Invisible by Paul Auster
Faber and Faber (hardback), 2009
BLURB FROM THE COVER
Sinuously constructed in four interlocking parts, Invisible opens in New York City in the spring of 1967 when twenty-year-old Adam Walker, an aspiring poet and student at Columbia University meets the enigmatic Frenchman Rudolf Born, and his silent and seductive girlfriend Margot. Before long, Walker finds himself caught in a perverse triangle that leads to a sudden, shocking act of violence that will alter the course of his life.
Three different narrators tell the story, as it travels in time from 1967 to 2007 and moves from New York to Paris and to a remote Caribbean island in a story of unbridled sexual hunger and a relentless quest for justice.
With uncompromising insight, Auster takes us to the shadowy borderland between truth and memory, authorship and identity to produce a work of unforgettable power that confirms his reputation as one of America’s most spectacularly inventive writers.
I shook his hand for the first time in the spring of 1967. I was a second-year student at Columbia then, a know-nothing boy with an appetite for books and a belief (or delusion) that one day I would become good enough to call myself a poet, and because I read poetry, I had already met his namesake in Dante’s hell, a dead man shuffling through the final verses of the twenty-eighth canto of the Inferno. Bertran de Born, the twelfth-century Provencal poet, carrying his severed head by the hair as it sways back and forth like a lantern – surely one of the most grotesque images in that book-length catalogue of hallucinations and torments. Dante was a staunch defender of de Born’s writing, but he condemned him to eternal damnation for having counselled Prince Henry to rebel against his father, King Henry II, and because de Born caused division between father and son and turned them into enemies, Dante’s ingenious punishment was to divide de Born from himself. Hence the decapitated body wailing in the underworld, asking the Florentine traveller if any pain could be more terrible than his.
I read The New York Trilogy several years ago and thought it was great. Since then, Auster has been on my list of authors to read more of.
I thought Invisible was great. Auster uses a similar structure to The New York Trilogy. Invisible consists of four inter-connected stories told by three narrators. I enjoyed every word of this novel. Auster is a good writer. Invisible is a lot more than the sum of its parts. Auster offers a novel that’s thrilling, disturbing and weird at the same time. The act of violence Walker witnesses is shocking enough but some events depicted in the second segment are even more disturbing. Invisible is a lot more complex than it appears to be. A worthwhile read.