Paul Auster is an American writer I first discovered during my last years in school, when we read his novel Moon Palace in my advanced English class. He is 64 years old now and still writes novels and poems. He began writing in his twenties and has since then refused to accept any job not related to literature. Consequently, he never had lots of money –to the contrary. Most of his life he spent struggling to make ends meet, translating almost every text he was offered or trying to sell a self-designed baseball card game. Additionally, he tried to reduce his needs to a minimum, resulting in tiny apartments, worn out clothes, but always always tons of books.
He spent four years in France, speaks French fluently and incorporates links to France and French authors or places in Cities in almost each of his novels. Until now he has published 14 novels, 12 of which I have read in only two years. I also read his autobiography and a selection of his poems. Until today, he does neither own a computer nor a cell-phone. He scribbles his notes into small notebooks he always carries around with him and later structures them on his type writer.
Lying in bed with one of his books I am able to slip into the significant world he creates with each of his stories. However, it is the collectivity of his works that really creates the universe of topics and anecdotes that distinguishes him from any writer I know.
His protagonists are often young, almost starving writers who struggle to find their identity. Money, relationships, faithfulness, loyalty, literature, nature, destiny, coincidences, self-references and the conditions of writing itself are recurring topics in his novels.
What really draws me to his books, however, is the fact that his characters are all confronted with seemingly impossible tasks and situations, which turn them into stronger versions of themselves and show that no life is ever really a failure if you don’t run away from obstacles but turn them into something meaningful for yourself. They push you in directions you had not expected yourself to go, and provide a huge potential for personal development –depending on how you deal with them.
The novels never fail to shock me with their surprising and sometimes frustrating endings and always leave me thinking about them for weeks and months to come. In France and Germany he is read even more than in the US, but until now I have not found anyone sharing my fascination for this brilliant and eccentric mind.