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In the Country of Last Things Paperback – 18 Sep 2000

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Product details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Faber and Faber (18 Sept. 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0571153178
  • ISBN-13: 978-0571153176
  • Product Dimensions: 33 x 33 x 50.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,070,136 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

In the Country of Last Things is Paul Auster's dystopian future; a tense and compelling novel, '[a]s harrowing and intellectually playful as Beckett . . .' (Time Out) --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

About the Author

Paul Auster is the best-selling author of Winter Journal, Sunset Park, 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.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 7 Oct. 2000
Format: Paperback
Inherent in "In the Country of Last Things" is this: "Our lives are no more than the sum of manifold contingencies, and no matter how diverse they might be in their details, they all share an essential randomness in their design." One such contingency occurs when the protagonist Anna Blume rediscovers a forgotten blue notebook accompanied by six yellow pencils. This is the catalyst for a letter that may as well be called "In the Country of Last Things." The letter comes across as an exaggerated account, an apocalyptic depiction of a city stripped of its humanity. Old laws that once held the society together have been supplanted by newer laws that will again be replaced by even more corrupt and venal ones.
Anna Blume is a girl who comes to the city in search of her brother, but, instead, finds disintegration, desperation, and hopelessness. She is really no different, only her story, from the other inhabitants of the city. In the city, everyone is searching for something or someone that has disappeared. For "nothing lasts, you see, not even the thoughts inside you. And you mustn't waste your time looking for them. Once a thing is gone, that is the end of it." The immediate and never-ending concern is hunger: hunger in the literal sense, as food like everything else in the city, is in short supply; and hunger in the abstract, wherein people crave friendship, love, connection, and a shared understanding of language and meaning. The constant struggle is not to give up or lose hope, and thereby your life.
In the "Last Things," Paul Auster fills the pages with vivid accounts of a city in ruin, on the verge of complete collapse. It is an unnamed city, therefore, one may recognize it as his own, or what one day may be his own.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By reader 451 TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 29 May 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Some of the reviewers here describe In the Country of Last Things as a realistic work. I disagree. This book is an allegory and aims at nothing else. But such is the force of Auster's writing that the reader is prepared to suspend disbelief.

It is a unique characteristic of the industrial world that none of us has a complete vision of how it works, and it is easy to imagine that what we don't understand, let alone control, could suddenly cease to function; Auster plays on this basic fear to weave a morbid, often horrific tale.

The heroine, in search of her brother, finds herself trapped in a city that we recognise as having once been 20th century American, but has now become a crucible of destitution, savagery, and violent struggle for survival. This grim novella describes a society which has ceased creating or even producing, and is thus reduced to consuming what is left... until that runs out. It holds a mirror to our own compulsory consumption, waste and greed, and it forces us to consider the actual value of modern material comfort. It also lets Auster exploit on a grander scale his pet themes of decay and degradation, of homelessness and its impact on identity.

Post-modern decay apparently isn't pretty. It is a place of book burners and ghouls, of cannibals and suicidal fanatics, of pathetic attachment to the most miserable objects, and of general disregard for human life and dignity, even if hope and love aren't entirely missing. But it makes for a fascinating read, one that it is difficult to complete in anything but a single, mesmerising sitting.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By L. R. Richardson on 17 Feb. 2010
Format: Paperback
I've heard a lot of good things about Paul Auster's The New York trilogy, so when I spied this I decided to grab it. It's a short, epistolary, dystopian novel. I suppose it's technically science fiction, but there's no sense of time. It could be set in some different past, present, or future.

Anna Blume is writing a letter to her childhood friend, but I doubt she expects it will ever make it to that friend. Anna has gone into the city where everything has fallen apart to try and find her brother, a journalist. The city is wretched--governments are collapsing and replacing themselves, but nothing ever changes. Bodies are collected to be burned for fuel, but that is about it. People trick others out of their money or they scavenge for trash or salvage to get by. The City itself is a sinister character that no one can escape from.

Anna Blume is relatively lucky in that she meets some wonderful people in the city, but then they fade away and disappear and become "last things." Anna meets a mother figure, a sinister father figure, a lover, a child, a different lover, an uncle figure, and several friends, but most of them disappear from her life in various horrible circumstances. It has commentary on the government, human interactions, and society without ever becoming preachy. The end is ambiguous, and depending on your disposition you can see it has a happy or a despairing ending.

It's marvelously written, and the prose is very tight and focused. Anna Blume's voice is believable. Initially, she goes into a lot of background of the city to paint it out to the friend she is writing to, but just as I was beginning to lose interest, she moves into the main storyline. It's a novel that stays with you and makes you think long after you have finished. Time Out said it best:

"As harrowing and intellectually playful as Beckett, In the Country of Last Things remains in the mind and the senses."
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