I am writing a film report on Cloud Atlas (though the school system is different here, I would be in high school in the US, AFAIK) and I have to explain the title as part of this film report, but apart from the Cloud Atlas Sextet I can't remember any references to the title. The Atlas part I can interpret as a map of consequences of our actions, but I have no idea where the Clouds come from.

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    For anyone uncertain, highschool in the US is roughly ages 14 through 18 (assuming you've not been held back at all)
    – Izkata
    Jan 24, 2014 at 3:23

4 Answers 4


In an interview with Paris Review, Cloud Atlas author David Mitchell stated that the title was inspired by the piece of music of the same name by the Japanese composer Toshi Ichiyanagi, who was Yoko Ono’s first husband: "I bought the CD just because of that track's beautiful title."

Hugo Weaving, who plays the villain in all six parts of the film "Cloud Atlas" described the title thusly;

[When asked] "Why is it called 'Cloud Atlas?' " Weaving said. "The clouds being like souls and the breadth of humanity, all of the souls that are constantly shifting and changing through time," he explained. "Clouds shift their color and size and shape and come back."

"And the idea that our lives are not our own and every act out kindness out crime births your future," added Sarandon. "I think it's partially that because it's in the trailer," she said with a laugh.

Additionally, in the book (and film) one of the main characters, Frobisher develops a piece of music referred to as the "Cloud Atlas Sextet".

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    I accepted your answer and upvoted phantom42's answer, to distribute the reputation almost evenly.
    – 11684
    Jan 23, 2014 at 20:39
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    Like most artists, he doesn't seem to be able to keep his story straight on decide why decided to use it. I'm guessing the ultimate answer is "because he just liked it"
    – Valorum
    Jan 23, 2014 at 20:42
  • TL;DR it sounded cool so they just made up some random explanations.
    – o0'.
    Jan 23, 2014 at 21:02

The author David Mitchell explains this in an interview with the BBC.

(copied from Wikipedia)

The title itself "Cloud Atlas," the cloud refers to the ever changing manifestations of the Atlas, which is the fixed human nature which is always thus and ever shall be. So the book's theme is predacity, the way individuals prey on individuals, groups on groups, nations on nations, tribes on tribes. So I just take this theme and in a sense reincarnate that theme in another context...

  • Wow, I actually read the summary on Wikipedia for additional details. I should have found that.
    – 11684
    Jan 23, 2014 at 20:32

There is another mention of Cloud Atlas in the book. Perhaps somebody can help me with the exact quote, but in Sloosha's Crossin' an' Ev'rythin' After it is mentioned as being a literal atlas which the primitives use to navigate between the islands (as alluded to in real life for example by the Māori name for New Zealand: Aotearoa, "the land of the long white cloud").


I feel that the title Cloud Atlas refers to reincarnation of souls and how they navigate from where they are to where they are reincarnating. As an Atlas is a map and clouds are ever changing their shape and position I guess this I my simple explanation.

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    This is actually pretty close to the quote from Hugo Weaving in the accepted answer. I imagine the downvote is because you're not citing anything, but instead just sharing an individual impression.
    – DCShannon
    Mar 13, 2017 at 23:04

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