Review: The Carpet Makers by Andreas Eschbach

Each chapter of Eschbach's The Carpet Makers is a beautiful little short story in itself.

The carpet makers of the title spend their lives on the single carpet they create. It is made from the hair of their wives and daughters, and when it is finally finished they sell it and give their money to their son so that he, too, may spend his life making a carpet. They carpet makers can only afford to have one son.

The carpets are bought by the Emperor. The people suppose he must have a very large palace with many beautiful carpets in it. If they ever thought about it they would realise that the palace must be stacked high with the carpets created by so many generations, but they don't think about it.

Someone else does. People from far away who have new ideas for the Empire begin to wonder what is being done with all these carpets created not just by the generations of one planet, but of many. Where do they all go? Why?

Eschbach beautifully elicits the idea of a people so imbued with the idea of their Emporer that they cannot think of any other way of being. It is simply life as they know it and most of them cannot even consider anything else. One of the saddest stories in the novel is that of an Empire man who cannot question authority enough to save his friend, even though he would have liked to.

There is no rage in the book. It's theme is exactly that of people doing the best they can with their lives, and even those who want change find themselves in some way trapped by the burden of the Empire.