Many define Paul Auster as an illusionist, a true captivator of letters. He is the writer of the magic of chance, of destiny, of love and, above all, of that city that defines and inspires him so much: New York. Only he has the ability to transform the banal into extraordinary and trap us with his narrative enchantment.
Often, it is often said that Paul Auster is either loved from the front line or left forever. There are writers where the middle ground does not fit, or you adore them or they never finish convincing you. This same thing happens with this New York author. However, its presence in the publishing world has always been stellar. The trilogy, City of Glass, gave him worldwide fame and he introduced us to someone who would soon become that indispensable name to look for in bookstores.
Besides being a writer, he is also a screenwriter and film director. Always with his black clothes, with his devotion for French poetry and Samuel Beckett, Paul Auster, gives shape to that elegant and demanding intellectualism, which has never hesitated to position itself in social and political issues. He did it during the Iraq war, and he does it now, past the 70s in the middle of the Donald Trump era.
We are undoubtedly one of the greatest contemporary American authors. Someone who combines existentialist aspects like nobody, sometimes touching magical realism. An exceptional voice that gave us very recently his most titanic work, 4321, a splendid work that has taken about seven years to come to light.
“The world is my idea. I am the world. The world is your idea. You are the world. My world and your world are not the same.”
Paul Auster, the child who loved books
Paul Benjamin Auster was born in 1948 and grew up in South Orange, New Jersey. His family, of Jewish and Polish descent, was supported by the work of his father, a business man. This paternal figure would mark Auster’s life in an ambivalent way. Often, in many of his works, he describes him as that man who was bored by books. It was that person who always fell asleep when watching a movie and that his mother tried to leave after the honeymoon.
Since he was a child, he found oxygen in books. The shelter of a nearby public library gave him a universe of discoveries and an awakening. Also his uncle Allen Mandelbaum, a great translator who passed on his passion for reading, for the classics and that literary universe where he began early through writing.
At age six, he advanced a couple of courses because his reading and writing skills were far superior to those in his class. As he explains in more than one interview, in those years he was convinced that the alphabet was composed of more letters. An L reversed and an inverted A.
After the university years, it was inevitable that the same wake would follow, that guided by letters, books, philology. So he began his studies of French, Italian and English literature at the University of Columbia, New York. He worked as a translator until the Vietnam War, when he decided to go to France.
First books and the City of glass
The life of Paul Auster has always moved between two cities that mark his life: New York and Paris. In his youth and before the success surprised him, he had many works in both geographical points. He made his first attempts to dedicate himself to the cinema. He worked in a tanker and, later, he dedicated himself to make translations in France about great authors like Mallarmé, Jean Paul Sartre or Simenon.
His first novel, Pressure Play, came in 1976. He published it under the pseudonym Paul Benjamin and was barely editorially successful. However, he did not give up. It was at the moment that his father died when he was able to dedicate himself fully to literary work. He inherited a small economic sum that allowed him to write about that heartfelt loss in The Invention of Solitude.
In 1981 he met the novelist Siri Hustvedt, with whom he married. It was a time of great creation that would give the greatest fruit: the trilogy of the Crystal City. The success was resounding and the name of Paul Auster began to shine with its own light among the publishing market. Later, Mr Vertigo or The Palace of the Moon would arrive.
New York, city of Paul Auster
Awards and honours
In 1993, Paul Auster receives the Medicis prize for novels by Leviathan. The nineties are an equally fruitful time for this author who in addition to loving the lyrics, loves movies. His works, such as the short story The Christmas Tale by Augie Wren, adapt to the cinema. Later, his work Smoke and Blue in the Face also premiered in theaters in 1996. However, many of these film adventures as a director, have not always been well received by critics.
Between 1999 and 2005 appear such important works as Timbuktu, The Book of Illusions, The Night of the Oracle or Brooklyn Follies. Works in which its maturity and delicacy are evident, but always with a powerful narrative structure. All this is worth receiving in 2006 the Prince of Asturias Award for Letters.
The style of Paul Auster
Paul Auster is the writer of chance, love, destiny and that almost anodyne everyday where the most fascinating events arise. It has a simple style (in appearance), but in reality, the bifurcations to which it takes us, the stories that intersect, the type of narrator it uses, make their works a magical architecture of complexities and absolute perfection.
Often, a reality that always pursues the name of Paul Auster is the one referring to the identity of its protagonists. It is always suspected that many of them refer to their own person. In The New York Trilogy, for example, one of his characters bears his name. In Leviathan, the narrator has his initials (Peter Aaron). Also in The Night of the Oracle, one of the protagonists is called Trause (anagram of Auster).
They are enigmatic brushstrokes that always fascinate and enchant. To read Auster is to share his vocation for books. Because reading is, as he says, a way of touching the human being, of feeding his empathy. His novels reveal our complexity and thanks to that, we know each other a little more and we learn to survive in our own way.
Admirer of Kafka, in love with France, a fan of New York, is that literary reference that should not be missing in our personal bookstores. A little over a year ago he gave us his latest work. It was 4 3 2 1, a book he started writing at age 66, the age at which his father died. An exceptional 866-page novel that we hope will not be the last.