The inevitable loneliness

The invention of solitude by Paul Auster is my pick for this week. This book includes two parts, ‘Portrait of an invisible man’ and ‘The book of memory’.

The 1st part is author’s personal feeling touched by his father’s death. Auster couldn’t remember what his father was like because he didn’t have much emotional connection with his father. The father made himself absent for most of his own son’s emotional life. Then after breaking out from his marriage, the father consciously or subconsciously made himself invisible. It seems only after his father’s death that the author could feel a connection with his father. After the funeral Auster learnt more about his father by jogging his memories and feelings. Revealing a very lonely man – an almost invisible man’s life, the author, meanwhile, uncovers a family tragedy – a shocking murder case.
In the second part of the book, the author places his position in a son as well as a father by changing the narration from ‘I’ to the third person – A. ‘A’ is not a fictional character, but probably more true of Paul Auster himself. The memories flow consciously. Sometimes I felt I was reading Proust. But the language is vivid, and touching. The author always has a unique language style, such as short sentences, precision, and tranquillity. Yet, it’s everyone’s invention of solitude that exits when one is not understood by others.
In this part, memories and stories about the a dying grandfather and about the son of A are all set as background context; it is the solitude that A tries to feel, to sense, to break, and by doing so, find meaning of this life. Sensational stories are written by flow of memories and images, intrigued by death of a father, and also by painful feeling of solitude. That solitude is an image written by the author, “Memory as a room, as a body, as a skull, as a skull that encloses the room in which a body sits. As in the image: ‘a man sat alone in his room.’ ”
Paul Auster is a writer defined by critics as a postmodernist. He often mixes stories from one to another to further complicate characters. Therefore his characters are usually eccentric, some without clear identities. He uses his own name to create a character in a fictional book and uses the same names again and again in different fiction books. The settings change, the characters change, but the names are same. Does it mean that a person’s name means nothing or is merely a symbol? He writes stories within stories in which one can hardly anticipate what will happen. In Auster’s novels storylines are unpredictable. Most of his fictional works end abruptly, with no certain conclusion – it is as if a man’s life that does not necessary has a conclusion.
However all his works truly reflect the author’s thinking of the world and life itself. Everything is connected and life is defined by chain of contigent events. Every story happens with a reason, and every story, it doesn’t matter how trivial, has consequence.
The library has ‘The invention of solitude’ in HSC collection.