A profile of Paul Auster: between chance and writing | News today

A profile of Paul Auster: between chance and writing | News today
A profile of Paul Auster: between chance and writing | News today

A journey through the life of Paul Auster regarding his death at the age of 77.

Photo: Private archive

That one wrote to leave the wound open, to think about it, to feel the pain again and keep it alive. That’s what Paul Auster said. He did not believe, like many others, that he wrote to forget. For him, this was a space to resist burying memories or experiences. If it was a theme for the paper, it was a theme for memory. He asked himself about different topics such as his childhood, his youth, his work as a writer, chance, coincidences and many other “mysteries of the human condition”, but not out of a very great interest in himself, but rather out of a permanent curiosity about what those stages made him feel. He was grateful for the shared sensations that he was able to name for others. Being told, “The same thing happened to me,” was his definition of success: he had managed to put his humanity into words. He had managed to put the humanity of a stranger into words.

Paul Auster died of lung cancer. He was at his house in New York. He was accompanied by Siri Hustvedt, his wife, and Sophie Auster, his daughter. After the diagnosis, a year passed between treatments and certainties of one’s own mortality, but also one’s own ability to decide how to reflect on it and his imminent arrival: “Watching Paul I have understood what elegance under pressure is like. Strong and without complaint, with his humor intact, he has made this time with the illness, which has lasted almost a year, beautiful, not ugly,” said his wife on August 30, 2023, through his Instagram account.

Husdvedt… the writer. “One of the greatest literary intelligences she has ever known,” as Auster said in the interview conducted by the Argentine Carlos Ruta, for the National University of San Martín. Husdvedt, the first reader of hers, the recipient of her manuscripts. His wife of over 30 years and mother of her daughter, Sophie Auster. Her colleague in trades and awards (they both won the Princess of Asturias Award). One of her magical chances: they met at a poetry recital at Columbia University. One of her issues in private and in public: she did not hide her complicity or her love or her admiration in each of the interviews in which she was asked about her.

Husdvedt, her partner in Cancerland, as they named that stage that began when cancer took over their daily lives. Her partner, not only for reading, writing and other seemingly peaceful moments, but also for meltdowns. The writer knew of tragedies: his granddaughter, Ruby, died next to his father, Daniel Auster, from an overdose of heroin and fentanyl. He was accused of homicide “due to negligence”: after injecting a dose of heroin, he fell asleep next to the girl. When he woke up, the baby did not respond. Weeks later, Daniel was found unconscious in a Brooklyn station. He died in 2022 from an overdose. He was 44 years old.

This son, whose mother (Lydia Davis) had different destinies than his other heir to his thoughts, genes and assets, was another of the losses that the writer suffered: the death of his mother, the murder of his grandfather by her grandmother, who shot her husband two months after the end of World War I.

So he knew about tragedies. But, as was said at the beginning of this text, he did not stop at them. Or not at all. He wrote about those that he wanted to think about more, about which he did not bury them completely so as not to forget them completely or to delve into them a little longer and thus find something explainable, not about him, or not only about him, but about what It implies being alive and having a human brain and being carried away by knowledge that, for him, was despised in his country.

During the last interviews with him, he spoke of the United States as a “delusional” nation that was “suspicious” of intellectuals or aspirations toward complexity. “What I see is more of the same when it comes to intellectual pursuits. There is a tension in American life. Even historians have written books about “American anti-intellectualism,” but it is worse now: we always had very good writers in the United States. In the past, we had authors who in one way or another had a presence in public opinion, but in the last thirty years or so that has particularly changed and writers are no longer part of the national conversation. Neither ordinary Americans nor educated Americans today know who the writers are and they are not read much either. We adore our movie stars, we know our pop singers, but we have no idea who is doing anything interesting in theatre, dance is still something marginal and writing poetry or fiction is something that interests only a small part of us. public. So we writers are now marginalized,” he said in an interview conducted by the Argentine television program, Libroteca.

Auster, who was recognized for works such as The New York Trilogy, The Moon Palace, 4 3 2 1, Timbuktu, The Music of Chance, Leviathan, among many others, was rejected by 17 publishers. In fact, his work on New York was published in Los Angeles, when he managed to get a publisher not to change the ending because it was too “strange or bizarre.”

In the beginning, before believing he could write a novel, he read Dostoevsky fervently and was moved by Crime and Punishment: “if a novel achieves this, I want to write books, and not just for pleasure. “I want to dedicate myself to writing.” He read The Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger. He was dedicated to Ernest Hemingway, Scott Fitzgerald, William Faulkner, Miguel de Cervantes, Edgar Allan Poe, etc. And later, he entered Columbia University in the 1960s. There, in his words, he read “delirious” amounts of books, but he never went to a writing class: “I didn’t believe in that, I wanted to fight my own fight without intervention.” external,” he said.

For years during his twenties, he found themes “too complex” for his age, so he “gave up” and abandoned prose for a time. She dedicated herself to poetry, which for him had more possibilities due to its cadence, its timing, its tone. After this involuntary training, he became a novel writer with a relevant and evident poetic presence. After all, he could never imagine any other path than to be a writer and reader.

“The funny thing is that, really, literature is useless. It has no practical use. Art in general has no practical use. But novels and poetry are the only place in the entire world where two absolutely strangers can meet on terms of total intimacy. Each reader reads a very different book. It is a very personal experience, which is why I think that by entering another person’s imagination and collaborating with it, you begin to better understand your own humanity. Furthermore, if you are sensitive to language, words can give you pleasure, a physical pleasure,” she said in the interview for Libroteca.

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