In the Country of Last Things

"All this belongs to the language of ghosts.  There are many other possible kinds of talks in this language.  Most of them begin when one person says to another: I wish.  What they wish for might be anything at all, as long as it is something that cannot happen.  I wish the sun would never set.  I wish money would grow in my pockets.  I wish the city would be like it was in the old days.  You get the idea.  Absurd and infantile things, with no meaning and no reality.  In general people hold to the belief that however bad things were yesterday, they were better than things are today.  What they were like two days ago was even better than yesterday.  The farther you go back, the more beautiful and desirable the world becomes.  You drag yourself from sleep each morning to face something that is always worse than what you faced the day before,….."

This is an excerpt taken from Paul Auster’s "In the Country of Last Things".

In the light of this short extract, can you try to figure out the meaning of the title?

Write at least one of you wishes, in line with the ones written by the narrator above.  Ideally, I would appreciate if you tried to write more than one.

Write at least a paragraph that completes the excerpt above. 

Go on working folks.  It seems that you are all asleep!!! Haven’t seen any posts yet.

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50 risposte a In the Country of Last Things

  1. anonimo scrive:

    mmmmm….yes,you are right i love provoking people! so i can have the possibility to see how they react…but maybe i shouldn’t have provoked my teacher,as now i must answer to a very complex post!!

    First,thanks for praising me, i’m not sure to deserve what you wrote about me.

    then…well…do you really think that nobody can use someone else’s desires as a weapon against him/her? i’m not so optimist about it, but my opinion cannot be certainly compared to one of a person who has travelled around the world and could have known and touched lots of more and different people and realities. I do not believe that wherever you go, you can find nice people, able to understand what your wishes are and not to simply use them for their own purposes. i think we aren’t completely able to find a right answer to this issue, so it could be great to hear Paul Auster’s opinion concerning this argument!

    ah then, i just want to reveal you that it wasn’t so hard to make the effort to write my wishes.(although, as a skier, i would prefer to go down from a reep mountain rather than climbing it=D)

    As for the blogs, Mr. Lomolino was right telling you that splinder is the easiest one, i agree with him, but, also for that reason, i think it’s the worst-looking. Prof Battaia would reply that the plainer a website is, the better it is, but, in my opinion,this blog should be more catchy in order to induce Auster to visit it!

    I don’t know what site would be the best, there a lot of them. For example Myspace is really well-built but surely more difficult to use.I don’t have a huge knowledge about computers, maybe you should ask Lorenzo or Michele, if you need an opinion from a computer expert! Mine was just a comment which rose spontaneously looking at your blog.

    But you are right, i shuoldn’t have written “hate” and “worst” without any justification.

    sorry for keeping you awaken last night

    see you, Simone

  2. PaulAuster2008 scrive:

    Dear Simone,

    I must have expressed myself very weakly, since my message seems not to have gone through effectively! I do agree with you, I am sure that there are people who use and will always use what you say and what you give them. I am not naive, I do not think that the world is either black or white. What I am saying is that: why should I limit myself, the possibility of expressing myself freely just because someone may hurt me? If I did, I would make that someone more and more powerful and I would place myself in a cage. It is obvious that I reveal only the things I am prepared to fight for. I reveal what I think I can control. I would never write in this blog some of my deepest fears, because I cannot control them and so somebody may use against me. If in the blog I write, for example, that I am tall and I have black long hair (stupid example, but I am trying to make a point in the simplest and quickest way), don’t you think this is self-evident. As soon as someone meets me s/he can see that. Then, since you are a blogger yourself, the characteristic of a blog is that of disclosing your thoughts, your feeling, of revealing yourself. So, I am trying to be coherent. If I ask you to express your opinions, then I must do the same.

    Thanks for all your tips about blogs and how to “embellish” this one. I will certainly ask both Lorenzo and Michele.

    Cheers.

