There’s Nothing Absurd About Paul Auster’s Absurdism

Existential and identity crises, and dilemmas occur in everyone’s life. Philosophically speaking, it is how we handle them that shows us who we are. American writer Paul Auster, on the other hand, takes these crises and turns them into blockbuster novels, some of them making their way to the Man Booker shortlist. Auster’s books are thought-provoking while being grimly realistic, and have been translated into more than 40 languages.

The Roots and Repertoire of Auster(e) Writing:

Paul Auster’s writing career took off as a translator of French literature in 1970 when he moved to Paris. It wasn’t long before he came back home. He debuted with The Invention of Solitude in 1982. Since then, he has published 20 works of fiction, 7 translations, 5 screenplays, 7 poetry collections, and 14 miscellaneous works that include autobiographies and 2 edited collections.

Auster’s most famous works include:

  • The New York Trilogy: Typical detective stories have a crime or issue to be solved, and the clues that solve the issue. But this trilogy has three stories that have detectives answering the questions of life including, as mentioned before, existential and identity crises, and personal space.
  • The Music of Chance: Life, as we know it, is a mixed bag of coincidences. And Paul Auster’s The Music of Chance reflects life in all its randomness.
  • The Book of Illusions: While we concentrate on getting our work done, we sometimes forget that there our relationship with those around us, and the world we live in, is equally important. Auster defines these relationships to perfection in this book. Moon Palace follows a similar template, while maintaining the brilliance.
  • The Brooklyn Follies, Oracle Night, and his novella Travels in the Scriptorium are among his most critically acclaimed work to date.


Auster’s books playing with different colors of the psyche can be attributed to French psychoanalyst, Jacques Lacan, one of the most controversial of all time. In addition to Lacan’s post-structuralism, Auster is also deeply influenced by Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau’s transcendentalism. These themes are hugely reflected in Auster’s works, closely dissecting and magnifying them at the same time.


Paul Auster’s stories have garnered worldwide critical acclaim across platforms, though some critics beg to differ. While the positive reviews maintain that Auster has carved a niche for himself, negative reviews usually pick on the skepticism that his books seem to put forth.

Other Work:

Paul Auster involves himself in working for the global freedom of writers. His indignation is apparent at the imprisonment of writers and journalists in Turkey, and who are still being tried in this day. Five years ago, when Auster refused to visit Turkey in protest of the imprisonment, it resulted in a war of words with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Auster was part of the Board of Trustees of the PEN American Center from 2004 to 2009 and served as Vice President from 2005 to 2007. The PEN American Center is one of the several custodians of free expression and fellowship among writers globally while helping push literature forward in the direction beneficial for everyone.


Shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2017, 4321 is the story of Archibald Isaac Ferguson who leads 4 different, simultaneous lives. And 4321 narrates these stories that occur with historical events as the backdrop. Paul Auster’s narrative is fast-paced even though Archibald’s lives are anything but that. Archibald’s lives weave through each other, increasing the complexity of timelines and narratives. Yet, the most important question that 4321 asks is not of how or why, but of what choice the protagonist makes.

Next Outing:

Auster’s latest memoir, A Life in Words, is due to release in October, 2017. Published by Seven Stories Press, this memoir is a conversation about Auster’s craft of writing, between Auster and author I. B. Siegumfeldt.

After the way Paul Auster describes existentialism and absurdism in his books, there is no way any of it can be termed absurd if a majority of the books’ readers identify with it, even in a remote way!

Author(s): Paul Auster
Publisher: Faber & Faber
Release: January 2017
Genre: Fiction/Contemporary
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A former IT professional, Sonali gave up her cozy job to pursue her passion : writing. She is currently a freelance writer and an author. Her first novel 'Of Knights and Lillies' has released last year. She is working on her second work of fiction, a novel that revolves around travel and self discovery. Sonali's dream is to travel the world and write her own travelogues that will inspire travelholics. While she is not fantasizing about travelling the world and being a full time content writer and author, Sonali is also busy being a poet, booklover and reviewer, music lover and a full time grammar nerd!

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