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''A Portrait of a Soul in Ruins': Paul Auster's The Book of Illusions'

BROWN, Mark (2011) ''A Portrait of a Soul in Ruins': Paul Auster's The Book of Illusions'. In: The Invention of Illusions: International Perspectives on Paul Auster. Cambridge Scholars Press, Newcastle upon Tyne, pp. 219-238. ISBN 1443825808

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Abstract or description

Auster’s consistent themes of place, identity, storytelling, imagination and illusion find their fullest expression in The Book of Illusions (2002). This essay examines Auster’s geographical concerns, and shows how his characters are constantly challenged by new environments. In his earliest book-length prose work, The Invention of Solitude (1982), Auster as a writer finds the world inside him is a place to write from, while, in contrast, the central characters in Illusions find a number of selves out in the world, each influenced by the material conditions of place. By following Auster and his characters from Amsterdam to New Mexico I examine how constructions of self shift with the move from one place to another.
I then trace the lives of Auster’s protagonists in Illusions, focusing on key narrative moments for each of the two main characters. Narrator David Zimmer’s life encompasses literature, loss, and a conversion to the power of the image. Hector Mann’s many lives include slapstick, itinerant work, and film direction. But it is while employing the artifices of acting that he achieves his most secure and persistent self. Here I trace the way in which the narratives of the lives of these two men are carefully structured, and how their intersection allows both their stories to be told.
The final section of the essay explores the relationships between storytelling and illusion. In Illusions, the central characters use film, dream, illusion and storytelling to suspend the reality of loss and to create the potential for salvation. I show that ultimately The Book of Illusions is a meditation on the nature of love and the family. It is also a statement of the power of the word over the image.

Item Type: Book Chapter, Section or Conference Proceeding
Subjects: Q300 English studies
T700 American studies
Faculty: Previous Faculty of Arts and Creative Technologies > Journalism, Humanities and Social Sciences
Depositing User: Mark BROWN
Date Deposited: 20 Sep 2013 16:25
Last Modified: 20 Sep 2013 16:25
URI: http://eprints.staffs.ac.uk/id/eprint/1585

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