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Reading map by Paul Auster

A map for an author of recognized value, crucial, charismatic, expressed in different formats

The day after tomorrow, Paul Auster turns 65. Coinciding with the anniversary, Anagrama and Edicions 62 publish in a world premiere his latest book, Diario de invierno , a recount of some of the experiences and people that have most marked his life, which is to say his writing, a memorialistic exercise that is drawing the grooves through which his work has traveled.As in The invention of loneliness , The red notebook or A jump of the bush , the New York author goes behind his shadow and rescuing biographical episodes – sometimes anecdotal, other unheard, but always significant – reflects that wonder of life that has fueled to all your fiction stories. The celebrated opening of Richard Shakespeare’s Richard III is not mentioned in the book – “Now the winter of our discontent turns into summer with this York sun” – but it captures its fluctuating tone: of sorrow for the dead and body aches, from melancholy inspired by precious memories, to gratitude for the gifts granted and the determination to continue fighting. In addition, recourse to the second person involves the reader in the facts and generates an intimacy that turns the work into something similar to what Paul Auster has supposed to be .

Following an invitation to review the welding points of the intimate and narrative, which have made the author of Leviathan not only a reference of contemporary American literature but the protagonist of a major fan phenomenon in Europe. The essences of his narrative corpus, inseparable from his personal experiences, condensed into ten sections.

1. THE MUSIC OF THE CHANCE. Few things make the writer harder to mention the happy chance, that label that has come to fulfill the function of synecdoche of his work. Is it not a truism to say that chance governs us all? However, paraphrasing the title of one of his novels, his music has involved much of his literature. And this is because previously chance has played a prominent role in their training, in a way, of course, particularly novel. During a trip through the woods as a child, a strong storm broke out and lightning cut the life of the companion who, half a meter ahead of him, crawled under a fence in search of a clear savior
( The red notebook , 1995). Since his parents were not readers, his first library was sought by his uncle Allen Mandelbaum, future translator of Virgil and Homer, who left his own in custody to leave a travel time (loan that Auster granted in turn to Marco Stanley Fogg, protagonist of The Palace of the Moon (1981) and transcript of his teenage years working as a writer of bibliography catalogs or reviewer of the census of Harlem.This novel was not only his first great literary success, also his jump of a stamp small, Sun and Moon Press, to a large one, Viking, a movement that would later be reproduced in the Spanish market, with Júcar and Edhasa preceding Anagrama).

2. THE MYSTERIES OF IDENTITY. One morning in the early eighties, Auster picked up his home phone and a voice asked him if he was talking to Detective Paul Auster of the Pinkerton Agency. He said it was a mistake and hung up, but the turbine question of every writer, what if … ?, was already underway.

In an alternative reality called Crystal City (first of the stories collected in The New York Trilogy , 1987) the answer was affirmative and a writer named Paul Auster was posing as a private investigator in a game that would cost him his sanity. (As a curiosity, mention that the idea of ​​a police author who jumps to the other side of his imaginary world is the starting point of the humor series Bored to Death , where its creator, Jonathan Ames, establishes a parody and self-referential game when baptizing with his name to the writer / detective lout played by Jason Schwartzman, not coincidentally, in the second season Paul Auster is mentioned, although the impending cameo is frustrated at the last moment).

The identity theft or the secrecy surrounding it has acquired other facets in his career

<br />The identity theft or the secrecy surrounding it has acquired other facets in his career

 such as his status as a literary black during one of his youth stays in Paris; residing a month in Cuernavaca to help from the shadows the woman of a producer to write a book about Quetzalcoat; writing for money (concretely for 2000 dollars) and under the pseudonym Paul Benjamin the mystery novel ” Pressure Play” (1982), or showing the fascination of some of his characters for the malevolent and metamorphic nature of others (Peter Aaron with his friend and future terrorist Benjamin Sachs in Leviathan or student Adam Walker by political science professor Rudolf Born in Invisible ).

3. STRANGE RELATIONS BETWEEN LIFE AND WORK. A few years before that phone call, the writer received another in which he was informed of the death of the father and the benefit of a modest inheritance that gave him time to write. The previous night had started what would become his first book (official) in prose, The invention of loneliness (1982), which served as a catalyst after a decade immersed in an acute creative crisis. Among what he had left written before going to bed was the phrase “And snow falls endlessly on winter night”. Three and a half decades later, on the first page of Diario de invierno we read: “Outside the snow falls and the branches of the trees in the patio are turning white”.

There is another identity phone curiosity that shows the strange underground passageways between his life and his work. During a literary event, his Polish editor gave him a telephone directory prior to World War II that included an individual surnamed Auster. He christened the protagonist of his next novel, The Night of the Oracle , Sydney Orr, an Americanized abbreviation of the Polish surname Orlovsky, and introduced into the plot a 1938 Warsaw telephone directory as a mechanism for predicting the future.

What the writer could not foresee of his future is that his wife and best reader, Siri Hustvedt, during a talk in front of the public at the Festival Versiliana in Pietrasanta (Tuscany), left him speechless when quoting that his choice of the surname Orr go back to the impression that caused him to read Either / Or’s (or one or the other) essay by Soren Kierkegaard as a young man.

