Listen to the article

The famous writer Paul Auster, the undisputed master of the American postmodern novel, left us at the age of 77, leaving behind a monumental literary work that marked his era.

Born in 1947 in Newark, New Jersey, Paul Auster was attracted to writing from a very young age. After studying at Columbia, he traveled to Europe before fully devoting himself to his passion for words in the 1970s. His first great success, The New York Trilogy (1987), revealed to the world his unique style, mixing metaphysical intrigues, existential questions, and troubling mirror games between reality and fiction.

Then followed the masterpieces that established Auster as a major figure in American literature: Moon Palace (1989), In the Country of Last Things (1989), The Music of Chance (1990), Leviathan (1992), Mr. Vertigo (1994), The Brooklyn Follies (2006), or Sunset Park (2010), to name but a few. His latest novel, 4 3 2 1, published in 2017, will remain a masterful opus exploring the different possible lives of the same character.

A Master of Postmodernism

What is striking in Paul Auster’s work is his ability to constantly blur the boundaries between reality and fiction, truth and lies, chance and destiny. His books are fascinating labyrinths where the reader gets lost with delight, guided by chiseled writing and virtuoso narrative construction. Auster liked to say that “if fiction turns out to be real, then perhaps we need to rethink our definition of reality.”

His unclassifiable style, between metaphysical thrillers, autofiction, and postmodern experiments, earned him immense international recognition, especially in France, where he was adored. Compared to Kafka, Borges, or Beckett, he managed to impose a demanding and profound work that never ceased to question the human condition and the power of words.

A Unique and Inimitable Writing Style

Paul Auster’s writing is immediately recognizable among all others. Refined, poetic, seemingly simple but hiding a great narrative complexity, it manages to transform the mundane into the fascinating. His cleverly constructed plots, full of twists, chance encounters, and intertwining destinies, keep the reader spellbound from the first to the last page.

A master in the art of sowing doubt, Auster plays on the troubled identities of his narrators and characters, not hesitating to give them his own initials or to use anagrams of his name. This confusion between reality and fiction, autobiography and invention, has become his trademark.

Existential Themes at the Heart of His Work

Throughout the novels, certain obsessive themes emerge and form the fabric of the Austerian universe. Identity and the quest for self, at the heart of masterpieces like The New York Trilogy or In the Country of Last Things, push his characters into dizzying existential labyrinths.

Chances and coincidences, true narrative engines, divert destinies according to tiny details. Auster thus explores the possibilities of life and the paths one takes or misses. Solitude, omnipresent in his melancholic characters, paradoxically becomes what allows one to be closest to oneself.

And then there is New York, his fetish city, a character in its own right that embodies “a certain idea of America.” From Brooklyn to Central Park to the skyscrapers of Manhattan, Auster depicts a fantasized and reinvented city, a grandiose theater for the wanderings and epiphanies of his antiheroes.

 A Major Literary Influence

An avowed heir to the great American authors (Hawthorne, Melville, Hemingway, Fitzgerald…) but also European ones (Kafka, Beckett, Jabès…), Paul Auster has created a work that throws a unique bridge between the two continents. Undisputed master of postmodernism, he revolutionized the novelistic genre through his daring narrative experiments and his unprecedented way of mixing reality and fiction.

His influence on the following generations of writers is immense, from Haruki Murakami to Enrique Vila-Matas, Emmanuel Carrère, or Camille Laurens. Hailed by international critics and translated into more than forty languages, Auster has established his name as an absolute reference in world literature for the last fifty years.

A Committed and Humanist Intellectual

Beyond his literary genius, Paul Auster was also a committed man, not hesitating to take a stand on the major issues of his time. A fervent defender of civil rights and an opponent of the war in Iraq, he always put his notoriety at the service of his humanist convictions.

Married since 1982 to the novelist Siri Hustvedt, he formed with her an emblematic couple of the New York literary scene. Their son Daniel tragically died of an overdose in 2022, a tragedy from which Auster never really recovered. He himself had been battling cancer since the end of 2022.

For Auster, literature was a means to nourish our empathy, to know ourselves, and to survive in an increasingly complex and confusing world. Through his books, he holds up a mirror to us and invites us to confront our own inner labyrinths.

With the passing of Paul Auster, a monument of American and international literature is extinguished. His work, of rare richness and depth, will remain a timeless jewel of postmodern literature, exploring with fascinating acuity the mysteries of existence. Hailed during his lifetime as “the most European of American writers,” he leaves an indelible imprint on the literary landscape of the turn of the 21st century. His voice, his unique style, and his singular view of the world will forever continue to haunt and amaze us through the magic of his words.