Customer Reviews


35 Reviews
5 star:
 (15)
4 star:
 (13)
3 star:
 (5)
2 star:
 (1)
1 star:
 (1)
 
 
 
 
 
Average Customer Review
Share your thoughts with other customers
Create your own review
 
 

The most helpful favorable review
The most helpful critical review


14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Mixed Feelings
In The Country Of Last Things tells the story of a disintegrating, post apocalyptic unnamed city, as seen through the eyes of the protagonist, Anna Blume. Anna comes to the City in search of her brother, but soon realizes the hopelessness of her quest. Leaving the City appears to be impossible, and Anna finds herself in a day-to-day struggle for survival.
Generally...
Published on August 10, 2003 by RV

versus
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Very Average Book.
This book isn't fantastic, but it isn't horrible either--it is very average. It's interesting to read about a reality so different from the current one; where people think only about how to survive from day to day, and can't even consider pursuing happiness or frivolity. But by the same token, while it's interesting to see how this destitute society functions, it's...
Published on May 30, 2000 by Bethany McKinney


‹ Previous | 1 2 3 4 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Mixed Feelings, August 10, 2003
By 
RV (California, United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: In the Country of Last Things (Paperback)
In The Country Of Last Things tells the story of a disintegrating, post apocalyptic unnamed city, as seen through the eyes of the protagonist, Anna Blume. Anna comes to the City in search of her brother, but soon realizes the hopelessness of her quest. Leaving the City appears to be impossible, and Anna finds herself in a day-to-day struggle for survival.
Generally speaking, this is a haunting and depressing novel, made even more so by the calm and unemotional style of narration Auster uses in describing the most horrifying situations.
The book reminds me of Orwell's 1984. But whereas the bleak future (or past) described by Orwell is a manmade oppressive government which takes over the lives of its citizens, the City's condition is one of irreversible and inescapable chaos. Whatever government exists in the City seems to have no power at all. Thus, while 1984 seems to offer some meager hope for political salvation, the City can only continue to disintegrate and things can only get worse.
Throughout the book Anna seems grow, improve and evolve as a human being, although she believes that the opposite is true. The letter she is writing to an unnamed friend or lover is the only successful act of creation in the entire book, and this single act of creation stands in marked contrast to the ubiquitous collapse of everyone and everything else in the book. When considered in this light, the book is about Anna's unintended and unnoticed triumph over the City.
I don't quite know how to feel about this book, but I know that it will stay with me for a long time to come. This is why Paul Auster is one of my favorite authors - regardless of whether you like his books, they always leave you with something to think about.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Hell On Earth?; Or Purgatory?, January 26, 2005
By 
Jon Linden (Warren, N.J. United States) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: In the Country of Last Things (Paperback)
Auster creates for us a truly horrible reality; but a reality that is in fact imaginable. One where the central government is no longer in touch with the needs of the people, where local government is unable to raise enough money to keep basic services working and where each person `fends for themselves' in the streets, where ever they can find what they need to stay alive.

The description is beautifully constructed and while Auster never states this, the city has a feel of Manhattan, which would not be odd, as Auster lives in NYC and is intimately familiar with the City and all its nooks and crannies. But in this book, Auster leads the reader through the most terrible and heart rending human conditions; physical, emotional and psychological. And the descriptions of these pains are precise and concise.

Auster uses his usual tremendous power with words to convey the depth of all the darkest of the dark. But he does make a point of stating that these people are Alive! This is not some type of "Hell" but if anything: Purgatory! Here on Earth!

With truly artful metaphor, the story of Paul Auster is clear:

Man will try to go on, not matter how horrible his surroundings, no matter how painful it is to continue to live; until he is just no longer able to do so.

