I am writing my final thesis for my masters degree on Paul Austers New York Trilogy and I would love to hear from anyone interested in his work (The Locked Room is of special interest to me). At the time N.Y. Trilogy was published it had a great impact on me. Now almost 15 years later I can still read the book with great pleasure. One of Austers best books yet. Compares easily with "Leaviathan" and is without doubt a more thorougly thougt thought book than his latest work of fiction "Timbuktu". I can recomend it to anyone who likes a kafkesque atmosphere in their reading.
His writing is amazing, his characters are fascinating... the first story really held me, even though it felt at times like I was reading a school report on the history of language instead of a short story. And then came the end of the first story, which--not in that the story is unfinished, but the way it's written--left me wholly unsatisfied. i plowed through to the next one, and was again fascinated by the character and the story--again to find the ending unsatisfying. i skimmed the last story. i'd recommend it if you have a lot of time on your hands or are really intrigued by character studies (although the three protaganists seemed to have a similar voice, after a while).
Naturgemäß schrecken Studenten (und nicht nur die) zusammen, wenn ihnen mal wieder das Modewort "postmodern" hingeworfen wird. Da dieser Begriff schlechterdings nicht wirklich klar zu definieren ist, klingt er immer gut, irgendwie intellektuell. Doch nun mache auch ich mich des Verbrechens schuldig, indem ich sage: Jawoll, "The New York Trilogy" ist postmodern (zumindestens so, wie ich den Begriff vertehe). Das Buch beginnt mit einem Anruf, im Verlaufe wessen der Protagonist gefragt wird, ob er Paul Auster sei. Das Spiel der Identitäten beginnt. Ferner stellt sich während der ersten Geschichte heraus, dass ein als wahnsinnig vermuteter Mann die Worte "The Tower of Babel" in Manhatten hineinläuft. Dies bezieht sich auf den Mythos, dass es vor dem Turmbau zu Babel noch eine eindeutig, transparente Sprache gegeben habe i.e. dass ein Wort genau einem Sachverhalt entspricht. Genau diesen Mythos haben der Poststrukturalismus sowie die Postmoderne seit Barthes und Derrida mit Wonne zerpflückt (entschultigung, ich meine natürlich dekonstruiert). Und gegen Ende geschieht mit den Charakteren das, wozu jedes Individuum in der postmodernen Welt verdammt ist: es verschwindet. Doch neben diesem Geschwafel bleibt eines entscheidend: "The New York Trilogy" ist ein geniales Buch, dass einerseits zu fesseln weiß und andererseits jeden Leser animiert über sich und seine Position in der Welt nachzudenken. Und das ist, wenn man mich fragt, ein Markenzeichen guter Literatur.
Die Geschichten können nicht richtig überzeugen. Es geht offenbar um Einsamkeit und Verlorenheit im großen und kalten New York. Das Ganze erinnert an Thomas Wolfe. Die Wege und Straßen der Stadt werden wie bei Wolfe ausführlich beschrieben, einschließlich Straßennamen, Plätzen, Kreuzungen. Es gelingt eine gewisse Atmosphäre aufzubauen, insbesondere die Atmosphäre der Einsamkeit und Verlorenheit des Einzelnen in der brutalen Anonymität dieser ungezählten, gleichgültigen, vorbeiströmenden Gesichter. Einige wenige banale Worte, gewechselt mit der Bedienung eines der unzähligen kleinen Bistros, müssen als sozialer Kontakt ausreichen.
Wie gesagt, die Geschichten überzeugen nicht. Es wird eine Spannung aufgebaut, die sich steigert und steigert, sie wird fast unerträglich. Die Auflösung dieser Spannung, der Kern der Geschichte erscheint jedoch schwach. Irgendwie lösen sich die Geschichten auf, als wenn ein Ballon einfach zerplatzt, verpufft. Die aufgebaute Spannung führt ins Nichts. Vielleicht ist das die eigentliche Aussage des Autors, alles zerrinnt, alles löst sich auf. Vielleicht hat der Schreiber dieser Zeilen als „Nicht-Native-Speaker“ den Kern der im Original gelesenen Geschichten auch nicht erkannt, zumal Paul Auster erstmals gelesen wurde. Die dritte Geschichte wurde noch nicht gelesen, wird jedoch nachgeholt. Auch andere Werke des Autors werden noch folgen.
Not Shakespeare but Kafka waves and smiles at the readers, as Auster takes them into his New York, a City of Glass, filled with Colors and containing the secrets of Locked Rooms. But Auster's world is not the world of tourists and stock brokers. It is the world of knowledge, the intimate conscience of literature, philosophy and the psyche of man. He carefully builds up a card-house of themes and expectations - only to turn it all around the next instance and to make the reader understand that it is not a card-house at all, but a mirror into which he made the reader stare. To relate the details and incidents would be a waste of time, that is best left to Auster. But to those who are not afraid of the unexpected, those who enjoy elaborate weirdness at times and who have the willpower to triumph over the novel by finishing this book that at times almost comes alive and seems to fight the reader's intention...to those of you I can promise a really good time!
