Paul Auster's New York - Maxicours

Paul Auster's New York

Objectifs
  • Découvrir un aspect de la thématique d'étude ancrage et héritage
  • Découvrir l'œuvre de Paul Auster
Points clés
  • En littérature, Paul Auster peut être considéré comme l'ambassadeur de sa ville, New York.
  • New York est omniprésente dans ses récits, au point de pouvoir la considérer comme un protagoniste à part entière.
  • La ville, et ses lieux emblématiques, y apparaissent sous plusieurs angles :
    • Aliénante, chaotique et labyrinthique (La Trilogie new-yorkaise)
    • Agréable et paisible (Brooklyn Follies)
    • Central Park, un refuge de nature (Moon Palace)
    • Brooklyn, le lieu de toutes les possibilités (La Nuit de l'oracle)

Paul Auster (1947-) is an American writer who has written lots of bestsellers (The New York Trilogy, Moon Palace, The Brooklyn Follies...). He lives in New York and is probably the most famous New Yorker in the world as he often places the city at the center of most of his stories and cannot be dissociated with the Big Apple, and more precisely with the borough of Brooklyn where he lives. Indeed, when one thinks of New York and literature, one immediately thinks of Paul Auster as the perfect ambassador of the city.

1. New York as an Omnipresent Protagonist

Though he has not always lived in New York –he spent a few years in France and has good memories of the country–, the city means a lot to him and it is no wonder that his attachment to New York appears in most of his books.

a. A Chaotic Labyrinth

As early as 1987 and the publication of City of Glass, Ghosts and The Locked Room, also known as The New York Trilogy, the reader strolls along the streets of Manhattan and follows the hero, Quinn, in the labyrinth of the city.

Daniel Quinn is a private eye writer who receives mysterious phone calls for a detective named Paul Auster. He finally decides to accept the case himself and pass himself off as Auster, while searching for a man named Stillman…

Thus, the reader discovers some of the most important places of New York like Broadway, Chinatown, Park Avenue... But they also find out that it is the city of chaos and lost souls, like the characters of Stillman and Fanshawe clearly illustrate.

If the book deals with the experience of living in New York, a recurrent theme in the author’s works, we can say that the city is also the main protagonist of the Auster’s stories because it is omnipresent and omnipotent.

b. A Peaceful Place

In The Brooklyn Follies, the vision of New York is different. Here, the place is quite cheerful and friendship is the rule, life is easy, people can walk from one place to another just for the pleasure of walking, spend hours in a bookshop or flirt (Nathan and Marina).

Starting with a wish to die, the book slowly moves up towards the will to live. The novel is like a journey during which we see the transformation of the characters; their redemption and desire of life. The tone is jovial and the characters often end up in mishap and folly, as the title suggests.

2. Central Park as a Shelter from the Alienation

In Moon Palace the hero, Marco Stanley Fogg, finds shelter at Central Park because he wants to escape the pressure of the streets of Manhattan. There he lives like a beggar and enjoys his solitude though he manages to know what happens in the world by reading the papers he finds. We can deduce from Fogg’s attitude that New York looks like an alienating city for its inhabitants, but wasn’t it the same for Fanshawe and Stillman in The New York Trilogy?

It is worth noting that Central Park is often used by Paul Auster in his works because it represents nature in the middle of a city made of concrete, quietness among noise and agitation. It is a different part of New York and a place where New Yorkers like to spend hours. Fanshawe, Quinn or Fogg go there for different reasons. Fogg even personifies the park and compares it to a friend.

3. Brooklyn

Oracle Night’s protagonist, writer Sydney Orr, is a wanderer (again!) trying to recover from a fall that almost killed him. Like Paul Auster, Orr lives in Brooklyn and we discover the place by following the steps of the hero. In the novel Brooklyn is synonymous with vitality and endless possibilities.

4. Conclusion

In fact, few writers have been so intensely associated with a city as Paul Auster and New York, or James Joyce and Dublin. They love it so much that they make their beloved city an important character of their stories. In Auster’s works, New York cannot be separated from the plot; it serves the story and helps the reader discover New York and its intricacies, which is the reason why we can find Brooklyn and Manhattan on every page in some of Auster’s novels.

To finish, you must know that some readers are so fond of Auster’s books that they go to New York and walk in the steps of their favourite heroes after reading his books! What a tribute to the writer!

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