The Invention of Solitude
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In this debut work by New York Times-bestselling author Paul Auster (The New York Trilogy), The Invention of Solitude, a memoir, established Auster’s reputation as a major new voice in American writing. His moving and personal meditation on fatherhood is split into two stylistically separate sections. In the first, Auster reflects on the memories of his father who was a distant, undemonstrative, and cold man who died an untimely death. As he sifts through his Father’s things, Auster uncovers a sixty-year-old murder mystery that sheds light on his father’s elusive character. In the second section, the perspective shifts and Auster begins to reflect on his own identity as a father by adopting the voice of a narrator, “A.” Through a mosaic of images, coincidences, and associations “A,” contemplates his separation from his son, his dying grandfather, turning the story into a self-conscious reflection on the process of writing.
flatten him out as a personality. But at the same time, it was also what saved him, the thing that allowed him to live. To the extent that he was able to live. From a bag of loose pictures: a trick photograph taken in an Atlantic City studio sometime during the Forties. There are several of him sitting around a table, each image shot from a different angle, so that at first you think it must be a group of several different men. Because of the gloom that surrounds them, because of the utter
31, 1942. “With zeal and zest I threw myself into the work to help assemble archive materials. I was entrusted to be the custodian. I hid the material. Besides me, no one knew. I confided only in my friend Hersh Wasser, my supervisor…. It is well hidden. Please God that it be preserved. That will be the finest and best we achieved in the present gruesome time…. I know that we will not endure. To survive and remain alive after such horrible murders and massacres is impossible. Therefore I write
having to make any decisions about the things it contained. It was not that he was clinging to the past, trying to preserve the house as a museum. On the contrary, he seemed to be unaware of what he was doing. It was negligence that governed him, not memory, and even though he went on living in that house all those years, he lived in it as a stranger might have. As the years went by, he spent less and less time there. He ate nearly all his meals in restaurants, arranged his social calendar so as
boy closes his eyes and goes to sleep, his father’s voice goes on speaking in the dark. The Book of Memory. Book Twelve. He can go no farther than this. Children have suffered at the hands of adults, for no reason whatsoever. Children have been abandoned, have been left to starve, have been murdered, for no reason whatsoever. It is not possible, he realizes, to go any farther than this. “But then there are the children,” says Ivan Karamazov, “and what am I to do with them?” And again: “I want
disease. His hair had fallen out in patches, and his head was half bald. Two nurses dressed in white walked into the room and told him: “Today you are going to die. It’s too late to help you.” They were almost mechanical in their indifference to him. He cried and pleaded with them, “I’m too young to die, I don’t want to die now.” “It’s too late,” the nurses answered. “We have to shave your head now.” With tears pouring from his eyes, he allowed them to shave his head. Then they said: “The coffin