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on 30 August 2017
Truly disappointed. I chose to read this after hearing a glowing testimonial on BBC. It's not just me either - my wife won't persevere with it.
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on 23 May 2013
I have always found Auster's prose seductive and free-flowing, not at all jarring or difficult to follow and `Leviathan' is no exception. The story follows the life of a one Benjamin Sachs and is narrated retrospectively by his one-time friend, Peter Aaron. The book is in some ways an investigation into another man's life and how little we really know about living inside someone else's head.

This is my second reading of the book and I found it just as gripping, just as mesmerizing as the first read. There are some improbable twists of fate and at times some of the characters are too one-dimensional and unrealistic. But Auster does his best to explain these away.

There also seems to be some direct references to Auster's own life and it can come across as a bit of a thinly-veiled autobiography with a few vignettes thrown in here and there which makes for a bit of self-indulgence on the author's part. For example, Peter Aaron (Paul Auster) who smokes Schimmelpennincks, lives in Varick Street, NY, has a place in Vermont, is married to a Scandinavian, Iris (Siri), has a son from a first marriage, David (Daniel), and a daughter from the second, Sonia (Sophie), etc. Perhaps Sachs is a loose reference to Don DeLillo to whom he has dedicated the book.

In any case, these lazy comparisons aside, it is a good read and I would very much recommend it, but not as an introductory novel to this writer.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 31 July 2012
The 1992 novel Leviathan was Paul Auster's fifth and, for me, is another absorbing tale from this master of literary intrigue and invention. Running to around 250 pages, Leviathan grips the reader's interest from the word go, as Auster kicks off his story with an unexplained explosion and subsequent FBI investigation, the latter having found its way (via his personal connection to the victim) to the novel's narrator, aspiring author Peter Aaron. Thereafter, Auster uses Aaron's first person narration (told in flashback) to unveil another of his typically kaleidoscopic tales, one that unfolds by means of chance encounters and bizarre coincidences which dictate the course of events surrounding his intriguing and compelling cast of characters. At the centre of Leviathan's narrative is the friendship between Aaron and fellow writer Benjamin Sachs, whose initial chance meeting at a planned public reading of their respective works establishes what is to be a lifelong friendship.

Sachs, in effect, becomes Auster's central character, a temperamental and quixotic creation, unsure what he really wants from life, supposedly happily married to Fanny, but still harbouring latent disaffection with modern society, causing him to be imprisoned for dodging the Vietnam draft and to continue to expound the radical ideas of author and political thinker Henry David Thoreau. Auster's writing in Leviathan is as compellingly readable as in all his best work, and the intricate and fantastic nature of his plot twists, as Sachs' and Aaron's characters become entwined with a series of mysterious and flamboyant women (Sachs' promiscuous wife Fanny, artist and photographer Maria Turner and some-time prostitute Lillian Stern), would almost certainly break the bounds of credibility in the hands of any lesser author.

For me, however, Leviathan is a wonderful read and is packed with a level of creativity most authors can merely dream about. I rate the novel alongside Auster's best work such as The New York Trilogy, The Music Of Chance, Moon Palace and Invisible.
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on 13 April 1999
I read Paul Auster's Leviathan at school and I very much liked the novel. It's full of interesting characters and contains a remarkable net of relationships. Paul Auster deals with quite a number of aspects of every day's life in the modern age. I also liked the construction of the novel although some coincidences especially towards the end are less likely to happen. Dealing with the novel in class we focused on the aspect of identity presented in the novel. Every chapter is full of references to this very actual topid. Besides it was interesting to observe the changes in character of the two protagonists, Peter Aaron who is also the novelist, and Benjamin Sachs. Peter Aaron's life is rather typical of our days whereas Sachs's life often contains more preposterous aspects. In the end I was a little bit disappointed when I had finished the book and some secrets were left unsolved. But after reflecting the novel I recognized that maybe here lies the intention of the novel. The reader should realize that the novel is not of political or thrilling character but of psycological quality. It may intend to force the reader to think about himself and his environment. All in all Leviathen is interesting and valuable reading material and the reader who is not satisfied with more superficial entertainment has several aspects to think about. I would highly recommend the novel.
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on 27 January 2011
For lack of a better superlative I'll say that this book is brilliant, like most of Paul Auster's books. This is the first line in the book "Six days ago a man blew himself up by the side of a road" - and from then on the book is an explosive narrative that grips you until the last line. The characters are real, alive and their story is a testimony to the complacency of modern life.
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on 16 October 1998
What is the point of this novel? When I got to the end, I halfway expected something really extraordinary to happen--we find that the narrator really IS Sachs or something like this. Instead, the book simply stops. I agree with the readers who say they found Sachs' transformation implausible. But I'm also wondering why Auster thought it important to lead his readers through all of this mess. What sort of vision is he trying to present here? Also the book is badly written. Auster doesn't depict scenes so much as he describes--in utilitarian fashion--scenes from a novel. Throughout, I felt as if I was reading the description of novel rather than a real, living breathing book. The budding romance between Sachs and Lilian that leads to the inevitable bedding was especially predictable and boring to read. In addition to the portrait of Sachs, I found the other characterizations flat. No one seemed real to me. My favorite parts of the book were the descriptions of Marie, and her quirky hobbies. But this seemed to be from a different novel, and didn't really even need to be in the book in the first place. What is the big deal about Paul Auster? I'm not getting it.
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on 20 November 2006
Having recently read Leviathan and The Music of Chance, I can't help but fear that anything Auster has done or will do after 1987 will always be dwarfed by The New York Trilogy. There is nothing wrong with Leviathan as entertainment - it is a fast-paced page turner with an interesting plot and enjoyable (if incomplete) characterisation. The problem is it feels like an early work by a writer of potential, not one by a great writer coming after such a masterpiece as NYT. The thematics go in too many different directions - philosophical, political and sensational - and the second half of the novel feels rushed, heading towards a conclusion that contains only a half-hearted version of the metafictive brilliance that we know Auster is capable of. Too many of the plot-lines go nowhere in the end, and the book is finally too many things at once to make a real mark.

