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Man In The Dark

by Paul Auster
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Product Details

  • Publisher: Picador
  • Publishing date: 28/04/2009
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-13: 9780312428518
  • ISBN: 0312428510


A Washington Post Best Book of the Year

"Man in the Dark is an undoubted pleasure to read. Auster really does possess the wand of the enchanter."--Michael Dirda, The New York Review of Books

From a "literary original" (The Wall Street Journal) comes a book that forces us to confront the blackness of night even as it celebrates the existence of ordinary joys in a world capable of the most grotesque violence. Seventy-two-year-old August Brill is recovering from a car accident at his daughter's house in Vermont. When sleep refuses to come, he lies in bed and tells himself stories, struggling to push back thoughts about things he would prefer to forget: his wife's recent death and the horrific murder of his granddaughter's boyfriend, Titus. The retired book critic imagines a parallel world in which America is not at war with Iraq but with itself. In this other America the twin towers did not fall and the 2000 election results led to secession, as state after state pulled away from the union and a bloody civil war ensued. As the night progresses, Brill's story grows increasingly intense, and what he is desperately trying to avoid insists on being told.


Paul Auster is the bestselling author of The Book of Illusions, and The New York Trilogy, among many other works. In 2006 he was awarded The Prince of Asturias Prize for Literature and inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Among his other honors are the Independent Spirit Award for the screenplay of Smoke and the Prix Médicis étranger for Leviathan. He has also been short-listed for the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award (The Book of Illusions), the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction (The Music of Chance), and the Edgar Award (City of Glass). His work has been translated into thirty-five languages. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Longlisted for the International IMPAC Literary Award

A work of fiction with a dark political twist, Paul Auster's Man in the Dark speaks to the realities that America inhabits as wars flame around the world. Seventy-two-year-old August Brill is recovering from a car accident in his daughter’s house in Vermont. When sleep refuses to come, he lies in bed and tells himself stories, struggling to push back thoughts about things he would prefer to forget?his wife’s recent death and the horrific murder of his granddaughter’s boyfriend, Titus. The retired book critic imagines a parallel world in which America is not at war with Iraq but with itself. In this other America the twin towers did not fall and the 2000 election results led to secession, as state after state pulled away from the union and a bloody civil war ensued. As the night progresses, Brill’s story grows increasingly intense, and what he is so desperately trying to avoid insists on being told. Joined in the early hours by his granddaughter, he gradually opens up to her and recounts the story of his marriage. After she falls asleep, he at last finds the courage to revisit the trauma of Titus’s death.
"This is perhaps Auster’s best book . . . Man In The Dark is so unlike anything Auster has ever written that it doesn’t make sense to compare it with his earlier work . . . Here we have multiple worlds and three generations . . . Auster’s book leaves one with a depth of feeling much larger than might be expected from such a small and concise work of art."?Stephen Elliott, San Francisco Chronicle

"'I am alone in the dark, turning the world around in my head as I struggle through another bout of insomnia, another white night in the great American wilderness.' That's the first line from Paul Auster's new novel, Man in the Dark, and in some ways it's a perfect opening, as accurate as anything in describing the world, or worlds, you'll encounter over the coming 180 pages, a world turning in the head of Auster's 72-year-old everyman, August Brill. Auster has captivated generations of readers with his expansive imagination and style?a style that could be called lazy, in the best sense of the word, like a dog with his tongue out, rolling in the sun. But this, his latest novel, is something else. In this book, Auster has taken a turn similar to the turn Philip Roth took in American Pastoral and Leonard Michaels took in his Nachman stories. He's turned his attention outward, to the larger scope of the new century . . . Despite all the threads, which just barely connect, the book works beautifully. And though it's complicated to explain, it's an incredibly clear and easy book to read. Never a minimalist, Auster somehow takes on the largest questions of our time inside small tales of one family. With August as his storyteller, Auster has created a giant canvas out of what seems like a few effortless strokes, strokes often stunning in their simple beauty . . . This is perhaps Auster's best book. But maybe that's an unfair description. Man in the Dark is so unlike anything Auster has ever written that it doesn't make sense to compare it with his earlier work. Sure, you can recognize the author of Oracle Night and Brooklyn Follies. But it's as if that gentle mind has been joined by the ghost of Kurt Vonnegut, the adamant pacifist, author of Slaughterhouse Five and creator of Billy Pilgrim, a prisoner of war who became 'unstuck in time.' Here we have multiple worlds and three generations, also unstuck in time. But like Vonnegut's classic anti-war novel, Auster's book leaves one with a depth of feeling much larger than might be expected from such a small and concise work of art."?Stephen Elliott, San Francisco Chronicle 

"Are you a Paul Auster fan? Or, perhaps, are you emphatically not? Either way, read Man in the Dark, Auster's latest, which is inventive, tender, and darkly lined with the American predicament . . . Paul Auster has outdone himself, perhaps precisely by not trying to outdo anything."?John Brenkman, The Village Voice 

