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Auster, Paul

fogg york effing thomas

(US, 1947– )

After graduating from Columbia University in New York, Auster spent several years in France working as a translator. His career as a novelist did not take off until the release of City of Glass, Ghosts, and The Locked Room, known together as The New York Trilogy (1987). These were written partly in the manner of the detective story, with a typical emphasis on narrative. But they also displayed a cartoonish instability—reflecting the author's own interest in the problems of identity. The playful styles on view in The New York Trilogy are also to be found in Moon Palace (1989), where penniless Columbia student Marco Stanley Fogg takes work as a paid companion to Thomas Effing, an old man whose life story he must transcribe. Effing's and Fogg's stories compete for our attention. Upon Effing's death Fogg must seek out his long-lost son and present him with the extensive obituary of his unknown father. By the end of the book Fogg has crossed the continent, fallen in and out of love, and made touch with his own family roots. Fortunes are made and lost, and the fates conspire against the lives of each character we meet in a metropolitan allegory driven by outlandish, bizarre coincidence.

Auster has also written an autobiographical work, The Invention of Solitude (1982) and worked successfully on films such as Smoke and Blue in the Face (both 1995) with the director Wayne Wang.

Jonathan Coe, Adam Thorpe, Thomas Pynchon  AM

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