this really happened.
Marco is a ghostwriter (for Timothy Cavendish) and a drummer. He scrapes along without much ambition and resists commitment, even though he is especially fond of one of his many girlfriends and her young daughter.
[Side note: Even though the plots and locations of each story are quite different, the narrators were beginning to sound alike by this point. This stretch of Margarita, Marco, and Mo (“Petersburg,” “London,” and “Clear Island”) dragged so very much.]
 Katy (Neal’s ex-wife from “Hong Kong”) shows up in this story with a print of a Delacroix (note ) in her bedroom.
She found her earring and noticed the way I was looking at her. She cleared her throat. “Katy Forbes. The personnel manager.” (…)
A single woman’s bedroom. Lacy curtains, trees bobbing in the early autumn. A framed poster of an oil painting, with a big ‘Delacroix’ written underneath it.
A baldish youngish chap in a punt.
noun – a long, narrow, flat-bottomed boat, square at both ends and propelled with a long pole, used on inland waters chiefly for recreation.
verb – travel or convey in a punt.
Onto this Vesuvius of cholesterol I grated a light snowfall of Wensleydale.
Wensleydale is a style of cheese originally produced in Wensleydale, North Yorkshire.
Some fresh beef tomatoes on the side, with chopped celery, sultanas, and a dollop of potato salad.
The sultana is a “white” (pale green), oval seedless grape variety also called the sultanina, Thompson Seedless (United States), Lady de Coverly (England) and oval-fruited Kishmish (Iran, Turkey, Palestine).
He saw me and his face said, “Nice one Cyril.”
Cyril Barry Knowles (1944 – 1991) was a footballer who played full-back for Tottenham Hotspur and England. He was the inspiration for the popular record “Nice One, Cyril” released by Cockerel Chorus in 1973.
 Three times, Marco is asked to leave a place when a character is reminded of a character from an earlier section.
Katy Forbes thinking of Neal (from “Hong Kong”):
Katy’s thoughts wandered a long way away. “Marco,” she said, “thank you for making breakfast. It was really… But I think I’d like you to go now.” There was a tremor in her voice. “You’re not a bad man.”
“Okay,” I said. “Could I just hop in your shower?”
“I’d like you to go now.”
Alfred, after being told Jerome (from “Petersburg”) has been killed:
“Marco,” Alfred said, his eyes focusing on the far distance, “thank you for coming. But I think I’d like you to go now.” There was a tremor in his voice. “We shall continue next week.”
Tim Cavendish, after being told his brother Denholme (from “Petersburg” and “Hong Kong”) is on the phone:
Tim sighed. “Sorry, Marco. This is going to be protracted sibling stuff. Why don’t you drop in next week after I’ve had a chance to read this lot?”
My band’s called The Music of Chance. I named it after a novel by that New York bloke.
The Music of Chance (1990) is an absurdist novel by Paul Auster (b.1947), made into a film in 1993.
That Big Issue vendor guy there.
The Big Issue is a street newspaper founded by John Bird and Gordon Roddick in 1991 and published in four continents. It is written by professional journalists and sold by homeless individuals. It exists to offer homeless people, or individuals at risk of homelessness, the opportunity to earn a legitimate income. It is the world’s most widely circulated street newspaper and was inspired by Street News, a newspaper sold by homeless people in New York.
It felt as ordinary as collecting photographs from Boots the Chemist.
Boots UK Limited (formerly Boots the Chemist Limited) is a pharmacy chain in the United Kingdom and Ireland.
Look at that woman. Febrile. Corvine.
adjective – of or like a raven or crow, especially in color.
The sky was clouding over, groily clouds.
Slang. Signifies a person that is creepy, with motives that are suspect; nasty mind, slick.
The young Derek Jarman paid tribute here (…) that Colin Winsom bloke still drops by. Heard of him? See what I mean?…
Michael Derek Elworthy Jarman (1942 – 1994) was an English film director, stage designer, diarist, artist, gardener and author.
Colin Winsom doesn’t appear to be a real person.
“Before you sit down, please put the recording of Vaughan Williams’s Third Symphony onto the gramophone player.”
Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872 – 1958) was an English composer. Strongly influenced by Tudor music and English folk-song, his output marked a decisive break in British music from its German-dominated style of the 19th century. His Symphony No. 3 (published as A Pastoral Symphony and not numbered until later) was completed in 1922. It has gained the reputation of being a subtly beautiful elegy for the dead of World War I and a meditation on the sounds of peace.
