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Paul Auster, American Writer and Film Director, Passes Away at 77

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Paul Auster, who died at age of 77.

Auster’s death was confirmed by his literary representatives at the Carol Mann Agency. Although no specific details were provided, it was reported that he passed away at his home in Brooklyn due to complications from lung cancer. Auster had been battling cancer since 2022.

Paul Auster, a beloved author famous for his groundbreaking novels like “The New York Trilogy” and “4 3 2 1,” as well as his work in film, passed away at the age of 77. He was known for his unique storytelling style and was hailed as a master of postmodern literature.

Throughout his prolific career, Auster left an indelible mark on literature and cinema. He was celebrated for his inventive narratives and meta narratives. While, captivated readers and viewers alike. Some of his notable works include “Smoke,” “Lulu on the Bridge,” and “The Inner Life of Martin Frost.”

His passing marks the end of an era for literature, but his legacy will continue to inspire and influence generations to come.

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Upon returning to the United States in 1974, Auster began to establish himself as a writer. While, he delved into various forms of literature, publishing poems, essays, and novels. Additionally, he gained recognition for his translations of notable French writers such as Stéphane Mallarmé and Joseph Joubert.

This period marked the beginning of Auster’s illustrious career, laying the foundation for his future successes in the literary world.

After receiving acclaim for his debut work, a memoir titled “The Invention of Solitude,” Paul Auster rose to prominence with a series of three interconnected stories known collectively as “The New York Trilogy.” While these books draw inspiration from the detective genre, they defy convention by eschewing typical mysteries and clues. Instead, Auster employs the detective form to explore profound existential questions surrounding identity, space, language, and literature.

In crafting “The New York Trilogy,” Auster establishes his own uniquely postmodern style, which simultaneously serves as a critique of postmodernist ideas. He intricately weaves together themes from his memoir, “The Invention of Solitude,” suggesting a thematic continuity between the two works. According to Auster himself, “the Trilogy grows directly out of The Invention of Solitude.”

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Through his innovative approach to storytelling, Auster challenges readers to contemplate the nature of reality, perception, and the human condition. “The New York Trilogy” stands as a testament to Auster’s literary prowess and his ability to push the boundaries of narrative fiction.

Paul Auster served on the board of trustees for the PEN American Center from 2004 to 2009. During his tenure, he held the position of vice president from 2005 to 2007.

In 2012, during an interview, Paul Auster expressed his decision not to visit Turkey as a form of protest against the country’s treatment of journalists. This decision was prompted by concerns over the alarming number of writers imprisoned in Turkey and the plight of independent publishers like Ragıp Zarakolu, whose case had garnered international attention from PEN Centers around the world.

So, in response to Auster’s statement, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan dismissed his stance, stating, “As if we need you! Who cares if you come, or not?”

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Theme by Paul Auster:

Auster’s writing was deeply influenced by literary giants such as Edgar Allan Poe, Samuel Beckett, and Nathaniel Hawthorne. In his novels, he often pays homage to these authors by referencing their characters. For instance, in “City of Glass,” Auster alludes to Poe’s William Wilson, while in “The Locked Room,” he draws inspiration from Hawthorne’s Fanshawe, both from his acclaimed work “The New York Trilogy.” These nods to literary predecessors add layers of meaning and intertextuality to Auster’s own narratives, showcasing his reverence for the literary tradition while infusing his work with a fresh perspective.

  1. Coincidence: Auster often explores the role of chance and coincidence in shaping characters’ lives and driving the narrative forward.
  2. Frequent portrayal of an ascetic life: His works frequently depict characters living simple, austere lifestyles, emphasizing the contrast between material wealth and spiritual fulfillment.
  3. A sense of imminent disaster: Auster creates tension by imbuing his narratives with a pervasive sense of impending doom or catastrophe.
  4. An obsessive writer as central character or narrator: Many of Auster’s protagonists are writers or storytellers whose obsessive pursuit of their craft drives the plot and shapes their identities.
  5. Loss of the ability to understand: Auster delves into the theme of existential confusion and the struggle to comprehend the complexities of life and existence.
  6. Loss of language: He explores the breakdown of communication and the limitations of language in conveying the depths of human experience.
  7. Loss of money – having a lot, but losing it little by little without earning any more: Auster’s characters often experience financial decline or instability, highlighting the precarious nature of wealth and material possessions.
  8. Depiction of daily and ordinary life: Amidst the existential themes, Auster portrays the mundane aspects of everyday life, grounding his narratives in relatable experiences.
  9. Failure: A recurring motif in Auster’s works is the exploration of failure, whether it be personal, professional, or existential.
  10. Absent father: The absence of a father figure is a recurring motif in Auster’s novels, reflecting themes of loss, abandonment, and the search for paternal guidance.
  11. Writing and storytelling, metafiction: Auster frequently explores the power of storytelling and the blurred boundaries between fiction and reality. Often employing metafictional techniques to engage readers in a reflexive examination of narrative itself.
  12. Intertextuality: His works are rich in references to other literary works, inviting readers to explore connections and intertextual meanings embedded within the text.
  13. American history: Auster incorporates elements of American history, culture, and society into his narratives, providing insights into the nation’s past and its impact on contemporary life.
  14. American space: The settings of Auster’s works often reflect quintessentially American landscapes and urban environments, serving as both backdrop and metaphor for the characters’ journeys and struggles.

