The world’s most powerful man, Qiánlóng, emperor of China, invites the famous eighteenth-century clockmaker Alister Cox to his court in Beijing. There, in the heart of the Forbidden City, the Englishman and his assistants are to build machines that mark the passing of time as a child or a condemned man might experience it and that capture the many shades of happiness, suffering, love and loss that come with that passing.
Mystified by the rituals of a rigidly hierarchical society dominated by an unimaginably wealthy, god-like ruler, Cox musters all his expertise and ingenuity to satisfy the emperor’s desires. Finally, Qiánlóng, also known by the moniker Lord of Time, requests the construction of a clock capable of measuring eternity—a perpetuum mobile. Seizing this chance to realize a long-held dream and honor the memory of his late beloved daughter, yet conscious of the impossibility of his task, Cox sets to work. As the court is suspended in a never-ending summer, festering with evil gossip about the monster these foreigners are creating, the Englishmen wonder if they will ever escape from their gilded cage.
Richly imagined and recounted in vivid prose of extraordinary beauty, Cox, or The Course of Time is a stunning illustration of Christoph Ransmayr’s talent for imbuing a captivating tale with intense metaphorical, indeed metaphysical force. More than a meeting of two men, one isolated by power, the other by grief, this is an exploration of mortality and a virtuoso demonstration that storytelling alone can truly conquer time.
‘All storytelling moves between these two poles—a voice and an ear. If no one dares to break the silence to tell a story, there will be nothing to hear, understand and transmit. And conversely, if a story does not find a ready ear, its telling is no more than a sad act.’—Christoph Ransmayr, Man Booker International Prize 2018 longlist interview for The Flying Mountain
Praise for The Flying Mountain
‘A haunting tale, epic in scope, bringing together familial and national histories in a tender and powerfully-observed account of brotherly love.’—Irish Times
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