  3. anonimo scrive:

    I think that the title is provocative and reffers to nostagy and remembrance.People usuallly project their wishes in the furure and compare their present with an idealized past.The beauty of a period compared with another it’s sobjective althought,in my opinion, some parts of the history can be certanly classified as terrible for human beings.Some people assert that the development of societies and the course of history have to be considered as negative because humans have always the same defects so they make always the same mistakes.Other affirm that also their immediate past was better than the present is.I’m quite progressist but i think that holding a fixed position isn’t correct.Past and Future can not be better or worse at all,but periods of history ca be classified from a sobjectvie position.

    I wish that will be a way to make people memoty eternal.I wish to be in every place i want,i wish to find a sense,i wish to find an irrational order,i wish to that the power to wish will not disappear.

  4. PaulAuster2008 scrive:

    Marco,

    mind the construction with wish, otherwise your wishes won’t come true!!

    I like one of your wishes so much that I need to write it out in block letters:

    I WISH THAT THE POWER OF WISHING WOULD NEVER DISAPPEAR.

    Very nice.

    Hope your school mates will like it too.

  5. anonimo scrive:

    I’m agree with Federica Cozzarin about the title of the Paul Auster’s book. everyone would relive some moments, some events to be happy, to be satisfied or to change some choice taken in tha past. I think that musicians, artists and poets want to escape from reality, so the present (CFR “esotismo”). We think that the past was better than our present, but when we lived in past we wish in a beautiful future beacuse we didn’t like that present. I think that we won’t never be happy and satisfied. Now i’m reading a book…”Come smettere di farsi seghe mentali e godersi la vita”..[don’t laugh!=) ] well…it learns how live…we have to appreciate the world without searching something…observing all things around…feeling them with our body and then with our mind. So, we realize what we do and this consciousness can help us to live better and to be happy. But, it’s very difficult, because is more confortable hoping in the future, but “we haven’t to take refuge in hopes forgiving to live” (Harry Potter).

    I have a lot of hope and wishes, but if i have to choose…well…I wish in a non corrupt and right world, in a world with SINCERITY and LOYALTY, because i hate with all myself the hypocrisy. And for me…I wish learn to live.

    ps. i’m sorry for my grammatical mistakes.

    Laura Sist

  6. anonimo scrive:

    Hi, I’m an intruder 🙂 I’d like to congratulate you all on this Blog, very challenging and inspiring -in spite of its plain lay-out as someone remarked ;-). As a colleague of you Cris and a teacher … and an avid reader … and a late night writer… and a dreamer … I wish this virtual land wasn’t the only dark and silent country where people voice their inner thoughts.

    Nite!

    Laura

  7. anonimo scrive:

    Matteo Cervesato

    Looking at the title I tried to imagine the sense, but i didn’t succed; then, after reading the post, i have done myself an idea. the “last things”, o better “the country of Last Things”, is a place where nobody would see at the future, they all think that past is better than future: the present does’t satisfy them, the present is only pain and sadness. i would never live in a such place. i think i’m a positive person, however in these days I am not so sure, and i prefer live my present, that is happiness and friendship. i think i have no wishes “in line with the ones written by the narrator above.”, because of my being positive. nonetheless i have my personal wishes that I would like to write: I wish to solve my problems, i wish to see friendship in the whole people, i wish that sooner or later i will be without any negative thought. I wish to find the true love again. these are some wishes, the first that I have come in mind. i really wish that one day i will see only peace and freedom.

    i don’t think my wishes are utopias, not all!

    I will fight to make them real.

    goodbye, I apologize for the delay.

    Also I have noticed the closeness with Rousseau.

  8. anonimo scrive:

    “In the country of Last Things”…the name makes me think to a place where it’s always the same moment. I mean, if something is the last, it means there is nothing which came after it, or at least, nothing new. If there aren’t new things, then the society, the life style, the world don’t change. So, present, past and future will be always the same. There won’t be the belief that life in another period of history was better.

    In that country I don’t know how people could believe life has always been the same. Even today, as Auster says, when we can rationally substain that we live better than 100 years ago, people say that life in the past was better. I like to think that living in Rome, in Imperial period, was better that living in this society, with all its problems, but I’m sure that Romans used to complain as much as we do today.

