the realist writer of an unreal world

A while ago, I used to read Paul Auster avidly. I remember that one of his stories or novels ended with the protagonist’s death, the denouement of an existentialist detective story, holding  “the red notebook” in which he supposedly wrote all his final revelations about the mysteries of life, brought about by his mounting madness. Naturally I became very excited when, years later, I discovered that there is such a book called the Red Notebook. To my surprise, however, the book is not a work of fiction but a collection of the author’s non-fiction, essays, interviews and the like. It doesn’t give you the keys to the universe as I had expected, but it helps create a more focused picture of the author and his views on the role of art. Finding out that Auster sees himself as a realistic novelist came as a surprise, less so his twist on realism. He claims that life holds all the mysteries and that he just bears witness to them. It is the realists that are painting life in an unrealistic manner by stripping it of its fantastic aura. His very brief accounts of extraordinary coincidences and surreal real events that he has collected all his life come to defend his claims. Life truly seems stranger than fiction sometimes.


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