Well… it was fine reading, but I have to say I still didn’t love it. It’s somewhat repetitive – although technically, ‘repetitive’ isn’t quite right since Invisible came afterwards. Leviathan is the story of a writer, Benjamin Sachs, who gets blown up in his car by the side of the road. How did he get there? The story is told by his friend Peter Aaron (spot the initials! – Also, Auster’s middle name is Benjamin…).
It’s those less-than-well-camouflaged self-references that get me. I can’t help myself, they just seem a little… cheap. In a similar vein, having read Invisible, I feel like the only thing Auster really knows how to write about is writers who live in New York and people who go/went to Columbia University, or have some other connection with it. Interestingly, Auster’s wife Siri Hustvedt does something similar in her books, and with her it doesn’t bother me at all. I don’t understand what my problem is, but I just can’t seem to warm to Auster.
The benefits of reading an earlier Auster is that the intellectualism that permeates Invisible is not quite as pronounced in Leviathan yet. The novel spans the years following the Vietnam war to the end of the Cold War, with all the bits of American history that go in between. It’s also the story of a man’s slow (and in the end, rapidly accelerating) descent into madness, ending with his death. It’s well told, Auster’s prose is incredibly fluent, and I might even be tempted to say that it gets quite thrilling at times.
Maybe it’s me. Before starting to read Auster, I had all these ideas in my head about how great his books were supposed to be. Perhaps I’d built it up too much, and would have been perfectly happy with his novels had they been by someone else who doesn’t have a huge name. For some reason, I just don’t think they are what people crack them up to be.
So… how do you feel about Paul Auster?
German title: Leviathan
Spanish title: Leviatán