US novelist Paul Auster dies aged 77

Paul Auster, the prolific American novelist whose works included “The New York Trilogy,” has died of complications from lung cancer, a friend of the novelist told AFP. He was 77.

Auster died on Tuesday evening at his home in Brooklyn surrounded by family, including his wife Siri Hustvedt and daughter Sophie Auster, his friend and fellow author Jacki Lyden said in a statement sent to AFP.

He made his name with noirish, existentialist novels about lonely writers, outsiders and down-and-outers that were a huge hit in Europe particularly.

The author with the soulful, sunken eyes gained cult status in the 1980s and 1990s with his “New York Trilogy” of metaphysical mysteries and his hip film “Smoke,” about the lost souls who frequent a Brooklyn tobacco shop.

Hustved, also an author, announced in March 2023 that he had been diagnosed with cancer.

Auster’s work straddles the divide between the middlebrow and the highbrow.

His more than 30 books are as likely to be found in airports as on university reading lists and have been translated into more than 40 languages.

His life was marred by tragedy in later years, with his 10-month-old granddaughter dying after ingesting heroin and his son Daniel, the child’s father, dying of an overdose 10 months later.

Lyden called Auster a “writer’s writer” who covered “every facet of loss, loneliness, and the joys and sorrows of a life in words”.

“He never lost touch with human suffering, and connectedness, and it made him the beloved writer he has become,” she said.

– New York Trilogy –

Auster grew up in Newark, New Jersey, the son of Jewish Polish immigrants.

He moved to New York to attend Columbia University and after graduating spent four years in France, where he made a living off translations while honing his craft as a writer.

His big breakthrough came with “The New York Trilogy,” a philosophical twist on the detective genre featuring a shady quartet of private investigators named Blue, Brown, Black, and White.

His gift for sharp dialogue — Auster mercilessly edited himself for sentence rhythm — was key to the success of “Smoke,” which he wrote and co-directed, about a Brooklyn smoke shop owner played by Harvey Keitel.

In 2017 he broke with his concise style to deliver a 866-page tome, “4 3 2 1”, charting American society through the life of an everyman, Archie Ferguson.

Auster presented it as his masterwork.

But while America’s National Public Radio found it “dazzling”, others were less positive, with The Irish Times deeming it “the last fat novel of a collapsed American pride”.


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