The book is high quality and uniquely created modern literature. It is an experience that all serious literary readers should not miss.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Last Leap, July 4, 2000
This review is from: In the Country of Last Things (Paperback)
Inherent in "In the Country of Last Things" is this: "Our lives are no more than the sum of manifold contingencies, and no matter how diverse they might be in their details, they all share an essential randomness in their design"(143-4). One such contingency occurs when the protagonist Anna Blume rediscovers a forgotten blue notebook accompanied by six yellow pencils. This is the catalyst for a letter that may as well be called "In the Country of Last Things". The letter comes across as an exaggerated account, an apocalyptic depiction of a city stripped of its humanity. Old laws that once held the society together have been supplanted by newer laws that will again be replaced by even more corrupt and venal ones.
Anna Blume is a girl who comes to the city in search of her brother, but, instead, finds disintegration, desperation, and hopelessness. She is really no different, only her story, from the other inhabitants of the city. In the city, everyone is searching for something or someone that has disappeared. For "nothing lasts, you see, not even the thoughts inside you. And you mustn't waste your time looking for them. Once a thing is gone, that is the end of it" (2). The immediate and never-ending concern is hunger: hunger in the literal sense, as food like everything else in the city, is in short supply; and hunger in the abstract, wherein people crave friendship, love, connection, and a shared understanding of language and meaning. The constant struggle is not to give up or lose hope, and thereby your life.
In the "Last Things," Paul Auster fills the pages with vivid accounts of a city in ruin, on the verge of complete collapse. It is an unnamed city, therefore, one may recognize it as his own, or what one day may be his own. But through the narrator of Anna, and the people she befriends and loves, the reader is offered hope in a world of hopelessness, a reason for optimism even though it seems baseless. Precarious is life, subject to coincidences, and the important thing, the vital thing, is to connect and be hopeful. A person, a city, may just depend on it.
"In the Country of Last Things" is an imperfect novel. Too often the reader is introduced to words or ideas that seem to come out of nowhere and then just disappear before achieving full understanding, but this, too, may serve to add to the impermanence of ideas and objects that are so often lost, or in danger of being lost, to a civilization. Sometimes we do lose thoughts or objects or people before we ever learn to understand and appreciate them. On a personal note, if I may, as it applies, I thank one person, a nameless one, for introducing me to the world of Paul Auster. My gratitude, always!
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Rawster, July 31, 2001
By 
G Cairoli (hoboken, nj USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: In the Country of Last Things (Paperback)
Although this may not be Auster's best book, it still provides many Austerisms to satisfy and hold you for the short amount of time it will take you to read this novel. This well told journey of a woman in a strange place does start off a little slow but once Auster's slanted supporting cast is introduced, it rolls from there. Auster's use of these slightly skewed characters is once again genius when splintered in with his trademark "coincidences". Auster has an unusual talent that translates into unusual stories with unusual characters that vice grip you into submission. This is an earlier, rawer example of Paul Auster, which only shows how his style has developed and matured into the force it is now. Like I said, this may not be his best, but Auster's worst is still better than half the junk that's printed today.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Very Average Book., May 30, 2000
By 
This review is from: In the Country of Last Things (Paperback)
This book isn't fantastic, but it isn't horrible either--it is very average. It's interesting to read about a reality so different from the current one; where people think only about how to survive from day to day, and can't even consider pursuing happiness or frivolity. But by the same token, while it's interesting to see how this destitute society functions, it's hard to really feel connected to any of the characters (even Anna, the protagonist), so the climax doesn't really feel like one, and the ending seems rather ho-hum. But it's short, and some of the more subtle ideas about how people work in society are compelling enough to merit taking a look through this book. But read Auster's Music of Chance or something else first, or else you might get turned off of a very good author because of this very average book.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating, Thought-provoking, typical Auster!!, January 7, 1997
By A Customer
This review is from: In the Country of Last Things (Paperback)
The point of this book is the disintegration of society as
we know it. There has not been a nuclear holocaust or anything
of the sort; society is just collapsing in on itself as it can
no longer sustain the pressures of population, economic crisis
and factionalism. Now the safety nets that once existed are
gone and mankind has run amok in this city highly reminiscent
of NYC.Auster has taken the everyday features of our society
(e.g.runners)and extrapolated each to the extreme as only he
can do. This is our world falling apart when civility
becomes the exception rather than the norm.I highly recommend
this book to anyone who isn't afraid to look down"the rabbit
hole" or enjoys futuristic novels.An overlooked book.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A harrowing account, December 19, 2003
By 
HORAK (Zug, Switzerland) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: In the Country of Last Things (Paperback)
Paul Auster's novel offers a haunting picture of a devastated society with all its miseries and struggles for survival. It is highly reminiscent of George Orwell's "Nineteen Eighty-Four" and although Paul Auster's novel is also set in the future, it is a chilling reflection of contemporary social reality. It is a short, sustained masterpiece, truly unforgettable.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The most interesting question of all, May 12, 2012
By 
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: In the Country of Last Things (Paperback)
I don't know whether In the Country of Last Things is post-apocalyptic in the strict sense of the word. It describes no apocalyptic event, and what people recall of the past is unreliable, the stuff of legend. The unnamed (presumably American) city that is the novel's focus is in a state of decay, seemingly the result of entropy rather than a single disaster-inducing cause. As the narrator describes it, "the city seems to be consuming itself." Most inhabitants are homeless, scrounging for food or scraps of formerly useful objects that can be resold. Many are simply waiting to die, often actively pursuing death (sometimes in bizarre ways), a desire that has given birth to creative and lucrative new businesses. Absurd religions flourish. Armed invaders seize buildings, evicting tenants; ownership of realty is a concept that belongs to a forgotten past. Religious groups -- all of them -- are oppressed. Scholarship is all but dead. The social compact is in ruins and the corrupt government is useless except as a disposer of dead bodies.

