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Paul Auster and Postmodern Quest

On the Road to Nowhere


Ilana Shiloh

Paul Auster published his first prose work, the autobiographical The Invention of Solitude, in 1982; since then his fiction has gained ever growing popular and critical acclaim. This book is a stimulating pioneering study of eight works that make up the Auster canon: The Invention of Solitude, the three novellas that comprise The New York Trilogy, and the novels In the Country of Last Things, Moon Palace, The Music of Chance, and Leviathan. Focusing on the quest – which she sees as the master narrative of all of Auster’s novels – Shiloh examines Auster’s writing in a multi-layered context of literary and philosophical paradigms relevant to his practice, such as the American tradition of the «open road,» the generic conventions of detective fiction, postmodernist concepts of the subject, Sartre’s and Camus’s existentialist theories, and Freud’s and Lacan’s psychoanalytic models, all of which offer enriching and insightful perspectives on Auster’s poetics.


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Chapter Five: "A complex dance of guilt and desire": Leviathan and Moon Palace 107


CHAPTER FIVE "A complex dance of guilt and desire": Leviathan and Moon Palace Part One: Leviathan Solomon Barber, the obese and pathetic historian who turns out to be Fogg's missing father in Moon Palace (1989), wrote in his youth a novel based on his own father's disappearance. Some time after meeting Fogg, Barber sends him a copy of his book, Kepler's Blood, to give him some idea of the extent to which his father's absence has affected his imagination. As Fogg incredulously reads the madcap narrative, he has a sudden insight: The whole story is a complex dance of guilt and desire. Desire turns into guilt, and then, because this guilt is intolerable, it becomes a desire to expiate itself, to submit to a cruel and inexorable form of justice. (Moon Palace, p. 263) Kepler's Blood is a self-reflexive parody on the convoluted plots of Moon Palace, where guilt and desire figure prominently in the lives of three generations of fatherless sons and son-less fathers. But Fogg's reading of Barber's youthful oeuvre reverberates beyond the confines of the framing narrative and adumbrates the subterranean plot of a subsequent novel-Sachs's story in Leviathan (1992). Leviathan is structured around three major quests that reflect on each other-Peter Aaron's, Sachs's and Maria's; over all hovers the FBI investigation into the bombings ofthe replicas ofthe Statue of Liberty, which provides the novel's narrative framework. Peter Aaron's quest, mirroring that of the narrator of The Locked Room, is an investigation into the whereabouts of his...

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