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Man in the Dark [Hardcover]

Paul Auster
3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
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Book Description

21 Aug 2008
Seventy-two-year-old August Brill is recovering from a car accident. Plagued by insomnia, he tries to push back thoughts of things he would prefer to forget – his wife’s recent death and the horrific murder of his granddaughter’s boyfriend, Titus – by telling himself stories. He 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. Brill gradually opens up to his granddaughter, recounting the story of his marriage and confronting the grim reality of Titus’s death. Man in the Dark is a novel of our time, a book that forces us to confront the blackness of night whilst also celebrating the existence of ordinary joys in a brutal world.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Faber and Faber; First Edition edition (21 Aug 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0571240763
  • ISBN-13: 978-0571240760
  • Product Dimensions: 21.6 x 14 x 2.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 227,474 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Paul Auster is the best-selling author of Man in the Dark, The Brooklyn Follies, The Book of Illusions, 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 honours are the Independent Spirit Award for the screenplay of Smoke and the Prix Medicis Etranger for Leviathan. He has also been short-listed for both the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award (The Book of Illusions) and the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction (The Music of Chance). His work has been translated into more than thirty languages. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Product Description

Book Description

A devastating novel about the many realities we inhabit as wars flame all around us.

From the Inside Flap

‘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.’ So begins Paul Auster’s brilliant, devastating novel about the many realities we inhabit as wars flame all around us. 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. Passionate and shocking, Man in the Dark is a novel of our moment, 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.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
By purpleheart TOP 100 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Format:Hardcover
`I am alone in the dark, turning the world around in my head as I struggle though another bout of insomnia, another white night in the great American wilderness.'

Man in the Dark opens with August Brill, a Pulitzer prize winning critic, lying in the pitch black as he recovers from a car accident in his daughter's house. Grandfather, daughter Miriam and granddaughter Katya share the house since the `the roof fell in on Katya' and she dropped out of film school.

Brill tells himself stories as he lies awake - he wants to divert his mind from his worries; the death of his wife, of his granddaughter's boyfriend Titus, of his daughter's failed marriage. He and his granddaughter Katya have been spending their time watching films together, conscious displacement activity to avoid thinking about their lives.

In the alternate world he conjures up an alter ego - Owen Brick wakes up in a deep hole dressed in uniform. It's a world where the twin towers were never bombed. Instead of a war in Iraq the disputed US election of 2000 has led to a civil war in America. Throughout the night Brill alternates between the worlds until he abandons Brick to his American wilderness `with no chance to say a last word or think a last thought'. Brick then starts to confront the list of subjects he told us he was avoiding; his wife Sonia, the shocking story of Titus' death and his worries about his daughter. Then he and Katya have a long insomniac conversation on the same topics.

For me, the characters became more and more sympathetic as we gradually learn more of their back stories and see their connection to each other. Auster's themes of stories within stories, war and writing knit together well in this short novel.

The book covers just one wakeful night and ends with a plan for going out to breakfast - a hopeful end to a thoughtful book which challenges us to confront our thoughts about our weird world.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Short, simple, but profoundly moving 1 Sep 2008
By Keris Nine TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Whether through its shortness of length or through the familiarity with typical Paul Auster subject matter, there seems to be a tendency in other reviews here so far to underestimate the true worth of the author's latest novel. Man in the Dark may indeed appear short and simple on the surface, but the importance of its subject matter and the emotional depth it covers is nonetheless remarkable.

Through August Brill, the man in the dark, Auster tries to make sense of the world through the medium of the writer spinning ideas in his head. Yes, that's nothing new with Auster and there's certainly a sense of post-modern reflection on the nature of writing and the duty of the writer, but as with Brooklyn Follies and his collection of True Tales Of American Life, Auster is interested in ordinary people and the impact of the exceptional or significant moments on their lives.

Those significant events affecting American people today are alluded to in the book's references to Iraq and the Twin Towers. It's not Auster's intention to confront such grand events, however significant they might seem, but to reduce them to the smaller scale in considering how people learn to deal with such experiences. That does not make Man In The Dark a lesser work. Through memories, shared experiences of joy and suffering, through the fictions they create and the movies they watch, his characters struggle to make sense of an absurd world ever more inclined to bring new unspeakable horrors. Auster masterfully brings these all together into a profoundly moving piece that is richer in meaning and worth than its apparent brevity suggests.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A story about darkness. 19 Dec 2008
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I began to read Paul Auster in the eighties. I was captivated by the bleak, mysterious, and inimical atmosphere of his novels. But at the same time his sense of humor, his love for the absurd, and the relentless search for The Father formed a counterpart for the dark side of his novels.

