Paul Auster (1947– ) is a novelist, essayist, translator, and poet whose complex mystery novels are often concerned with the search for identity and personal meaning. A graduate from Columbia University, he currently resides in Brooklyn, NY. Interview in the Paris Review, 2003
Nonfiction by Paul Auster
The Red Notebook stories, pulled from Auster’s own life or from the lives of those close to him, are explorations of unexpected coincidences. A wrong number becomes the genesis for a famous novel; a hero appears at an inopportune moment; a lightning storm harries a group of campers; a daughter plunges from a terrifying height only to land improbably safely; a Paul Auster imposter materializes. Like a magic show, The Red Notebook demonstrates that “there is much to life that is special and serendipitous — if only we allow ourselves to perceive it this way” (The Washington Post).
Nonfiction by Paul Auster
Paul Auster has earned international praise for the imaginative power of his many novels, including The New York Trilogy, Moon Palace, The Music of Chance, Mr. Vertigo, and Timbuktu. He has also published a number of highly original nonfiction works: The Invention of Solitude, Hand to Mouth, and The Art of Hunger. In The Red Notebook, Auster again explores events from the real world – large and small, tragic and comic – that reveal the unpredictable, shifting nature of human experience. A burnt onion pie, a wrong number, a young boy struck by lightning, a man falling off a roof, a scrap of paper discovered in a Paris hotel room – all these form the context for a singular kind of ars poetica, a literary manifesto without theory, cast in the irreducible forms of pure storytelling.
Poetry by Stéphane Mallarmé
translated by Paul Auster
The great French Symbolist poet Stéphane Mallarmé (1842-1898), who changed the course of modern French literature, suffered many tragedies, but the cruelest blow of all struck in 1879, when his beloved son Anatole died at the age of eight. His unbearable grief inspired him to attempt a major work. A Tomb for Anatole presents the 202 fragments of Mallarmé’s projected long poem in four parts, by far the poet’s most personal work, and one he could never bring himself to complete. To speak publicly of his immense sorrow, Mallarmé concluded, "for me, it’s not possible." Paul Auster notes in his excellent introduction that facing "the ultimate horror of every parent," these fragments "have a startling, unmediated quality." Unpublished in France until 1961, this work is very far from the oblique, cool "pure poetry" Mallarmé is famous for, poetry that sought to capture––painstakingly––l’absente de tous bouquets (the ideal flower absent from all bouquets). The fragments of A Tomb for Anatole instead show Mallarmé at his most radical and fierce. "For here we find a language," Paul Auster comments, "of immediate contact, a syntax of abrupt, lightning shifts... so densely charged that these tiny particles of language... somehow leap out of themselves and catch hold of the succeeding cliff-edge of thought."