"On superficial acquaintance, Paul Auster’s new novel, Man in the Dark, appears to be merely the latest strain in a recent pandemic of dystopian fantasies, in this instance an alternate history of America in which the 9/11 terrorist attacks never happened but something even worse did: A second American civil war. In Auster’s parallel universe, the battle is joined not by the blue and the grey but rather by the Blue and the Red, as the bitterly disputed 2000 election degenerates into secession and an all-out battle for the Union. With 13 million dead and counting, the real-world election and its fusillades of lawsuits and partisan bomb-throwing suddenly seem terribly innocent in contrast to this ugly imagined world in which the only winner is gore. But as it turns out, Auster is after something entirely different, in this haunting and beautifully crafted work, than speculative fiction. The dystopia isn’t Auster’s but rather his central character’s, August Brill, the titular 'man in the dark'. Brill, a 72-year-old retired literary critic, is a deeply traumatized human husk who, like a character out of a Bergman movie, is sharing a house with his equally damaged and desperate daughter and granddaughter . . . The novel weaves in a number of other strands, including the story of Brill’s marriage to his late wife, which Brill recounts to Katya in beautiful and touching detail, a couple of harrowing tales of the Second World War, and the story of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s unhappy and aimless daughter Rose, the subject of a biography-in-progress by Brill’s own daughter Miriam. None of this is ever anything less than absorbing, and all of it connects in weird but fitting ways to the main narrative strand. But all of it, as it turns out, is just a precursor for the horror that Brill and Katya have been avoiding all along: The manner in which Titus died in Iraq. Without giving away too much of the story, I can say that, in preparation for this review, I viewed for the first time a genuinely terrifying true-life video I’d been assiduously avoiding for years. It will be obvious to you, after reading Man in the Dark, which video I am referring to, and why it is even more difficult for the main characters to view the somewhat fictionalized version featured in the novel. Nonetheless, they do watch it, well before the events of the novel, and they 'know it will go on haunting us for the rest of our lives, and yet somehow we felt we had to be there with Titus, to keep our eyes open to the horror for his sake . . . so as not to abandon him to the pitiless dark that swallowed him up.' This superb small novel isn't, despite initial impressions, about war or politics at all. It is about, in the face of guilt and horror, choosing whether to die and how, if that is the choice, to live. It is, at heart, about the stratagems that we, but in particular our best novelists, devise as a means of keeping us going in the face of the 'pitiless dark' that will swallow us all."?Michael Antman, PopMatters

"Like Auster's The Brooklyn Follies, the challenge for the central figure of Man in the Dark is to absorb and accept the pain in the final chapters of his life. As the grief-stricken Katya checks in on her grandfather in the wee hours and begins to question him about his life and his decisions, it is clear that Brill is up to that task. For both characters in this surprisingly optimistic book, the morning comes."?Michael McHale, The New York Post 

"[Auster’s] magic has never flourished more fully than it does in Man in the Dark . . . The novel delivers intense reading pleasure from start to finish."?Chauncey Mabe, Orlando ...

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  • Reader in the Dark
    From Amazon

    Despite a well-crafted writing style, and the author's ability to drive the story forward, "Man in the Dark" is a ripoff. SF writers have pulled off Auster's thematic format with much more credibility, if with less eloquence. Colonel Brick, the alternative main character of this part fantasy novel is more human,and deserving of more sympathy than his "imagineer", August Brill. Brill is old, and damaged by the emotional trauma of his life, family, and so creates this alternative story which is actually more interesting than Brill's recollections of his past. Corporal Brick appears to be just a working class guy who has found a niche of happiness in his life without much money, and with marriage to a sexy, loving woman. August Brill, despite his traumatic life(dramatic may be more accurate) has fared well in his life, not rich but comfortable and achieved a degree of public success as a journalist and writer. Auster would have better served his readers and "characters" by continuing Brick nightmarish story; but Brick is killed off in the fantasy "war" in Brill's mind. The novel proceeds like a juggernaut from this point onward--wallowing in supposedly connected incidents of tragedy and serendipitous mishap. Brill's life despite his burdens has been not that bad: he married a beautiful, talented French woman who gives him an equally talented, though troubled daughter. He knows Europe culture, has an appreciation for good food and art and is reasonably well educated....The first Auster novel I read was "Moonpalace and then "Leviathan". I was struck by Auster's artisty and craftmanish. I thought he would possibly be the next F.Scott Fitzgerald, Thomas Wolfe or Saul Bellow. I have not read all his books, but it seems that "unlike" those other classic American authors, Auster has no thematic context to build a catalogue of novels. He seems to be flailing to find a theme but substitutes a temporary situation-- for example, his ludicrous novel, Timbuktu(which I abandoned after 40 pages) Fitzgerald wrote about the rich, Bellow about Jewish experience and culture. Faulkner wrote about the South. Despite the achievements of his earlier novels, Auster seems recently to be squandering his stylisitc brilliance on unimportant, if not trivial themes. It seems unworthy of his skills to continually attempted to capture the situational chaos of modern life. Every middle-class parlor tragedy may be not worth capturing---who cares!! Surely, the ruminations of the existential mind, does not have to eventually examine the life of a Sarah Palin, or Joe the Plumber.... I recently viewed again on cable, Oliver Stone's film "W". Bush almost seems like a tortured St Augustine seeking spiritual affirmation. Stone brilliantly portrays Bush's angst as a product of his ignorance, shallowness, and stupidity, not a voyage toward personal identity. Stone's thematic context is therefore political and provocative....I think Auster's reputation as an American writer may be only identified in the future by a literary footnote.

