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'Paul Auster: a poet of solitude'

BROWN, Mark (2009) 'Paul Auster: a poet of solitude'. In: A Companion to Twentieth-Century United States Fiction. Wiley-Blackwell, pp. 530-538. ISBN 1405146915

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Abstract or description

Since the critical success of The New York Trilogy (1987), Paul Auster has published a further ten novels, a memoir, and written or directed four films. Prior to that he had carved out a precarious living as a poet, essayist and translator. The essays from this period (roughly the 1970s) provide many clues to the inspiration for much of the literature that follow, as do the interviews collected with them (The Art of Hunger). It is possible to distinguish – a little arbitrarily at times – four phases to Auster’s career so far. This essay demonstrates how the works have moved from poetry and non-fiction, through the early fictions, to the films of the mid-1990s, and subsequently to the later novels. I show how each phase is distinct for the form he adopts and the themes the work interrogates. Whilst pursuing this chronology I explore the key themes of language, identity, solitude and the power of writing and storytelling are held in common, explored and developed.
One of the most distinct feature of Auster's work is the way the lives of his writer-characters frequently collapse into the lives of the characters they create, consistently calling into question the boundaries of where the ‘real’ world ends and the fictional world begins and, in a postmodern way, questioning the capacity of literature to represent reality at all. Patricia Waugh has described how writing of this type is metafictional, and 'self-consciously and systematically draws attention to its status as an artefact in order to pose questions about the relationship between fiction and reality'. The most consistent metafictional feature of Auster’s work is the central role of writer-characters. Again and again his work demonstrates the struggle of the writer with language and the struggle to represent the world. Here I give a substantial reading of one significant text from each phase of Auster's career, while also offering a brief account of the other texts.

Item Type: Book Chapter, Section or Conference Proceeding
Faculty: Previous Faculty of Arts and Creative Technologies > Journalism, Humanities and Social Sciences
Depositing User: Mark BROWN
Date Deposited: 20 Sep 2013 16:21
Last Modified: 24 Feb 2023 13:40

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