P. Auster's "NYT" is one of the most gripping and fascinating books I've ever read. It's such af different novel compared to "normal" detective stories, puzzling and mysterious from the moment you start reading until you've finished. You just cannot stop thinking about it! It's a book that demands the attention and imagination of its readers- like P. Auster himself once mentioned: "The book is not a mathematical equation to be solved, it's rather a springboard for your imagination." Isn't imagination one of the most vital things we have? Isn't a book which provokes imagination one of the most precious literary pieces of work we have? However, P. Auster's book has many more layers. In "City of Glass" the author shows brillianty how easily we can be subject to obedience without even noticing. But he doesn't leave us alone with this fact, but shows us a way to liberate ourselves from this state of ignorance: By solitude and reflection, questioning and experiencing ourselves, he claims, we can put an end to our ignorance and be truly ourselves. And Auster's book is a start: He really almost forces us not to just accept his story, not to accept the nearly godlike powers an autor has over his novel, but to fill his story with our own ideas, to think for ourselves and not to just let ourselves get lost and suppressed by the course of the story. - "City of Glass" is a wonderful piece about the relationship between authors and his readers. I believe, the reason for making his novels so confusing, is to show us that the author has the power to lead us anywhere he wants to and even to tell us lies as long as we the readers don't start to use our owen mind and start to object. There'd be so much more to say about "City of Glass", but let me just mention only one more aspect- the title. What does it provoke in our minds? Maybe a city where everyone can see everyone and think that they are free to do anything, but in fact are not for being confined to "Locked Rooms" and not being able to communicate with others. However, it might also provoke the image of a room of mirrors with the person inside it thinking he or she is surrounded by infinity of space and dozen of people, while in fact he or she sees only mere images of his or her own- sees "Ghosts". The titles of the thress stories are very much intertwined and they all are somehow connected. "Ghosts" the second part of the trilogy, for instance, also takes up the idea of a person being trapped in a locked room, being subject to manipulation of others. But apart from that I believe, it's very much about failure of communication: Blue (the protagonist) mentions that the words he's written down don't express what he's actually feeling - the limits of words. Words, our sole attempt to communicate with each other, can reveal and obscure so much, an so in some sense we are all ghosts, able to see each other, but because of the fallibility of words, unable to genuinely communicate with each other, so in fact the writer is writing about and for ghosts. Another thing which struck me, was Blue's statement that he had read something and felt like having done nothing: This is what Auster critises: People who merely read books to claim they've read them in fact haven't done anything at all. Reading a book passively without questioning is like doing nothing! However, "Ghosts", even more than "CofG" provokes you to project yourself into the story, like in a fairytale there a scarcely any details, but by creating them in your mind you get totally involved in the story - again Auster stipulates imagination. "The locked room" treats (much stronger than the first to parts of the trilogy) on the theme of being commanded by another person/ power- and on tearing oneself away from the foreign control. I believe these moments, when the characters realize who and what they are, and take action to change their condition by escaping from the Locked Room, are the most essential moments of the trilogy for they remind the readers that they, too, have a part in creating the book. Works of fiction, which demand the readers to imagine the scenes and protagonists of a book, have too often become locked rooms with the author dictating the course of the story. But the readers themselves can- like the characters of Auster's story- escape from these locked rooms. In other words, if we, are conscious of the ways in which we are being manipulated, then we too can take control of the text and make it our own. And in that way we can fill the text with our own emotions and imaginations, making it a story whcih can teach us a lot- because it's a story about our own feelings and sensations. To actively questioning readers this text becomes a reflecting pool that shows us our own souls.
You should only read this Book in English, because many of the allusion do not really make sense in German. Paul Auster is bilingual and writes in both English and French, so his French versions are okay. However to really appreciate this genius, you must read in English!
This trilogy of novels, or two novellas and a short story, as it should rightly be called, should be made essential reading for 1. Anyone travelling to New York in the near future, and 2. Anyone who would like to feel free of the realist grip that most literary fiction has been in, with some periods of upheaval, for far too long now. Auster makes the term 'post-modern' reader-friendly; after all, what is wrong with the author referring to himself as a fictitious character within his or her own work (even when he goes as far as introducing you to his home and meeting his wife)? This Auster does on various occasions in these loosely linked pseudo detective fictions, cramming in themes and obsessions such as the impulse to tell stories (within stories) and to get away from modern life, Hamsun-like, to go back to the roots of nature and language. But it's not done in any way that could be called pretentious. Auster is not interested in describing human features or writing two paragraphs (or six) on how a room looks; he is more interested in drawing parallels and trying to fix why something is where it is. Identity is his main concern, and within the parabola of his narrow range of reference points (Paris, the native American legacy, working on ships, New York, coincidences) he twists and turns with it as dexterously as Borges. Suffice to say that the three stories involve coincidence and searches passim. The initial story, City of Glass, about a writer who becomes a detective on an infuriating mission to find a man for a woman after a misdialled telephone call, appears again in the other stories both as himself and as a reflection of other characters engaged in looking for other mysterious characters. The point of the middle story, Ghosts, only becomes clear when you get to the end of the last, The Locked Room, by which time you have to go back and read the whole thing again (with pleasure). In the meantime you've been taken on the kind of existential, mythical journey that dignifies detective fiction well beyond its seeming limitations. It's fascinating to read how Auster has consistently used his real-life experiences (not all that exceptional on the face of it), to create such compulsive fiction, and you can get a lot of this from his autobiography, Hand To Mouth. It was inevitable that he would move into film-making one day, and his Lulu On The Bridge, has not disappointed (Smoke and Blue in The Face were worthy apprenticeships which he mainly scripted and had some directorial involvment in).Probably even better than NYT are Moon Palace and Leviathan.