Baumgartner, by Paul Auster

Baumgartner by Paul Auster

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Let’s start with the good: Paul Auster still is a great author and his mastery of language is second to none. He is extremely empathetic and feels with his characters. Auster is very near to them and allows us in a masterful way to share in their feelings, ideas, and worries.

Especially the ageing Baumgartner who reads a bit like Auster’s alter ego is an amazingly life-like character who reminisces about his life – married for decades to his late wife Anna, an intensive relationship with another woman, rejection and recovery: Auster takes us on a journey through Baumgartner’s life.

And this is where the cookie – for me – crumbles: While Baumgartner is a wonderful character, he has led an unremarkable life. Not only Baumgartner himself but most people around him as well, it seems. Consequently, the story Auster tells us is lacking in sheer substance and is, as such, nothing very special.

I can relate to many of the aspects at the heart of this story:

»It’s just that we need to get our terms straight before we plunge in and start to talk. Yes, she would still be alive if she hadn’t gone back into the water, but then we wouldn’t have lasted together for more than thirty years if I had done things like trying to stop her from going into the water when she wanted to. Life is dangerous, Marion, and anything can happen to us at any moment. You know that, I know that, everyone knows that—and if they don’t, well, they haven’t been paying attention, and if you don’t pay attention, you’re not fully alive.«

I made numerous highlights and annotations because I loved many ideas and passages but the story itself lacked depth.

Paul Auster remains one of my favourite authors and I’ve read pretty much everything he ever wrote and intend to keep doing so, but, sadly, this novel only receives two stars from me.

»And that is all I will ever ask of you, my newborn son, in the first hours of your long journey toward becoming a man who can think and act and take part in the world—only this and nothing else: to fight the good fight.«

Ceterum censeo Putin esse delendam

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