  • Auster does it again!
    From Amazon

    The master of obsessive characters and multi-layered, internalized worlds takes on the themes of aging, family dynamics, parallel realities and the psychic wounds inflicted by religious fanatics in a post 9/11 US.

  • I don't get the hype
    From Amazon

    It's not that Auster doesn't write well -- or at least competently -- enough. It's just that his books (all 2 that I've read thusfar at least) are, in a word, bloodless. Yet again, PA comes off sounding like an incisive critic (of film, in this case) occasionally, but like the most tepid of novelists throughout. The characters in MitD were deeply deeply uninteresting; the story rivaled the characters in that regard. The one element of MitD that did hold my attention (for a while) was the novel within the novel yet, at no particular point towards the end of the novel outside the novel, it simply ended. It, like the bits of pseudo-film criticism scattered throughout MitD, had all the force of a writing exercise, engaging in the moment but all towards no obvious end. PA has gotten a lot of critical acclaim. 2 novels in to his oeuvre, I can only wonder why?

  • Stories are Stories
    From Amazon

    Stories within stories and fiction within fiction, "Man in the Dark" is oddly structured and oddly gripping. Maybe "mesmerizing" would be a better word. But when it was over, I didn't know what I had in my head, my heart or my hand. It's hard to get your hands around a story about a book critic who is killing an uncomfortable night by telling himself a long story about a parallel universe--and neither the "real" book critic yarn or the story in the book critic's mind are fully resolved. To mix things up further, the book critic, August Brill, devotes time deconstructing, analyzing and appreciating classic films he's watching on television at home. For example, there's a long and interesting rehash of the dishes and other inanimate objects in "The Grand Illusion." If that's enough story, Brill is a retired book critic for The Boston Globe. Think he's read enough "standard" fiction that the last thing he wants is a normal, traditional, predictable ending? Perhaps. It's the speculative story I enjoyed the most, a tale of a soldier named Owen Brick, wakes up to find himself stuck deep in a hole. After he's rescued, Brick slowly uncovers the fact that he's living in an alternate world where he has a mission with his name on it. The exchange with Sarge Serge has a "Catch 22" vibe to it as the Sarge gives Brill his orders to assassinate Brill, the author of the story. "He invented it, and everything that happened or is about to happen is in his head. Eliminate that head, and the war stops. It's that simple." Brick replies that Sarge Serge makes it sound like the man is writing a story "and we're all part of it." Sarge Serge replies: "Something like that." And then, asks Brick, if he's killed what happens to us? Sarge Serge reassures Brick that everything will go back to "normal" but Brick quickly concludes that maybe they would all just disappear." This story has a surreal, Twilight Zone sensibility to it. The political backdrop for this story is that the United States has been in the throes of a civil war and that the 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon never happened. Owen Brick's journeys are told neatly and with adrenaline. The scenes in the coffee The last stretch of the book is August Brill and his granddaughter Katya recounting family history. There's a rich and interesting passage with Brill relaying his courtship of Katya's grandmother and his missteps along the way with his marriage. Throughout, there is an edge and a brooding mysterious quality to the stories as they ebb and flow--or as they snap to a close (disappear). I enjoyed the pieces and sharp writing made it easy to stick with, but I'm not sure what the sum total equals or what it means. Maybe Owen Brick's waitress holds the clue when Brick orders some food in the city where he's gone on his mission. He wants bacon, sausage, toast or potatoes with his eggs. But his waitress sets him straight in this new world: Dream on, honey, she says. Eggs are eggs. Not eggs with something else. Just eggs. Maybe stores are just stories. Not stories with something else. Just stories.

  • Protagonist is a writer
    From Amazon

    They say that you should write what you know about and perhaps that is why so many writers choose a write as a protagonist. I don't that so much but I have mixed feelings about the story in a story concept. That said, it is still a good read and I might even say it is typical Paul Auster even though I have come to expect atypical work from this man.

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