A nar­ra­tive trick too many from Auster

The Jewish Chronicle - - Arts&entertainment -

Holo­caust and a third is a strange para­ble of the Cold War. Later we come to an­other story grounded in his­tory, but this time in the present, which is just as vi­o­lent, just as re­al­is­tic.

Slowly we start to re­alise that this book is about a choice be­tween two dif­fer­ent kinds of sto­ry­telling. It is not that Auster can’t do mov­ing and re­al­is­tic sto­ry­telling. He clearly can. It’s rather that he’s of­fer­ing us a choice, just as he did in his pre­vi­ous novel, Trav­els in the Scrip­to­rium.

The re­al­is­tic mode of nar­ra­tive in­volves char­ac­ters who will draw you in and sit­u­a­tions which will be im­me­di­ately recog­nis­able. The al­ter­na­tive is play­ful, full of games about nar­ra­tive, sto­ries within sto­ries, bat­tles be­tween char­ac­ters and the writ­ers who cre­ate them. I can do both, Auster is stat­ing, but I’m go­ing to play around with your ex­pec­ta­tions.

This will alien­ate and even of­fend read­ers who do not find 9/11, Iraq and the Holo­caust suit­able sub­jects for lit­er­ary games. Doubt­less Auster fans will read on un­de­terred. But maybe it is time this sort of thing was left to con­sent­ing adults and for Auster to stop re­peat­ing him­self and move on. David Her­man is the JC’s chief fic­tion re­viewer

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