In the Country of Last Things is written as a letter from Anna Blume, a young woman who has traveled overseas to visit the city in search of her brother, a journalist who has not contacted his editor in nine months. Writing the letter, Anna feels she is "screaming into a vast and terrible blackness." Through all her hardships and struggles, her encounters with multiple sinners and occasional saints, Anna adapts and endures. Tragedy follows tragedy, interspersed with random acts of kindness. Ultimately, her life is reduced to a desire "to live one more day."

Paul Auster's novel explores (in Anna's words) "the most interesting question of all: to see what happens when there is nothing, and whether or not we will survive that too." The novel is bleak but the darkness is occasionally illuminated by pockets of hope -- there are a few people who offer unselfish assistance, who tend to the suffering -- suggesting, perhaps, that even when there is nothing, when all the safety nets have dissolved, a willingness to help strangers at the expense of one's own health and safety remains a fundamental component of human nature, at least for some. The unanswered question is whether those people will triumph, or whether they will be overcome by those who hoard resources, who control a dysfunctional government, who care only about their own lives.

The novel's ending is inconclusive. We do not know what will become of Anna, but that's the nature of life. None of us know our fate. In the Country of Last Things tells us that we have the power to make choices, and that even small and seemingly inconsequential decisions make it possible to survive, at least in spirit, when it seems that there is nothing left. An optimistic reader will think it likely that Anna will never lose her humanity despite the obstacles that impede her continuing journey.

As always, Auster's prose is lucid, his characters are well-defined, his imagery is scintillating, and his story merits serious thought and discussion. This may not be Auster's best work -- it is certainly a departure from the kinds of novels he wrote before and after this one -- but it is a powerful and compelling story told by one of the nation's most accomplished writers.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Horror tale with a twist, June 19, 2008
This review is from: In the Country of Last Things (Paperback)
In the Country of Last Things is pure allegory, but such is the force of Auster's writing that the reader is prepared to suspend disbelief.

It is a unique characteristic of the industrial world that none of us has a complete vision of how it works, and it is easy to imagine that what we don't understand, let alone control, could suddenly cease to function; Auster plays on this basic fear to weave a morbid, often horrific tale.

The heroine, in search of her brother, finds herself trapped in a city that we recognise as having once been 20th century American, but has now become a crucible of destitution, savagery, and violent struggle for survival. This grim novella describes a society which has ceased creating or even producing, and is thus reduced to consuming what is left... until that runs out. It holds a mirror to our own compulsory consumption, waste and greed, and it forces us to consider the actual value of modern material comfort. It also lets Auster exploit on a grander scale his pet themes of decay and degradation, of homelessness and its impact on identity.

Post-modern decay apparently isn't pretty. It is a place of book burners and ghouls, of cannibals and suicidal fanatics, of pathetic attachment to the most miserable objects, and of general disregard for human life and dignity, even if hope and love aren't entirely missing. But it makes for a fascinating read, one that it is difficult to complete in anything but a single, mesmerising sitting.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Austere Auster As Always, March 31, 2008
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: In the Country of Last Things (Paperback)
Mr. Rogers never lived in Auster's neighborhoods. This dystopian tale of an unidentified city falling apart and reverting to anarchy will leave you shivering. We don't know if this societal breakdown is really a world wide phenomenon or if it only affects this one city.

My enjoyment was from the people, and their means of coping with continuing worsening of conditions. Nothing ever got better yet some still clung to hopes that tomorrow would be brighter; while others had totally given up.

Auster wants you to have to think while reading his books and they are short enough for you to maintain your concentration. This was quite enjoyable.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


‹ Previous | 1 2 3 4 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

Details

In the Country of Last Things
In the Country of Last Things by Paul Auster (Paperback - May 2, 1988)
$16.00 $12.65
In Stock
Add to cart Add to wishlist
Search these reviews only
Rate and Discover Movies
Send us feedback How can we make Amazon Customer Reviews better for you? Let us know here.