Paul Auster’s Awards and his Career:

U.S. writer Paul Auster gestures after he received the Prince of Asturias award for Letters during a traditional ceremony at Campoamor theatre in Oviedo, northern Spain, October 20, 2006.
U.S. writer Paul Auster gestures after he received the Prince of Asturias award for Letters during a traditional ceremony at Campoamor theatre in Oviedo, northern Spain, October 20, 2006.

Paul Auster’s literary achievements have garnered him numerous prestigious awards and accolades throughout his illustrious career. With a mastery of storytelling that captivates readers across the globe. Auster has been celebrated for his innovative narratives and profound insights into the human condition.

  1. 1989 Prix France Culture de Littérature Étrangère
  2. 1990 Morton Dauwen Zabel Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters
  3. 1991 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction finalist for The Music of Chance
  4. 1993 Prix Médicis Étranger for Leviathan
  5. 1995 Independent Spirit award for best first screenplay for Smoke
  6. 1996 Bodil Awards – Best American Film: Smoke
  7. 1996 John William Corrington Award for Literary Excellence
  8. 2001 International Dublin Literary Award longlist for Timbuktu
  9. 2003 Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences
  10. 2004 International Dublin Literary Award shortlist for The Book of Illusions
  11. 2005 International Dublin Literary Award longlist for Oracle Night
  12. 2006 Prince of Asturias Award for Literature
  13. 2006 Elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters for Literature
  14. 2007 Honorary doctor from the University of Liège
  15. 2007 International Dublin Literary Award longlist for The Brooklyn Follies
  16. 2007 Commandeur de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres
  17. 2008 International Dublin Literary Award longlist for Travels in the Scriptorium
  18. 2009 Premio Leteo (León, Spain)
  19. 2010 Médaille Grand Vermeil de la ville de Paris
  20. 2010 International Dublin Literary Award longlist for Man in the Dark
  21. 2011 International Dublin Literary Award longlist for Invisible
  22. 2012 International Dublin Literary Award longlist for Sunset Park
  23. 2012 NYC Literary Honors for fiction
  24. 2017 Booker Prize Shortlist for “4321”

Criticism:

James Wood, an English critic, wasn’t very complimentary towards Paul Auster’s writing. He criticized Auster for using clichés, borrowing language, and including what he called “bourgeois nonsense” in his work. While, Wood made a distinction between Auster and other acclaimed authors like Beckett, Nabokov, and DeLillo. Who he believed used clichés more effectively in their writing.

Wood suggested that Auster’s novels were a mix of realism and postmodernism. But questioned whether Auster truly fit into the postmodern category. He argued that most of Auster’s writing resembled traditional American realism. While only a small portion seemed to engage with postmodern ideas.

Despite his criticisms, Wood acknowledged that Auster’s novels were easy to read. Because they were well written and had the pace of a thrilling bestseller. However, he felt that Auster’s larger narrative games were surrealistic and anti realist. Which set him apart from traditional realist writers.

Wood also lamented Auster’s use of B-movie dialogue, shallow skepticism, and what he saw as fake realism in his writing. Overall, he felt that Auster’s novels lacked depth and substance, criticizing them for their artificiality and superficiality.

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Here are Paul Auster’s various contributions and appearances, simplified:

  1. In 1993, his book “The Music of Chance” made into a movie, and Auster had a small role in it.
  2. In 1994, his novel “City of Glass” turned into a graphic novel with the help of his friend, cartoonist Art Spiegelman.
  3. From 1999 to 2001, Auster was part of NPR’s National Story Project, where he read stories sent in by listeners across America.
  4. In 2001, jazz trumpeter Michael Mantler used words from Auster’s play “Hide and Seek” in his album.
  5. Auster narrated “Ground Zero” in 2004, an audio guide produced by NPR.
  6. Austrian composer Olga Neuwirth’s 2004 composition included recordings of Auster’s voice reading from his books.
  7. Auster’s daughter, Sophie, recorded an album in 2005 featuring lyrics written by him.
  8. Auster contributed his voice to two tracks on The Farangs’ 2005 album.
  9. He wrote lyrics for a song on One Ring Zero’s 2006 album.
  10. In 2006, Auster directed the film “The Inner Life of Martin Frost,” which starred his daughter.
  11. Fionn Regan’s 2006 song “Put A Penny in the Slot” mentions Auster.
  12. Auster’s work mentioned in various films and novels, including the 2008 Russian film “Plus One” and David Grossman’s 2008 novel “To the End of the Land.”
  13. Auster interviewed in the 2009 documentary “Act of God” and appears in the 2011 documentary “The Look” discussing beauty with Charlotte Rampling.
  14. Pedro Almodovar’s 2019 film “Pain and Glory” pays homage to Auster’s works, with a visual reference to his name on a computer screen.

Personal Life of Paul Auster:

Auster married two times. First to Lydia Davis, who is also a writer, and they had a son named Daniel. Sadly, Daniel faced legal trouble when his infant daughter died from consuming drugs he had. Later, Daniel himself died from an overdose. Auster’s second wife is Siri Hustvedt, another writer, and they have a daughter named Sophie who is a singer.

Auster’s political views are quite left leaning, even more so than the Democratic Party. But he usually votes Democrat because he doesn’t think a socialist candidate could win. He strongly dislikes right wing Republicans, calling them “jihadists,” and he was very upset when Donald Trump became president.

In 2009, he signed a petition supporting Roman Polanski, who was arrested for a crime he committed many years ago.

In March 2023, Auster’s wife Siri revealed on Instagram that he had cancer. Which he had been getting treatment for since December 2022 at a hospital in New York.

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