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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 Six: "The end is only imaginary": Moon Palace and In the Country of Last Things 137


CHAPTER SIX "The end is only imaginary": Moon Palace and In the Country of Last Things The quest for the father, which constitutes the theme and the narrative kernel of The Invention of Solitude, informs the three books of the Trilogy in its symbolic form, as the quest for logos. Leviathan may be read as an alternative version of the last section of the Trilogy, The Locked Room. But Leviathan also evokes another earlier work, Moon Palace, through the metaphor that interlaces the two novels, "a complex dance of guilt and desire," the feelings of guilt and desire coloring the quest for the father in the latter novel. In the city of glass of Auster's fictional world, the first part of Moon Palace mirrors a central motif of an earlier novel, In the Country of Last Things. The present chapter of my study will focus on the unifYing theme of these two novels-the motif of the perpetually deferred quest. Part One: Moon Palace Moon Palace closes with Fogg's journey to the end of the continent; it begins with his journey to the end of the self. "I wanted to live dangerously," retrospects Fogg, "to push myself as far as I could go and then see what happened to me when I got there" (p. 1 ). Grief-stricken over the death of his uncle and threatened by his dwindling financial resources, Fogg embarks on a gradual process of self-denudation, of stripping away to the bare core of selthood. He stops working; divests...

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