Top positive review
37 people found this helpful
Master's piece on Solitude.
on 28 March 2004
In "Portrait of an Invisible Man", the first part of Paul Auster's fascinating memoir "Invention of Solitude", Auster writes about his father's life as a means of helping himself come to terms with his father's death. Auster remembers his father as an elusive figure in his life, a truant from life emotionally detached and disconnected from family ("he had managed to keep himself at a distance from life"). To Auster, it seemed that the world's attempts to embrace his father simply bounced off him without ever making a breakthrough - it was impossible to enter his solitude. The theme of Solitude runs powerfully through this disturbing, mesmerising memoir.
Auster is conscious of how little knowledge he actually has of his father's early childhood years, how unenlightened he is with regard to his father's inner life, how few clues he has to his father's character and how little understanding of the underlying reasons for his father's immunity from the world at large. Through an amazing co-incidence involving his cousin, Auster learns of a terrible secret buried deep in his father's childhood past - the story was splashed across old newspaper reports of the time, sixty years before - of a shocking family tragedy that shattered his father's childhood world and could have seriously affected his mental outlook during his formative years, accounting for the solitariness and elusiveness that characterised the "invisible man" of Auster's childhood. Excellent, compelling writing! Dramatic revelations from a grim, distant past finally brought to light. Highly recommended!
In the second part, "The Book of Memory", there is a marked shift of perspective (away from the point of view of Auster, as son, writing about his feelings and memories of his father's life, after his death) to an autobiographical account of Auster's own experience, now himself as father, writing about his son. More abstract in content and style than "Portrait of an Invisible Man", "The Book of Memory" comprises autobiographical segments interspersed with commentaries on the nature of chance interspersed with ruminations on Solitude and exploration of language. As an Auster-holic, my favourite book to-date is "Moon Palace".