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.
I had played a nice game. No I hadn’t, I said, it was terrible. Well, you did your best, he answered. You can’t do well every time. It was not that he was trying to encourage me. Nor was he trying to be unkind. Rather, he was saying what one says on such occasions, as if automatically. They were the right words to say, and yet they were delivered without feeling, an exercise in decorum, uttered in the same abstracted tone of voice he would use almost twenty years later when he said, “A beautiful
Six or eight months ago he met with financial reverses…. “Some time ago Mrs. Auster appealed to the police to aid her in watching Mr. Auster as she alleged that he had relations with a young woman which she believed should be investigated. It was in this way that the police first learned of the woman ‘Fanny’…. “Many people had seen and talked with Auster on Thursday afternoon and these people all declared that he appeared to be normal and that he showed no signs of desiring to take his own
sensation of familiarity and disorientation, for Auster, deeply anchored in the New World, does not write European books in America; he enriches the American novel with European themes. The Invention of Solitude, a tribute to Auster’s departed father, continues in the second part with a warm greeting to all those poets and thinkers who have influenced the author. Through writing we can choose other fathers to compensate for our own, discover a spiritual link, go beyond ourselves. Memory is
with the old man on his back) that gives the story meaning for him. A boy of three is indeed very little. A wisp of puniness against the bulk of his father, he dreams of acquiring inordinate powers to conquer the paltry reality of himself. He is still too young to understand that one day he will be as big as his father, and even when it is explained to him very carefully, the facts are still open to gross misinterpretations: “And some day I’ll be the same tall as you, and you’ll be the same
whatever. Consequently, every body experiences everything that goes on in the universe, so much so that he who sees everything might read in any body what is happening anywhere, and even what has happened or will happen. He would be able to observe in the present what is remote in both time and space…. A soul, however, can read in itself only what is directly represented in it; it is unable to unfold all at once all its folds; for these go on into infinity.”) Playing with words in the way A. did