Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Paul Auster Man in the Dark

"I am alone in the dark, turning the world around in my head as I struggle through another bout of insomnia, another white night in the great American wilderness." First sentence of Man in the Dark (2008) by Paul Auster which I have just finished.

I am an unashamed Auster fan and enjoyed this even though it got very mixed reviews. The novel is narrated by August Brill, a writer, a widower, an old man who is recovering from a car accident and sharing a house with his daughter and granddaughter, who are both also grieving their recent losses. Brill can’t sleep and so tells himself a story about a man called Owen Brick, who wakes up to find himself in an America in the throes of civil war between federal forces and successionist states. Brick moves between the two Americas. In the war-torn America he is given the task of returning to the "real" world and killing Brick and so end the story and the civil war nightmare.

This alternative story ends suddenly with the death of Brick. The remainder of the novel is a late night early morning conversation between Brill and his grandaughter Katya. Brill comforts Katya, whose boyfriend has been beheaded in Iraq, by telling her how he courted her grandmother, how they parted and came back together, how he misses her more than he could have ever thought possible.

Complicated? Yes. Enjoyable? Yes.

Mostly positive reviews:
The Independent. The Telegraph.

"Auster has lost the plot" reviews:
The Guardian. Barnes and Noble. New York Times.

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