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“Baumgartner” by Paul Auster

I’ve read the latest work of Auster.


I’ve been an avid reader of his since I was back in university. The musicality of his prose is so addictive and gripping that just reading his beautifully crafted sentences fills me with joy and comfort. This “compact” (compared to his previous “4321” or “Burning Boy”) novel is no exception. The protagonist is Baumgartner, who is a 70-year-old philosophy professor at Princeton. He lost his beloved wife Anna a decade ago. He reminisces about the days and years spent with her going back to the 1960s.

The readers can enjoy quintessential themes of Auster; memory, chance, roots, nested structures, the act of writing, the power of imagination. Facing senility is also a key aspect.

“Great effort is required to make a sentence, and great effort requires great concentration, and as one sentence must inevitably follow another in order to build a work composed of sentences, great concentration is required throughout the day, which means that the days pass by quickly for me, as if each hour that registers on the clock were no longer than a minute.”

This sentence makes me think of solitary work of writers, long years of concentration, the ceaseless elaboration of sentences.

“He can still think, and because he can think, he can still write, and while it takes a little longer for him to finish his sentences now, the results are more or less the same.”

As long as a person can think, they can write. It might take a little longer, but it doesn’t matter. What matters is whether we can think and write.

“Loneliness kills, Judith, and chunk by chunk it eats up every part of you until your whole body is devoured. A person has no life without being connected to others, and if you’re lucky enough to be deeply connected to another person, so connected that the other person is as important to you as you are to yourself, then life becomes more than possible, it becomes good.”

Readers can be exposed to Auster’s philosophical observations on life, writing, and love. This book has made me feel warm inside and healed me. Auster is indeed a wordsmith with magical power.

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