Paul Auster (1947–2024)

Paul Auster (1947–2024)

Paul Auster died late last month at the age of 77. His novels, memoirs, and poems were renowned and read all around the world. He was also a gifted translator of French literature. His first book, published in 1972, was A Little Anthology of Surrealist Poets, and he later edited and translated The Notebooks of Joseph Joubert, published by NYRB Classics in 2005. He wrote a delightful and illuminating introduction to our edition of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Twenty Days with Julian & Little Bunny by Papa too.

His 2002 novel The Book of Illusions played a part in the history of the Classics series as well. One section of the book finds the protagonist in the woods of Vermont, translating François-René de Chateaubriand’s multi-volume Memoirs from Beyond the Grave, which Auster initially proposed that we publish. It has since been translated by Alex Andriesse, now an associate editor at New York Review Books, who, in the woods of Western Massachusetts, had been inspired to undertake the project out of an abiding affection for The Book of Illusions. The symmetry was almost worthy of the work of Paul Auster.

Auster contributed several essays to The New York Review of Books in the 1970s, and a retrospective review of his oeuvre by Michael Dirda appeared in the magazine in 2008.

As Dirda wrote:

“Ultimately, Auster reminds us that each of us looks at existence through story-colored lenses. The world we inhabit is literally shaped by Story. We all have our ‘life stories,’ and these govern how we see ourselves and others, how we interpret events and memories and expectations. When our saviors and teachers speak to us about the greatest truths, whether of religion or philosophy, they always speak to us in parables. When artists, or ordinary people, talk about what truly matters, they start and end by telling stories, wonderful, amazing stories—like those in the works of Paul Auster.”

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