Paul AUSTER (LEVIATHAN)
Discover with Paul Auster how close fiction can become to later reality ...
Paul Auster’s LEVIATHAN (1992) opens with Benjamin Sachs being killed in a bomb blast. It was perhaps an accident, but his friend of fifteen years, Peter Aaron, thinks back over their years of friendship and comes to realize that Benjamin‘s suicide, constructing a bomb in northern Wisconsin, is quite possible. Aaron feels driven to make sense of what happened to his friend and how he came to be sitting by the road when it exploded. So the conclusion of the story is revealed right from the beginning, and all the narrator, Aaron, has to do is explain how Sachs arrived at this tragic climax.
Strongly opposed to America’s involvement in the Vietnam War, Sachs was willing to serve a prison term rather than be drafted. During his time in prison, he wrote a brilliant novel, whereas Aaron must agonize over every word of his writing before he is truly satisfied. LEVIATHAN takes its name from a sea monster, but it also connotes something that is large or formidable. The forces that drive Sachs to his ultimate demise seem very much larger than life: over the fifteen years of their friendship, Sachs became more and more estranged from those close to him. No one could put all the pieces of his life into one coherent whole. Auster remarkably conveys how friendship, sexual desire, betrayal, and random acts of violence mingle in contemporary American life -- a powerful reading experience.
Leviathan was published while the FBI were stalking “the Unabomber”, Ted Kaczynski (responsible for 16 bombings, three deaths and 23 injuries over a period of 17 years). Auster anticipated several aspects of the real life criminal's past, including his university-connections.
Auster is seldom predictable, though certain themes recur again in his work, “notably a sense of existential isolation, a love-hate relationship with words.“ (Ted Gioia) Leviathan captures the despair of the author in an age in which texts have become empty husks, no longer conveying power and meaning, like the moment when the writer puts down his pen and turns to bomb-building instead, and (apparently) leaves to the old school interpreters of acts and texts, the local police and the FBI, the job of explaining how this once promising writer went from books to bombs. But Sachs’s personality cannot be that of an urban terrorist; nor can it coexist with the CV and modus operandi the police considers.
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