Sunday, July 18, 2010

What is True?

Paul Auster has written fifteen novels, six non-fiction works, two screen plays and a collection of poems. I have read one of his novels “The Brooklyn Follies” and I didn’t really like it, although most of our book club did. When I saw his latest novel “Invisible” I was intrigued. The description on the book itself, sounded very interesting. The New York Times critic, Clancy Martin, states that “Invisible” is Paul Auster’s finest novel. I would like to agree because I really enjoyed this novel, but I haven’t read enough of Paul Auster to make that claim.

The story begins in 1967, in New York City. The protagonist, Adam Walker, is a second year student at Columbia University, majoring in poetry. Adam finds himself at a party in Manhattan, not sure why he is there. At the party Adam meets, Rodolf Born, a Swiss citizen teaching at Columbia and his beautiful French girlfriend, Margot. This chance encounter sets off a series of events that lead to an act of violence that changes Adam’s life.

The novel is presented in four parts, Spring, Summer, Fall and Cecile‘s diary. The first section is narrated by Adam. The second section jumps to 2007 as Jim Freeman, a college friend of Adam, tells us that he has received a letter and a manuscript from Adam. Adam fills him in on what has happened to him over the past forty years and asks him to read the manuscript he has written. The manuscript is entitled Summer, and it took place the summer after Adam’s encounter with Born. This section is a difficult read for the Jim and for the reader because it is about incest. It is the natural, beautiful prose of Auster that makes this section work for the reader. But it is in this section that the reader begins to question the reliability of Adam as a narrator.

In the next section, Fall of 1967, Adam finds himself in Paris on a mission. A mission that reunites Adam with Born and introduces him to Born’s fiancée, Helene Juin, and Helene’s daughter Cecile. Adam’s mission in Paris fails and he finds himself back in the United States. The final section of the book is entitled, Cecile Juin’s Diary, and takes place in 2007. This section tells the reader what ultimately happens to the characters but doesn’t end the story in a true sense.

The story has tree different narrators and as many perspectives on what really happened during the year of 1967. It is a story of love and how difficult it is to define love because it is invisible. Paul Auster’s writing is so good, so brisk, that you glide through the pages, but his sentences are filled with innuendo and he is a master of intrigue. “Invisible” is a wonderful novel and although it may be his best, I am tempted to try another.

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