All these things are together again in his latest novel "Man In The Dark". I love this novel because it's the real Paul Auster. He writes without commercial afterthought and he refuses to go easy on us (like in his novel The Brooklyn Follies).

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 granddaughters' boyfriend, Titus.

August 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 the secession, as state after state pulled away from the union, and a bloody civil war ensued. As the night progresses, August's story grows increasingly intense, and what he is so desperately trying to avoid insists on being told.

Passionate and shocking, Man in the Dark is a novel of our moment, a book that forces us to confront the darkness of night even as it celebrates the existence of ordinary joys in a world capable of the most grotesque violence.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Dark Dreams, Dark Politics 22 Aug 2008
Format:Hardcover
Quite a few of Auster's novels have a surreal quality. Man in the Dark does too. In this case, it's an almost science fictional scenario - an alternate America where civil war has broken out and the United States has become the Disunited States.

This imagined world exists only in the mind of August Brill, an elderly man (in the real world) lying in bed recovering from an accident that has left him immobile. Brill's imaginary excursions into this parallel world are interspersed with comparatively mundane real world scenes that begin to paint a picture of his views, his life and his family. There's also an interesting recursive aspect to the alternate America scenario (which I won't elaborate on here for fear of giving away the plot) that adds a further surreal dimension to the story.

The parallel reality aspect of the story ends about two thirds of the way through the book, which is a shame because I found the whole concept quite fascinating and very entertaining. Most of the rest of the book consists of a discussion between Brill and his granddaughter Katya in which Brill recounts the story of his marriage and Katya grapples with guilt over the death in Iraq of her former boyfriend who was kidnapped and murdered by terrorists.

For me, America's military involvement in Iraq is the major theme of the book. In Brill's alternate reality, the Twin Towers remain standing and America does not go to war in Iraq. Instead, it self-destructs. In the real world, American soldiers die fighting and others (like Katya's boyfriend) die simply because they're Americans in the wrong place at the wrong time.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars Well written but dreary
We chose this for our Book Discussion Group and opinion was divided - either brilliant or rubbish. My vote is that this is not that great - creaky plot, depressing subject matter... Read more
Published on 3 Aug 2011 by brixtonite
1.0 out of 5 stars This is a story that kept me in the dark until it's mundane conclusion
This book started off interestingly enough with the main subject; a victim of a car crash unable to sleep at night due to insomnia so he would dream up stories whilst lying in bed... Read more
Published on 11 Mar 2009 by mATmANIAC
1.0 out of 5 stars What a disappointment!
I am generally a fan of Paul Auster, but this effort is a poorly-constructed jumble of ideas. The first part reads like a teenage attempt at a philosophical novel - rather like... Read more
Published on 5 Jan 2009 by L. Miller
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant novel
Paul Auster is a master storyteller and this is one of his best. August Brill lies in bed trying in vain to get sleep - so he spins a weird story of an alternative universe... Read more
Published on 24 Dec 2008 by J. H. Bretts
1.0 out of 5 stars Lazy
Auster never writes badly, but this is a lazy lazy book. The first half is an ambling, pointless collection of stories that go nowhere. Read more
Published on 28 Oct 2008 by Alfred King
2.0 out of 5 stars A collection of anecdotes
Marginally better than his last, but this colection of bits and pieces, and a semi-novel that he appears to have got bored with, just add to the impression that Paul Auster has... Read more
Published on 27 Sep 2008 by Archy
4.0 out of 5 stars The weird world of Paul Auster rolls back into town
The first half of the book has an alternative universe thing going on which kept making me think of a high school kid trying to rewrite Terminator it was just so cringey; I think... Read more
Published on 27 Aug 2008 by emma who reads a lot
4.0 out of 5 stars "I don't like this. Someone's inside my head. Not even my dreams...
August Brill, a former Pulitzer Prize-winning literary critic, now a depressed widower confined to a wheelchair, spends much of each night lying awake, thinking about his life and... Read more
Published on 23 Aug 2008 by Mary Whipple
3.0 out of 5 stars More meta-fictional mediocrity from Auster
This novella ultimately speaks to leftist American fantasies of what might have been following the effective coup de gras of the 2000 election, and of a subsequent fantasy... Read more
Published on 20 Aug 2008 by Carl Hendrick
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