    There are so many wishes that I can’t choose… Surely, I want to be happy in my life. I wish I could find my way. I wish I could make friends more easily. I wish people used their brain sometimes…

    Pietro Perin

  9. anonimo scrive:

    I think that the meaning of the title can be referred to an inherent fear in humans, the fear of the unknown, of what will be, of what differs from the usual; if there is a disaster that deprives us even of the most humble or banal things, or deprives us of our dear ones, then there is no way: we have to cling to our inner being, to our own conscience in the extreme attempt to preserve the memory of the past, that must not be forgotten.

    And then the oblivion of bad things drives us to remember only the best of our past, in the belief that the future will never be as wonderful as the past was. And if what there is outside does not correspond to what we want, the dream and the illusion drive us to reach a condition of satisfaction.

    It is important in this case to maintain some contacts with reality and what is practically feasible.

    I hope for example that the logic of profit does not lead the world to irreparable consequences such as environmental, economic and moral degradation of all humanity.

    “… The positive thoughts are only memories and the eyes of people, if they are not full of anger, are empty and sad.”

    Raggiotto Francesco

  10. anonimo scrive:

    “The Country of Last Things” is the place where we live every day. We refuges in the past becuase the time makes all better. Anything is better than the present. Umans can’t appreciate the present, I don’t know why, but I’m sure that it’s true. Why we have to live in the present that doesn’t gratify us, if we can live in the past? But everytime of the story is the present. I mean: everytime is the last for us, it isn’t true that the past is better than the present because the past was present. The same logic for the future. Is a world without time, without progress because we are fossilized in the past. We want at the same time innovations and traditions making a discord that brings us in a still time.

    My wishes…I wish lots of thing but i think that is useless to write down because they are only wishes. Believing in wishes makes me hope, makes me create expecttion. I don’t want have expectation because they are destinated to be deceived. I’m trying to keep my life as it comes to me, wishes are only nonsense.

    “…but you can’t realise that all things is bad at the same way, it depends on the point of view you take.”

  11. anonimo scrive:

    The meaning of the title is quite obvious: the last things, that are lost, are always better than the present things. It is a characteristic of human being the habit of utopize the past, and the purpose of this process is forget the pain, but it leads also to see the present worst than what it is really.

    Schopenhauer said that the way to win sufferance and pain is stop wishing, and, even if I consider the matter in a different meaning, I think that imagine something that would be good for us is not bad, but wishes can lead to disappointment if the reality will be different from our wishes.

    Damiano Verardo

  12. anonimo scrive:

    I think that “In the Country of Last Things” could mean the country of wishes and regrets. The sentence that clarifies better my interpretation is:”The farther you go back, the more beautiful and desirable the world becomes”.

    My greter whish is now to end this school year the better I could do….then I wish to go to university and I wish also the world wouldn’t make worse. I think all this wishes depend at least in part from me…so I will undertake in order o make them possible…..

    erica turbian

  13. anonimo scrive:

    in line with this quotation “a country of last things” seems to me a country with hope that the bad thing of the past have already gone and finished but at the same time the title whisperes an idea that people living in this place are focused more on the past: they refugee themselves in their memory and they don’t want to loose any strenghs to carry them on. the word ghost make me think about death but even lack of determination…. so i think this title and this quotation inspire contradictory meaning ( like all the auster’s works that i have already read) in the quotation there’s the idea of wishes like something only tought. people don’t fight for their wishes and so they ( the wishes) seem only said or thrown in the air. people in this country don’t want to carry on their ideas, hopes and wishes.

    i personally wish lots of things but in line with this extract i wish i finish this school and i can choose an university that really suits me. i wish not to make other mistakes for my future.

    i wish i were more determinated and courageous, to carry on my targets, to listen to the feedback but to managed to choose according to my really ideas.

    giacomin elena

  14. anonimo scrive:

    The title “In the country of Last Things” by Paul Auster, makes me think of a modern place but already decadent. The image I get is of some destroyed houses and cars and of people , who have memory of their past only. They aren’t satisfied with their present and this makes them feel their past was better both than their present and future.

