Record pain

Record pain

To our loyal readers Paul Austerthose who have waited seven years since the book was published 4 3 2 1it will not be difficult for them to recognize en Baumgartner The world of the American author. The novel is published by Editions 62 And translated Ernest Riera Arbosainsists on a structure already familiar to us: a character who looks suspiciously like the author, is thrust, by one thing or another, into a bewildering literary world, which will mix reality and fiction at all its layers.

Paul Auster © Edo Baer

This time the protagonist is Cy Baumgartner, a retired college professor who spends most of his time at home. The events of the novel are very minimal: Paul Auster explores the thoughts of the protagonist, who is engaged in reviewing the entire life he has lived. And he doesn't just focus on himself: he'll also reveal his family tree to us, moving from Austro-Hungarian Ukraine to the present day in suburban New York, without moving from his home. However, throughout this review, the narrative will constantly focus on memories of Anna, his wife, who has already been dead for a decade, suggesting that what motivates the memory is nothing other than a long mourning process.

The first chapter, narrated with the skill of an experienced writer, places us entirely in Baumgartner's life. It all starts when he burns his hand with the aluminum can he bought the day he met Anna, the same thing that made them look into each other's eyes briefly, causing the beginning of a love story that ended in tragedy. He drops the jar on the floor and screams and hears the doorbell. In pain, he opens the door to Molly, the UPS delivery person, and perhaps the most important relationship this septuagenarian teacher maintains, with whom he buys books just so he can interact with her.

Auster does not stop the thread of thought at any time, and quickly connects one story to another; So much so that the reader will not wonder in a few moments how we got here.

His cleaning stepdaughter calls him to announce that her father has lost a finger at work, generating one of the book's key metaphors: losing his wife is, for Baumgartner, like losing an organ. In fact, he may claim to be suffering from phantom limb syndrome, because even though ten years have passed, he feels his presence as if it were real. While he is meditating, he is interrupted by a visit to the gas meter on his first day on the job, and when Baumgartner wants to guide him down the stairs to the basement, he falls and injures himself, leaving him to the mercy of this inexperienced boy's care.

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However, we quickly leave the life of the novel's protagonist behind, making way for the confused and selective postmodern narrative that characterizes Auster's work. But no longer because there are characters dubbed, with the same name, as in the New York trilogy, or because the act of narration itself becomes a card game, as in Music of Chance, but now, what prompts this confusion is none other than Baumgartner's old age. As his thoughts revolve around a lifetime's accumulated memories, we will learn the story of his father, mother, sister and, above all, Anna.

The bold and subversive Auster is gone, and now, in his place, in a journey of Baumgartner's psychology, we can read a rather frightening narrator.

This story, and this will surprise no one, is handled with great literary technique: Auster does not stop the thread of thought at any time, and quickly connects one story to another. So much so that the reader will not ask himself in a few moments, “How did we get here?”, and will not be able to help but be amazed by the rapid succession of pages, which constantly push him forward. Moreover, those dedicated to the memory of Anna, have an undeniable beauty, and are more masterfully created in prose than in laden poetic language.

But we must admit that this use of postmodern technology, confused and detached, in dealing with aging, makes the book lose its power. The bold and subversive Auster is gone, and now, in his place, in a journey of Baumgartner's psychology, we can read a rather frightening narrator. So much so that we are faced with the paradox that even though we are contemplating the history of the last century, the facts that define the narrative are only those that are truly central to the history of the United States: immigration at the beginning of the last century. The twentieth century, World War II, the Vietnam War, enough. As if there had been a gap from then to the present, all the facts that could still be debated: the Reagan era, the Iraq war, the 2008 crash, or the rise of Trumpism.

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