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The Book of Illusions

In: English and Literature

Submitted By merete
Words 1294
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The Book of Illusions by Paul Auster

If a tree falls in a forest with nobody around, does it make a sound? At one point in his 10th novel, The Book of Illusions, Paul Auster briefly refers to this philosophical concept. If a man, however, lives a life that nobody else notices, did he really live? That's the real debate that he proposes with this novel.
The book opens with the sentence, "Everyone thought he was dead." It refers to a silent film comedian named Hector Mann who just disappeared one day back in 1929, but it could just as easily refer to the protagonist of the story, David Zimmer, a literature professor at a liberal arts college in Vermont. David's life came to an end the day his wife and sons were killed in a plane crash. That disaster sent him diving headlong into drink and depression and he lived in an almost catatonic state in front of the television every day. He saw no purpose to living, but he was also unable to take his own life. He divorced society, quit his job, and broke off all contact with the people in his former life.
One day, a spark of life emerged while he watched a short clip of a Hector Mann movie on the television. He laughed. That moment of laughter made him realize that there was still something inside him that wanted to live, and he realized he needed a purpose, something to occupy his mind and to get him through every day. David decided to write a book about Hector Mann and his movies. He had previously written several books of literary critique and he applied the same thorough research methods of his academic career to find out all he could about Hector Mann. The only copies of the 12 silent movies Hector Mann ever made were distributed among different film museums around the world, so he traveled to all of them and watched all the movies repeatedly until he had them memorized. Paul Auster does a wonderful job letting us...

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