    I wish my grandfather was alive, so I could ask him all the question I have now. He could help me with my problems as he did in the past.

    You drag yourself from sleep each morning to face something that is always worse than what you faced the day before, as life is a continuous fight. If present doesn’t satisfy people and they don’t hope in a better future, people will find a shelter in the past. This isn’t their real past, but an idealization. Finally we all need to find something positive in our life, that’s why it is simpler to change the past in our thoughts, making it look “golden”, instead of working hard to change the present that shows so many difficulties.

  15. anonimo scrive:

    ”In the country of last things”,it is a title that brings with its a long list of argoments and questions. Generally speaking, every people think that past was better than present and that they miss it… but this is not true!It is only an idea that we found inside everyone that don t like his present and search in his past the happines although in the past there wasn’t.Personally, I desagree with this idea because i think that life is only one and regret the past is just a lost of time.

    My wish is very difficult to realise because what i really want (become a ciclyst) i think that is only a dream…a beautiful dream but only a dream. So i wish I found something that enjoyed me like cicling if will not be possible become a cicylist.

  16. PaulAuster2008 scrive:

    LAURA, I read the book you mention, it’s funny, but I do not think I would take it as a book that may teach me how to live better. I think that some “seghe mentali” (shall we translate them as “mental mansturbations”!!! No we can’t it’s an Italianism. We’d better say “racking our brains”) do us good. They oblige us to think about certain things over and over again, and sooner or later we will get an answer to what bothers us.

    MATTEO, I share your wishes too (with the exception of looking for true love, because I think I have found it already and hope he won’t desert me!) and I wish you the best of luck as to love!

    PIETRO, you made me laugh when you wrote “I wish people could use their brains sometimes”. I would love to add: “I wish some people had brains”! 🙂

    FRANCESCO I love you quotation “The positive thoughts are only memories and the eyes of people, if they are not full of anger, are empty and sad.” Who said this?

    GIULIA, I don’t think wishes are nonsense, they are our inner driving force. If we didn’t have wishes (even the most superficial ones or the ones easy to attain) we would not set objectives to achieve in our lives. I am not trying to convince you otherwise, I am just responding to your comment.

    DAMIANO, I liked Schopenhaur when I studied him, but I only partly agree with him. Wishes create frustrations if we do not replace them with other wishes when we can’t make them real. However, I don’t think that all wishes create frustrations. I wish there would be no wars, but I know that there will always be wars in this world. This, however, does not “deflete” the power of my wish. This wish reflects my moral view of life and reflects (somehow) that fact that I know wars are “inborn” in our being humans, because they are fought for hegemony, for lust for power and control.

    ERICA and ELENA you seem to be concerned about your future careers. Well, girls, I think most students are confused about the choice of the right university at the end of their secondary school. I am sure you will find your way.

    NICOLA, thanks for your nice post.

    LUCA, perhaps you are right when you say that “regrets” are a waste of time. Yet, don’t you think that regrets (when they do not embitter you or make your life sour) may lead you to a better existence, since they guide you (you avoid making the same mistakes)? As to your wish: I loved the way you “consider” it. Wishes are not necessarily meant to be attained, but they are there to make us keep going. In your case, to make you cycle. Yet, what if you became a cyclist? Never know!

  17. anonimo scrive:

    “In the country of the last things” can have different meanings. It can represent the place were we put our dreams or thoughts. It can also be the place where we escape, when we want to assemble and to think about our passed experiences.

    “I wish I had an older brother, I wish I could talk to my granfather again”

    “[…] and you are convinced of that, but in fact you are wrong. You must not live your life like this. You have to believe, you must have faith in future, because if don’t, you are confined in a life extremely dark and sad.”

