Publication Date: November 7, 2023
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A taut yet expansive novel of love, memory, and grief from Paul Auster, best-selling, award-winning author and “one of the great American prose stylists of our time" – New York TimesPaul Auster’s brilliant eighteenth novel opens with a scorched pot of water, which Sy Baumgartner -- phenomenologist, noted author, and soon-to-be retired philosophy professor – has just forgotten on the stove.Baumgartner’s life had been defined by his deep, abiding love for his wife, Anna, who was killed in a swimming accident nine years earlier. Now 71, Baumgartner continues to struggle to live in her absence as the novel sinuously unfolds into spirals of memory and reminiscence, delineated in episodes spanning from 1968, when Sy and Anna meet as broke students working and writing in New York, through their passionate relationship over the next forty years, and back to Baumgartner’s youth in Newark and his Polish-born father’s life as a dress-shop owner and failed revolutionary.Rich with compassion, wit, and Auster’s keen eye for beauty in the smallest, most transient moments of ordinary life, Baumgartner asks: Why do we remember certain moments, and forget others? In one of his most luminous works and his first novel since the Booker-shortlisted tour-de-force 4 3 2 1, Paul Auster captures several lifetimes.
Being a devoted reader of Paul Auster’s work I wasted no time getting hold of and reading “Baumgartner.” When I finished the last page I was angry, disappointed, but then it sunk in. Auster has always used the seemingly accidental to portray the hurt, the rage we all feel when we lose control, when fate takes over to break up what we thought we controlled. The main character loses his beloved wife to a swimming accident. As a new relationship appears on the horizon at the story’s ending Baumgartner experiences another disruption an act of fate that ends the story. Auster has no intention of letting us feel secure.