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Paul Auster, The New York Trilogy - Meaning of Meaningless

You know how you have heard that this is one of the greatest books which is a part of the new literary canon and that it will change your life because it is so dazedly captivating and intoxicatingly flickering? Well, I must admit it is true. However, I would kindly ask you to forget about all that now. Let’s try to embark on this journey with our minds blissfully blank. When you are reading a book, you are looking for the world of magic, the one that will hold you in suspense and the door to that world should not be already half opened. It should be left to you entirely to read into it as much as you wish and make it a world of your own. So, what am I doing here? Trying to spoil a wonderful book for you? Actually, I will endeavour to do everything but that.

New York City, 2015. Photo: Michael Pewny / Pixabay


In an imaginary world, somewhere just a few bookstores away, there was once a writer who decided to play with his characters. He decided to take part in his own book. Instead of being just a puppet master, he turned into a puppet himself. Daniel Quinn, a writer of detective stories, receives a phone call which will change his life. Somebody thinks that he is Paul Auster, a detective, and they want to hire him to solve the case which is a mystery in itself. What happens with Daniel Quinn? The investigation is still ongoing. For a moment we leave “City of Glass” (do we ever?), and we become “Ghosts”. Blue, hired by White, is spying on Black. But, who is really spying on whom? In the end, we find ourselves in “The Locked Room” where the narrator is desperately (or not?) trying to find Fanshawe who has been missing for some time. While doing that, he is taking over Fanshawe’s life, doing everything Fanshawe allegedly wants him to do. How is this intricate plot connected, if at all?


So, what did Paul Auster want for his fellow puppets to represent? He wanted them to paint a picture of solitude and isolation in the world so full of people. How did he do that? By showing that not one of them paid attention to each other. They would notice only when one of them was screaming and hanging upon their sleeve pleading for help. What did they do upon noticing? Nothing. How long does this agony last? Three millennia, conveniently outlined in the three acts of the drama. What do they do in the end? Walk away.


Why should anyone read such a book? Because it encapsulates one of the vital truths of human existence - we are, after all, trying to be islands - and the writer accentuates this by carefully alienating all of his characters and exposing them in glass vials, trapped in the state of claustrophobic hysteria. The writer himself isn’t spared of this madness and he needs to undergo the same process of seclusion if he wants to give to the world what is the best in him. It is an exhaustive study of human behaviour and how negligent we can become towards the ones we love most; it mirrors that, at the end of the day, we do not even know who we are and where we want to go. We are all desperately looking for answers, feeling so proud of such an important assignment and all along just helplessly shivering and waiting for somebody who will come with ready answers.


Will you know anything more after reading this book? No, but you will feel a lot more than you used to feel. Getting comfortably numb [1] is one of the worst states you can find yourself in, when you are no longer perceiving, none of your senses are acute and you are becoming a mere reflection of a living being. That is exactly what this book is fighting against - it is a quixotic striving to restore the meaning to the meaningless.


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[1] from a song Comfortably Numb by Pink Floyd

#review #bookreview #PaulAuster #TheNewYorkTrilogy

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