In this debut work by New York Times-bestselling author Paul Auster (The New York Trilogy), The Invention of Solitude, a memoir, established Auster’s reputation as a major new voice in American writing. His moving and personal meditation on fatherhood is split into two stylistically separate sections. In the first, Auster reflects on the memories of his father who was a distant, undemonstrative, and cold man who died an untimely death. As he sifts through his Father’s things, Auster uncovers a sixty-year-old murder mystery that sheds light on his father’s elusive character. In the second section, the perspective shifts and Auster begins to reflect on his own identity as a father by adopting the voice of a narrator, A.” Through a mosaic of images, coincidences, and associations A,” contemplates his separation from his son, his dying grandfather, turning the story into a self-conscious reflection on the process of writing.
Beginning with the deconstructed detective novels of the New York Trilogy, Paul Auster has proved himself to be one of the most adventurous writers in contemporary fiction. In book after book, he seems compelled to reinvent his style from scratch. Yet he always returns to certain preoccupations--most notably, solitude and coincidence--and these themes get a powerful workout in this early memoir. In the first half, "Portrait of an Invisible Man," Auster comes to terms with the death of his father, and as he investigates this elusive figure, he makes a rather shocking (and enlightening) discovery about his family's history. The second half, "The Book of Memory," finds the author on more abstract ground, toying with the entwined metaphors of coincidence, translation, solitude, and language. But here, too, the autobiographical element gives an extra kick to Auster's prose and keeps him from sliding off into armchair aesthetics. An eloquent, mesmerizing book.