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The Invention of Solitude Paperback – January 30, 2007

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Beginning with the deconstructed detective novels of the New York Trilogy, Paul Auster has proved himself to be one of the most adventurous writers in contemporary fiction. In book after book, he seems compelled to reinvent his style from scratch. Yet he always returns to certain preoccupations--most notably, solitude and coincidence--and these themes get a powerful workout in this early memoir. In the first half, "Portrait of an Invisible Man," Auster comes to terms with the death of his father, and as he investigates this elusive figure, he makes a rather shocking (and enlightening) discovery about his family's history. The second half, "The Book of Memory," finds the author on more abstract ground, toying with the entwined metaphors of coincidence, translation, solitude, and language. But here, too, the autobiographical element gives an extra kick to Auster's prose and keeps him from sliding off into armchair aesthetics. An eloquent, mesmerizing book. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Moving, delicately perceived portraits of lives and relationships. -- The New York Times Book Review --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books; Revised edition (January 30, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0143112228
  • ISBN-13: 978-0143112228
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.5 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (39 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #276,263 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Paul Auster is the bestselling author of Travels in the Scriptorium, The Brooklyn Follies, and Oracle Night. I Thought My Father Was God, the NPR National Story Project anthology, which he edited, was also a national bestseller. His work has been translated into thirty languages. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

89 of 94 people found the following review helpful By BB on July 20, 2001
Format: Paperback
It's hard for to say which is Auster's greater achievement: "The New York Trilogy" or this, but I think I side with this book. Has anyone taken as strikingly original and also successfully realized approach to the memoir? I just know that when I came to the dramatic revelation of the first half of this book, I was so shocked I dropped the book. I am a little suspicious of Auster's artistry--he is such an absorbing, fascinating, mesmerizing writer that I wonder what tricks he may be playing on me. But with each of his books, and this one in particular, there is always a sensation having been taken out of the world, slightly disturbed, and then placed back into it. For a while, you see things differently, and any writer who can shake us up that effectively deserves our praise and attention.
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33 of 34 people found the following review helpful By Michael Murphy on December 23, 2003
Format: Paperback
In "Portrait of an Invisible Man", the first part of Paul Auster's fascinating memoir "Invention of Solitude", Auster writes about his father's life as a means of helping himself come to terms with his father's death. Auster remembers his father as an elusive figure in his life, a truant from life emotionally detached and disconnected from family ("he had managed to keep himself at a distance from life"). To Auster, it seemed that the world's attempts to embrace his father simply bounced off him without ever making a breakthrough - it was impossible to enter his solitude. The theme of Solitude runs powerfully through this disturbing, mesmerising memoir.

Auster is conscious of how little knowledge he actually has of his father's early childhood years, how unenlightened he is with regard to his father's inner life, how few clues he has to his father's character and how little understanding of the underlying reasons for his father's immunity from the world at large. Through an amazing co-incidence involving his cousin, Auster learns of a terrible secret buried deep in his father's childhood past - the story was splashed across old newspaper reports of the time, sixty years before - of a shocking family tragedy that shattered his father's childhood world and could have seriously affected his mental outlook during his formative years, accounting for the solitariness and elusiveness that characterised the "invisible man" of Auster's childhood. Excellent, compelling writing! Dramatic revelations from a grim, distant past finally brought to light! Highly recommended!
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22 of 25 people found the following review helpful By jack schaaf on January 5, 2000
Format: Paperback
Autobiography -more often truer to form than substance- seems to repeal one's pretensions concerning identity while legitimizing a sense of purpose. Paul Auster's "Invention of Solitude" is perhaps one of the very best ever written: If Henry Adams attempted to offer credence to his generation than Auster is the heir apparent for the 20th c. Arranged in two parts, "Invention" and "Book of Memory," the novella-length memoirs center around two themes; familial and personal loss. The passing of a father whose mysterious motives and outlook later occupies the subplot of a mystery and the author's search for its truthful sources in "Invention," while the second (written when the author was at an all-time low) is a meditation upon his own son, which is interwoven with study of Collidi's Pinnochio and, ostensibly, Jonah. Auster is as much at home quoting a Judaic scholar as Pascal, Tolstoy or a close acquaintance. Together the book solidifies the relations while offering amazing insights for anyone who has suffered and expereienced a sense of conviction in wake of tragedy of loss. This is an astonishingly mature and compassionate book, one which I have never found anyone to whom I could not recommend.
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24 of 29 people found the following review helpful By R. W. Rasband VINE VOICE on September 13, 2000
Format: Paperback
The first half of this slender book, "Portrait of an Invisible Man", is Auster's memoir of his cold golem of a father on the occasion of his death. Auster writes in chillingly clear prose about a loved and hated parent in a way that reminded me of Milan Kundera's cooly anguished meditations on history and family. Plus, Auster finds what so many of us don't--a possible explanation for his tortured past. He discovers the old, half-buried tale of how his grandmother murdered his grandfather. There are a couple of haunting photographs in the book: the one on the cover is Auster's young father, multiplied by trick photography. The other is an old picture of the grandparent's family that contains a secret not unlike that of the photo at the end of Roman Polanski's film "Repulsion." I have not been a fan of Auster's fiction--I find it mechanical--but this fine work has me wanting to read his other essays and memoirs.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful By KiWi Mathes on December 21, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book's first half is gorgeously vulnerable. Auster creates his father as a fascinating character, and the reader learns about him through Auster the adult writer/man finding his father through the objects he's left behind and also through Auster's memories as a boy. What's so strange, then, is the second half of the book, which becomes overly artificed. Auster writers about himself in the third person, calling himself "A.", and what follows is a distanced meditation on what memory might be. All of the vulnerability of the first half gives way to a nearly solipsistic second half. It's like Auster has decided to turn himself into his father and let the reader view him, but the reader is no longer allowed to sympathize with him. Truly, this second half seems a total intellectual invention of, alas, solitude, as the reader is held perpetually at arm's length. Buy a used copy and read the first half.
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