Posted by: Corri van de Stege | July 27, 2010

Paul Auster’s Man in the Dark

I am a bit like Auster’s man in the dark, August Bill.  I am a bad sleeper at times, especially when I am preoccupied with something (work, family, relationships, anything under the sun really), when I will spend the night tossing and turning, going over the issues, pushing them away or going round them, trying to ignore them by thinking about other things, or sometimes I will simply avoid the issues by writing. 

Bill, in order to avoid thinking about the things he would rather forget, tells himself stories.  What he does not want to think about is the death of his wife Sonya nor about the misery of his daughter whose husband left her, or the gruel death of his granddaughter’s boyfriend.  Nevertheless, as he imagines the parallel world of a man waking up in an America that is at war with itself and not with Iraq, where the Twin Towers have not come down, but where people kill each other across different states, his own story keeps intruding. 

In the early hours of the morning his granddaughter, also sleepless, finds her way to his room and gently prods him to tell more about her grandmother and about their relationship.

In a way, this book evokes an imaginary world within the fiction of the novel and so resembles our own lives, where we make up stories when we cannot sleep, or imagine a life different from what it is –’ if only’… 

As I write this review I cannot help thinking of the very clever and entertaining film ‘Inception’ where we are introduced into stories that represent different levels of dreams and at the end are left to wonder whether there is in fact a reality at all.  Great film, by the way.

I liked Auster’s book very much and read it in two sessions.  It is a gentle story about human frailty and loss but also about the strong bonds that exist between the surviving members of this family.



  1. Thanks for the review. It sounds like a good book to me too. I have read one or two Austers years ago, and not sure why I haven’t read more. I will definitely keep this one in mind!

  2. Hi Leeswammes: definitely one up your street I think. And you can read it fast 🙂

  3. I love this book, and it just so happens I did a post on Auster today. His writing in general, but also mentioning The New York Trilogy.

  4. andi: I’m going to your site now. Yes I’ve also read the Trilogy and am quite an Auster fan.

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