  18. anonimo scrive:

    arnoldi martina

    …suddenly I change my point of view.I’m used to think that yesterday was better than today,but I think that today I will meet my new granddauther.she was bord four hours ago!how can I say that yesterday was better than today!today is one of the best days of my life,and tomorrow will be a wanderful day as today because my little granddauhter will come home.she will begin her life and I hope her life could be simply fantastic,rich of happiness..i’m sure,from today things will change in a better way.I’m proud of today,I’m curious of tomorrow and about the past?I will only remember..

  19. anonimo scrive:

    Guarino ilaria

    …..and you live with the only struggle to survive in this dichotomy between past and present,in this crowd of thought and wishes.But do you think this is life??

    you drag yourself from sleep each morning and you can see that the sun is shining like yesterday,like a mounth ago,like the year before.A new day is ment to be lived.Build our existence,day by day,and improve ourself compared to the past is the only way to print the memories and the past in our mind.

  20. anonimo scrive:

    I find this catching title quite intriguing, but it is difficult for me to figure out the meaning of the word “last” in this case. “Last things” can be foolish, useless things or, metaforically speaking, they can be values that everybody, as human being, have (for example the value of life,family..), and even if the society we live in will corrupt us, those “last things” ,those values will remain in us forever.

    From this extract the meaning of the word “last” somehow takes shape in my mind, these “last things” are impossible, unrealizable wishes and dreams.

    “I wish I could find the meaning of what I am going trough. I wish I could find the aim of doing all this.”

    P.S. Wait! I’m not soo disperate! During these days these questions always occur in my mind..

    Chiara Pinardi

  21. PaulAuster2008 scrive:

    Martina, congratulations. You have become an aunt and your niece will be home soon. I rejoyce with you!!!

    Chiara your comment is comprehensive of all the different themes Auster touches on/develops in this novel. It is one of my favourite novels by Auster, if you want I can lend it to you.

    Wishing something now does not bound us to our wish and does not reveal who we are as people, but just who we “partly” were when we wished that wish! Some wishes come and go because they are linked to our living experience (which always changes, it is always in a go, so to say), other wishes remain with us for the rest of our lives because they are part of our “ethical self” (whatever this means!!!). Let’s not forget, however, that some wishes DO come true! Think of Martina’s wish of becoming an aunt or of her mum’s of becoming a grandmother!

    Cheers.

  22. anonimo scrive:

    eugenia

    “The country of last things”, in my opinion, means the place where all our unreachable dreams go when we first think of them. In this “country of last things” we can go to think and to admire our secret and inaccessible ambitions.

    I wish I knew what to study at university.

    “You drag yourself from sleep each morning to face something that is always worse than what you faced the day before, you think that nothing can improve, and you are sure you are destined to have a sad life. What about if it is not true? What about if life can be also positive and happy? Life is something beautiful, and acting like a victim will not help you! You must react against bad things you meet during your life, you have to live your life…And you, do you live your life?”

  23. PaulAuster2008 scrive:

    Eugenia, is the question addressed to me? “Do you live your life?” Well, I doubt that anybody can fully live their own life. We live in a community and so we are affected by each other’s existence. If you think of the microcosm of the family, the members of a family need to bow to compromises and do things that somehow respect everybody or interest everybody (from time to time). What is important is that we do not do things that would make lose our dignity or respect of ourselves.

  24. anonimo scrive:

    I don’t think that people really want to go back to past times. Sure, a long time ago there weren’t huge problems such as global warming or atomic energy, but would you really return to a world without cars, washing mashines, fridges, mobile phones, internet? And I mentioned only some little things. I don’t belive people would be able to live whithout this daily items. Life is much easier now than in the past. Although in the past there weren’t the global problems we have to face nowadays (pollution, global warming and so on), I think that thanks to the scientific innovations we are able, I’ll say, not to eliminate, but reduce such issues.

    Returning to the excerpt, I think we should be curious of tomorrow, we have to take a positive attitude towards the future. Tomorrow could be an opportunity to do something good and useful for our society, not a simple day in which you ‘face something that is always worse than what you faced the day before’.

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