This compact novel of love and loss and the unexpected details of life that come along for the ride is a testament to literary excellence. The astute, funny, and sometimes biting commentary of an aging philosophy professor tells the story. His loving memories of his exuberant wife, his grudging perseverance in continuing to live, and his very natural desire to keep loving in the face of pain all make him fully relatable to me. While I’m on about him being relatable, his middle name is Tecumseh because his “godless militant” father agreed with me that the indigenous Shawnee defender of his people is the greatest American who ever lived! I’m always relieved to find writing of Paul Auster’s caliber. There seems to be so little time in life to accept much less, and I’ve been given the Boswell booksellers’ gift of spending my personal reading time on any book I want that’s available to us. It’s a priceless gift, and I use it to find writing of Auster’s quality every chance I get.— Tim McCarthy
A taut yet expansive novel of love, memory, and grief from Paul Auster, best-selling, award-winning author and "one of the great American prose stylists of our time" - New York Times
Paul Auster's brilliant eighteenth novel opens with a scorched pot of water, which Sy Baumgartner -- phenomenologist, noted author, and soon-to-be retired philosophy professor - has just forgotten on the stove.
Baumgartner's life had been defined by his deep, abiding love for his wife, Anna, who was killed in a swimming accident nine years earlier. Now 71, Baumgartner continues to struggle to live in her absence as the novel sinuously unfolds into spirals of memory and reminiscence, delineated in episodes spanning from 1968, when Sy and Anna meet as broke students working and writing in New York, through their passionate relationship over the next forty years, and back to Baumgartner's youth in Newark and his Polish-born father's life as a dress-shop owner and failed revolutionary.
Rich with compassion, wit, and Auster's keen eye for beauty in the smallest, most transient moments of ordinary life, Baumgartner asks: Why do we remember certain moments, and forget others? In one of his most luminous works and his first novel since the Booker-shortlisted tour-de-force 4 3 2 1, Paul Auster captures several lifetimes.