There is far more poetry in the world than justice.

 Invisible is Paul Auster playing at being Paul Auster with his usual topics (chance encounters, mysterious magnetic strangers, the odd uncontrollable sexual impulse) and quick, airy pace – and it’s incredibly comforting. Once I realized that this is what I should expect of him, I’ve mostly found an odd sense of calm and joy in reading his books – but I think this is a topic I’ve went through several times in the past, since this is his 11th book appearing on this blog. 🙂

It’s the story of Adam Walker, a 20-something year old whose defining life experience comes at the hand of Rudolf Born, a Frenchman teaching one year at the University of Columbia. Already this is the familiar scenario of suddenly coming of age through a traumatic event that will leave indelible marks throughout an entire existence – but it’s not just this. Adam is racked with self-doubt and remorse but, in the end, he does the right thing – if a little too late. And when the crime he witnessed is no longer punishable by the courts, he tries to force a sort of cosmic justice, a universal settling of accounts, he considers it – an old-fashioned revenge.

The novel consists mainly of 3 parts, essentially narrated as a memoir by Adam – even though only Spring is a first person narration. Mr. Auster recourses to a gimmick previously used with The Invention of Solitude, thus making Summer and Fall 2nd and 3rd person stories respectively. However, this account is interspersed with that of an old college friend who receives these stories, together with a couple of letters from the dying Adam explaining their significance and the ending (a rather contrived one, too) is provided by Cecile’s diary, one of the main players in Adam’s attempt at justice.

But while the story of Rudolf Born, the focus of Spring and Fall, is corroborated through several sources, the events in Summer, a tale of love, longing and the incestuous passion in which Adam and his sister spent a couple of months are fiercely denied by the latter and presented as the feverish imagining of a dying old man. But which is it? I guess we’ll never know and I find this of very little importance. Come to think of it, Walker ultimately led a fairly fulfilled life and the encounter with Born, with whom he clearly had an obsession, didn’t have, in the end, the importance it seemed to foreshadow. Invisible is an intellectual exercise with very little emotional stakes, 200 pages to admire Mr. Auster’s style and cleverness. And you know what? I loved doing just that.

For two entirely opposite reviews: NYTimes & The New Yorker; the latter’s parody of Auster’s prose in the opening passage is definitely worth a read.


~ by ameer on March 25, 2012.

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