Literary reviews by Tim Love.
Warning: Rather than reviews, these are often notes in preparation for reviews that were never finished, or pleas for help with understanding pieces. See Litref Reviews - a rationale for details.

Tuesday, 27 June 2006

"the book of illusions" by Paul Auster (Faber and Faber, 2002)

By the end of chapter 2 (which is almost a spoof essay) you'll know whether it's worth continuing. The narrator "Zimmer" (who's feeling depersonalised after a tragedy) researches into a silent-movie actor called "Mann" who produced a movie called "Mr Nobody" before mysteriously disappearing in 1929. Zimmer meets up with Mann in New Mexico, the night before he dies. Alma (who brought Zimmer to Mann) and Zimmer watch a secretly-produced film by Mann which has characters called Claire (played by Alma's mother) and Martin, who in turn is writing a book about characters called Nordstrum and Anna.

Zimmer's been translating a book by Chateaubriand whose publication was delayed until the author's death. Alma's biography of Zimmer was to appear only after Zimmer's death, but it was burnt by Mann's widow, as was Mann's films, and Martin in the film fed his draft to the flames. At the end we read that Zimmer doesn't want "the book of illusions" published until after his death.

It's more "the book of disillusions", more still "the book of mirrors" - nested coincidences abound. There's an of economy of props and plots - the same ones are repeated, fatefully, and Zimmer becomes aware of this. But within this tight construction live viable characters driven by chance love and stray bullets. Some sections are potted biographies - they don't come over as info-dumps, more as mini-stories.

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