Auster is a highly skilled and thought-provoking writer who can hold the attention like few others with the pace and punch of his sentences. He should be capable of more than is on show here, and I shall continue to read his later work with the hope that he lives up to his promise.
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on 10 September 2006
I'm a big Auster fan and this is probably my favourite book of his. It grips from the start as the story of Ben Sachs told through the eyes of his friend Peter Aaron. Its a great story and the characters are well drawn. The terrorism theme is unusual for him, and has echoes of American Pastoral by Philip Roth- both books have friends and family struggling to come to terms with a radical acquaintance.
Auster uses the statue of liberty as a fitting allegory for the establishment and for the way people settle for less, in a world bereft of truth, meaning or ideology. Ben Sachs is an unforgettable character, but what lingers is the compromised muddied relationship between Aaron and Sachs, and the things left unsaid and undone.
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on 23 August 2001
I loved this book, it did not match what I though ti was going to be (an Arlignton Road type story of the film). Instead it's a powerful study of relationships, and humanity. All startlingly orginal, grippid and enjoyable book. One of the best I have read in a while...
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on 13 January 2004
Benjamin Sachs story is "conveyed through the eyes of his friend Peter Aaron, a novelist who discovers in the book's opening pages that Sachs has died in a mysterious bomb explosion. Aaron sets out to write the definitive version of Sachs's story before the FBI can formulate theirs." Benjamin Sachs is a writer, a philosopher, a man with loyalties and passions. But more than that Benjamin Sachs is a questioner - he questions his own nature and psychosocial make up, he tests himself and probes deeper to understand who he is and also the nature of humanity, fate, destiny and chance. He is willing to give up his wife, career and practical reason in his search. Many incidents in this book can be criticised as unreal - the seemingly simple triggering of Sachs "series of fateful events" and the many coincidence that pop up to escalate these events, however far from building a sense of unreality I feel they render a state of hyper reality - how many times have you said "if I told you, you wouldn't believe it". Here Auster has told it and in a manner in which we can see this mans wrenching search into himself. Indeed many of the events are based autobiographically on Auster's own life. I particularly love the passages outlining Sachs efforts to alienate his wife - to get her to leave him rather than the other way around, Sachs attempts to "innocently" touch Maria and the deepening of Aaron's friendship with Sachs to the extent that he wishes to slip into his skin - to sleep with Sachs wife, oh these and many more threads I found wonderfully and unnervingly real.
This book has been much read due to its "anti-establishment" content, yet I feel this book is less to do with the macrocosm of the American nation and more to do with the microcosm of mans struggle with his self and of the freedom imparted by the near death experience. Auster himself has quoted the Greek saying. `Judge no man's happiness until he is dead' in relation to this work. Sachs bombings of Statue of Liberty replicas can be on the surface seen as anti-establishment statements but what is more then can be seen as Sachs blowing up fear - stultifying fear, as first witnessed in his mothers experience on climbing the stature of liberty. 'The Phantom of Liberty' being less a terrorist of the state and more a man in search of his own liberation.
This book should also be read by fans of contemporary art in particular the Artist Sophie Calle - whose works Auster weaves into the story through the character of Maria.
In my reading so far I find this book to be a rare gem - a psychological narrative with action. I'm off to buy the rest of his works.
The Artist
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