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The Book of Illusions: A Novel Paperback – October 27, 2009
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Although film images are technically "illusions," this deft and layered novel is not so much about conscious illusion or trickery as about the traces we leave behind us: words, images, memories. Children are one obvious trace, but in this book, they are not allowed to carry their parents forward. They die early: Hector Mann losing his 3-year-old son to a bee sting just as David Zimmer has lost his two sons in the crash. The second half of The Book of Illusions is given over to a love affair, and to Zimmer's attempt to save something of Hector Mann, and of the others he has loved. In the end, what really survives of us on earth--what flickering immortality we are permitted--is left to the reader to surmise. --Regina Marler --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top Customer Reviews
To start with, with The Book of Illusions I turned off my mind and just enjoyed what I can only describe as a novel with more detail, believability, and fictional reality than I have ever read.
"Fictional reality" is probably a good term for it, too. Fictional reality is the currency with which this exceptional book conducts its business -- and in a manner so believable I began to question if this was fiction at all. (Shades of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil!)
Did Hector Mann ever really exist? No, he didn't. But you wouldn't know that by reading Paul Auster's book. Auster paints such a vivid picture of the silent-era movie star and his life that I often wondered to myself if the entire book was based partly on fact, and merely cleverly veiled. (Just to make sure, I checked the Internet Movie Database under the name "Hector Mann." No precise listing came up under any cateogry.)
I have never seen such rich detail about a fictional person's life! It's astounding to me that the films the book's main character, David Zimmer, describes in painstaking detail never really existed. Dialog, facial expressions, plots, the names of other actors, the names of directors and producers, and the descriptions of the era in which the films were released (the late '20s) are all there in black and white. (No pun intended.)
Yet the films were really only "seen" by one person -- author Paul Auster!Read more ›
As he often does, Auster returns in this story to several motifs common to much of his fiction. Many key Auster characters are clearly intended as variations of himself -- sometimes he will give them his name -- and The Book of Illusions introduces another aspect of the author in its narrator, "David Zimmer." Like the narrator of Leviathan, Zimmer is a wordsmith intellectual whose fascination with a highly creative individual with a suspect past and a mysterious disappearance triggers the unraveling of the story. To preserve his fragile sanity, Zimmer scrutinizes the work and life of Hector Mann, a 1920s filmmaker whose twelve silent comedies strike Zimmer as perfectly crafted examples of the form. Meanwhile, he undertakes the monumental project of translating from French to English an epic 18th century autobiography 2,000 pages long (Francois-Rene de Chateaubriand's Memoires d'Outre-tombe). Zimmer sees his own hopelessness mirrored in the autobiographer's conception of his task as issuing dispatches as a dead man from beyond the tomb.
The translation, in its enormity and relentlessness, manifests other familiar Auster themes. I thought back to The Music of Chance, where the prisoners Nashe and Pozzi are charged with carefully constructing a two-thousand-foot wall from the stones of a disassembled castle.Read more ›
The protagonist, academic David Zimmer, has suffered the nearly unimaginable, but quite credible tragedy of losing his family in an air crash. His response is to drink, to shut himself away, and, when briefly re-introduced to his former life, to be appallingly obnoxious.
His chosen therapy is to write a book about a forgotten (and as it turns out, disappeared) silent film star. The publication of this study produces the remarkable news that his subject is still alive. The story of his subject Hector's life post-Hollywood mirrors the escape Zimmer himself is trying to make from the awful reality of his own tragedy. The parallels between Zimmer as author and Hector as subject are striking.
The resolution of this marvellous novel is both sad and shocking, and yet, as with all Auster's work, there is a note of hope at the end, coupled with the sense that what is real, and what is not, is divided by the thinnest possible line.
If this book were judged only on its evocation of the end of the silent movie period, it would be a complete success. Containing, as it does, many layers of complexity built around what we know to be real, imagine to be real, and imagine to be imagined, seen against the backdrop of unforgettable characters whose own reality is compelling, this is an extraodinary novel by a writer at the height of his powers. Read it more than once -- it will repay you many times over.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
If the rest of this book were as fantastic as the first 50 pages, I would give it 5 stars. David Zimmer has lost his entire family in a plane crash, and, after seeing a TV film... Read morePublished 1 month ago by Patti
Hours spent in reverie of this well paced novel. Topped by a delicious humorous meta-referential winks from the author.Published 2 months ago by Anna S.
I really enjoyed this book. Paul Auster is a great story teller. His language is beautiful and seamless, and he tells a compelling and completely unexpected story. Read morePublished 4 months ago by Art Gal
I have to say, I did have a bit of a tough time getting it out of the bag, but once I did.......oh boy! This is the best book ever written by anyone, ever! Read morePublished 5 months ago by Eric
I'm surprised at the vehemence of some of these reviews. It's a book, folks, not the Declaration of Independence. Lighten up! Read morePublished 7 months ago by HeavyElectronicsBuyer
I loved the book! I was helping a friend research reviews on this book and it peaked my curiosity so I had to read it. I'm glad I did.Published 10 months ago by Terri Johnson
My son in law handed me a copy of Oracle Night and made the bold statement the reason no one discusses The Great American Novel any more is because Auster has done it. Repeatedly. Read morePublished 15 months ago by James Allard
Interesting start and couldn't take it off my hands for the last third, getting better and better.Published 17 months ago by andreas lenzke
I know Paul Austen work since his first books and have admired him since then..Published 17 months ago by Josadac M.