“It is 1946. I am living in Berlin, working for British Intelligence (…) We are on the trail of Mausling, the rocket scientist wanted by the Americans.”
Mausling appears to be an invention of Mitchell’s.
Alfred’s eyes were all pupil, monitoring reactions and effects.
An ice cream van was playing “Oranges and Lemons.” (…) Fi, my natural mother, calls this time of year “Saint Luke’s Summer.”
Oranges and Lemons is a traditional English nursery rhyme and singing game.
Saint Luke’s Summer is a short period of warm weather around Saint Luke’s Day (October 18th).
Integrity is a bugger, it really is. Lying can get you into difficulties, but to really wind up in the crappers try telling nothing but the truth.
Italians give their cities sexes, and they all agree that the sex for a particular city is quite correct, but none of them can explain why. I love that. London’s middle-aged and male, respectably married but secretly gay.
Department stores are full of things for people who never have to lift anything when they move house.
And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow
I watched the All-Blacks score three against England.
The New Zealand national rugby union team, commonly called the All Blacks, represent New Zealand in men’s rugby union.
Too much enthusiasm is much more offputting than not enough.
A copy of A – Z Guide to Nineveh and Ur and The Racing Post.
Nineveh was an ancient Assyrian city of Upper Mesopotamia, located in modern-day northern Iraq. Its ruins are across the river from the modern-day major city of Mosul.
Ur was an important Sumerian city-state in ancient Mesopotamia, located at the site of modern Tell el-Muqayyar.
(There is, of course, an absurdity to having an “A – Z Guide” to dead cities but I don’t know if that’s the whole joke or if it means something more or if I’m thinking too hard about this.)
The Racing Post is a British daily horse racing, greyhound racing and sports betting newspaper.
“Can you believe those cultists? As if the end of the world needs to be hurried along.”
“Are autobiographies supposed to be factual? Would you like the straight answer or the convoluted one?”
“Then, from a publishing point of view, the answer is ‘God forfend.’ ”
“I’ll try the convoluted answer.”
“The act of memory is an act of ghostwriting.”
Cavendish appears to be a fan of the word “forfend” (see Cloud Atlas Post 2, note ).
“He knew Edward Heath, too, didn’t he? And he was a pal of Albert Schweitzer. (…) This is not the world of Peter Rabbit and his woodland friends. Pepys, Boswell, Johnson, Swift, all freeloading frauds to a man.”
Edward Heath (1916 – 2005) was a British politician who served as the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1970 to 1974 and the Leader of the Conservative Party from 1965 to 1975.
Albert Schweitzer (1875 – 1965) was a French-German theologian, organist, philosopher, and physician.
Samuel Pepys (1633 – 1703) was an English naval administrator and Member of Parliament who is most famous for the diary that he kept for a decade while still a relatively young man.
A sprog was smiling every time he bobbed past his gran and somehow it made my heart ache so much that I felt like crying or smashing something.
noun – referring to a baby or child (comes from armed forces’ slang referring to a new recruit).
I detected large deposits of vanity. Vanity is the softest of bedrocks to sink shafts into.
Moya was playing darts with her new boyfriend, a squaddie named Ryan.
noun – a British soldier (only the press and general public use this term; within the Army “squaddie” is felt to be insulting).
How do people pull themselves through things like that? I go to pieces just opening my credit card bills. But people do survive, all around us. The world runs on strangers coping.
My dole check comes on Monday.
 In Cloud Atlas, Cavendish’s story was the hardest to fit into the bigger picture (who was the reincarnate, what connection did he have to them, etc. See Cloud Atlas Post 2, note  and ). This suggests some answers:
What I need is a classy chair from a more elegant century, like Katy Forbes’s. Weird. I could remember her chair, her pepper mill, and the shape of her nipples, but not her face. She’d had a birthmark shaped like a comet.
“I owe more money than the government of Burundi.”
Burundi, officially the Republic of Burundi, is a landlocked country in the African Great Lakes region of East Africa.
Sometimes you meet someone, and ten minutes pass before you realize that no, they really never are going to stop talking about themselves.
A Hooray Henry hoorayed.
In British English slang, Hooray Henry or Hoorah Henry is a pejorative term, comparable to “toff” for an upper class British male who exudes loud-mouthed arrogance and an air of superiority, often flaunting his public school upbringing.
A humming switched itself off, and I was left alone in the silence that I hadn’t noticed hadn’t been there.
You can be truthful well or badly, frankly or slyly, and you can choose to do it or not to do it.