4. MAGIC WITHOUT TRICKS. The work of Paul Auster reminds us that one can wake up without a morning one morning and the next to find a wall raising meaningless ( The music of chance ) or dawn with the intention of killing yourself and surprise a few weeks later visualizing in a Mexican ranch silent movies of an agonizing outcast ( The Book of Illusions , 2002). His hypnotic work is based on the conviction that our first motor is the fortuitous event, that we are the product of perpetual improvisation and uncertainty, that we know it or do not abandon us at all times to a twisted and ungovernable current. Auster has not used hardly any fantastic resources (the levitation in Mr. Vertigo , 1994, the stone with powers in Lulu on the bridge , 1998), because the magic or the mystery of his stories is detached from the natural order of things and, despite that in his books there are adventures and adventures, everything happens within a framework of exciting possibilism.

5. THE PRIORITY, THE CHARACTER. The humanity of its characters, beings with severe emotional fractures, to which often a blow of destiny puts in the way of a possible atonement, although the disease, the madness and the failure appear in each corner.

Some of them are young but they are disoriented ( The Palace of the Moon, Sunset Park , 2010), others feel old and finished but they find a way to sustain themselves ( The Book of Illusions , The Night of the Oracle , Brooklyn Follies , 2005), third parties will no longer raise their heads ( Timbuktu , 1999, A man in the dark , 2008). “What is fiction but the attempt to understand the lives of others?” And “I feel true empathy for my creatures, I see them as very real,” he said, but the writer has also reserved the right to exhibit in the first person and in loud voice his need to find a certain order and meaning in his work ( Travels by the Scriptorium , 2006) and its existence ( Diario de invierno , 2012).

6. AMERICAN MYTHOLOGY. Despite his sentimental and literary bond with France (he has translated many of his poets, coordinated a lyrical anthology that covers the entire twentieth century, led several of his characters to the stages he frequented and received the Order of the Knight of the Arts and the Letters of France), Auster has had the United States as the fundamental geographical and mythological framework: the happy 20s and the Great Depression punctuate Mr. Vertigo ; the moon landing is present in the palace of the moon ; the protests against the Vietnam War run through Leviathan , the beatnik culture and Edgar Allan Poe’s Baltimore erupt in Timbuktu

In some books the filiation with his country comes via cinephile – the description of Martin Frost’s silent films in The Book of Illusions , overflowing with echoes of the missing script for a comedy he completed as a young man with Buster Keaton as inspiration, or the analysis of William Wyler’s Best Years of our Life in Sunset Park – or the bibliophile – the reflection on the sanctuaries of American letters with Hawthorne at the head in Brooklyn Follies . As a bilious settling of accounts with the George Bush Jr. administration, A Man in the Darkness would take a separate place.

7. THE BROOKLYN WORLD AMBASSADOR. But obviously Auster is Brooklyn and vice versa (literally, since Paul Auster’s Day is celebrated on its streets every February 27). The writer has devoted much of his work to turning the county into an inventory of the universe, to make that concrete literary space a laboratory of universal human experience.

As in the movie Smoke (1995) the melancholic estanquero Auggie Wren was betting on one of its corners to take each day the same photograph that captures the infinite nuances of the colors of the sky and the human movement, Auster has made his place of residence since 1980 a microcosm at the same time autarkic and open to constant renewal.

In the night of the oracle the convalescent writer Sydney Orr entered a stationery store in Brooklyn

<br />In <em>the night of the oracle</em> the convalescent writer Sydney Orr entered a stationery store in Brooklyn

bought a blue notebook that miraculously restored the strength and inspiration to resume his craft. For Auster, Brooklyn symbolizes that blue notebook, the promise of an inexhaustible source of stimuli, that go until his last novel, Sunset Park , set in one of its most degraded neighborhoods. Perhaps Auggie Wren’s Christmas story , which the author wrote for The New York Times and which served as the basis for his script for Smoke , emerged from an anecdote entrusted to him by the tobacconist who sold him his Dutch cigarillos Schimmelpeninks , thus removing him from a hurry to be dry ideas and the deadline on, still supposing the maximum concentration of austerity essences: a stroke of luck in the form of a great story that happens and is shared in Brooklyn.

8. EYES ALWAYS IN THE NARRATION. When he was studying at Columbia University, the author of Invisible was taught by Edward Said, who he remembers telling him that over the years every writer tends to clarity. He, on the other hand, did not wait to get old. Transparency has always been a characteristic feature of Auster’s prose, who has repeatedly commented that the content determines the form of his stories, that his interest lies in the body of the narrative. This ability not to forget to wind up the internal minute hand of the story, that events slide and the pace is consistent with the expectations of the reader, explains much of his gift for collective hypnotization. Possibly Auster will not prosper with his symbolic poetry and find in the cinematographic direction his Achilles heel because he did not know how to transplant this capacity of tuning to other languages.

9. DO NOT PSYCHOANALIZE THE WORK. As if he were afraid of undoing the spell, Auster avoids analyzing the gestation of his works, only confirming the relevance of the unconscious (“those dark places that I do not have access to.” The fear, the risk, the not knowing are the forces that push me “) And the organic way in which the ideas that took it to treason are acquiring form.

10. THE MANTRA. Its final objective is synthesized in this aspiration of the dramatist Peter Brook that Auster repeats a mantra way: “Create a work that has the intimacy of the everyday and the distance of the myth, because without closeness the feeling is not possible and without distance it is impossible to astonishment”. An impeccable definition of his work.

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