The Book of Illusions
By Paul Auster (Editor)
(Picador, Paperback, 9780312421816, 336pp.)
Publication Date: August 2003
Six months after losing his wife and two young sons in an airplane crash, Vermont professor David Zimmer spends his waking hours mired in a blur of alcoholic grief and self-pity. Then, watching television one night, he stumbles upon a clip from a lost film by silent comedian Hector Mann. Zimmer’s interest is piqued, and he soon finds himself embarking on a journey around the world to research a book on this mysterious figure, who vanished from sight in 1929 and has been presumed dead for sixty years.
When the book is published the following year, a letter turns up in Zimmer’s mailbox bearing a return address from a small town in New Mexico inviting him to meet Hector. Torn between doubt and belief, Zimmer hesitates, until one night a strange woman appears on his doorstep and makes the decision for him, changing his life forever.
The Book of Illusions is, in the words of Peter Carey, “suffused with warmth and illuminated by its narrator’s hard won wisdom. This artful and elegant novel may be Auster’s best ever.”
Paul Auster’s previous novel, Timbuktu, was a national bestseller, as was I Thought My Father Was God, the NPR National Story Project anthology, which he edited. He lives in Brooklyn, New York. The Book of Illusions is his tenth novel.
“A nearly flawless work, and is the best argument among many that Auster will be remembered as one of the great writers of our time.” —San Francisco Chronicle
“Mr. Auster’s elegant, finely calibrated The Book of Illusions is a haunting feat of intellectual gamesmanship...Hector is an inspired creation...more immediate than many flesh-and-blood actors.” —The New York Times
“One of his finest [novels]: an elegant meditation on the question of whether an artist or his public ‘owns’ the work he creates, and a thickly plotted succession of interlocking mysteries reminiscent of his highly praised New York Trilogy...gripping and immensely satisfying.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“An older and wiser Auster has added a new ingredient to the metaphysical play and deft storytelling, a sadness that colors all illusion, that creates a stunningly moving and very real portrait of a man over-marked by death....It is a story of unspeakable grief told with virtuousic brilliance, which Auster finally brings safely to Earth with a very human simplicity.” —Los Angeles Times