Man in the Dark

man in the dark book coverI know that most of you have not finished reading "Man in the Dark" yet.  So, don’t panick.  This is just a post to invite you to start working on the novel, so that we can start discussing about it in class. 

The following video (pretty long, don’t get shocked!) shows you Paul Auster reading different excerpts from his latest novel.  At the end there are some questions he answers.  I would love you to listen to the questions and take notes of the answers.  If you have not started reading the novel, it would be nice for you to flick through the pages of the book guided by Paul Auster’s voice.  If you have already finished the book, then you can skip the reading of the excerpts and get directly to the interview.


Paul Auster’s new novel, Man in the Dark, evokes the state of insomnia convincingly.
In 2007, the 72-year-old August Brill lies awake at his daughter’s house in Vermont. Theirs is "a house of grieving wounded souls": Brill has lost his wife of many decades to cancer and has shattered a leg in a recent car crash; his daughter Miriam is 47 and divorced; his granddaughter Katya is 23 and also recently bereaved: they all sleep, or try to sleep, alone.  To distract himself from thinking about his personal pain, or his family’s, Brill tells himself a story about a parallel world in which America is at war not with terror, but with itself.  In this alternative America, the Twin Towers are still standing and there is no conflict in Iraq, but 16 states have seceded from the federation since George W Bush’s presidential victory in 2000. New York City has been bombed, more than 80,000 have died, and the country is being torn apart by civil war.   

Brill’s protagonist is Owen Brick, a young man who wakes up in a hole in the ground to find himself transported between Americas: "Brill hears machine guns, exploding grenades, and under it all, no doubt miles away, a dull chorus of howling human voices.

"This is war, he realises, and he is a soldier in that war, but with no weapon at his disposal, no way to defend himself against attack, and for the first time since waking up in the hole, he is well and truly afraid." 

Auster employs familiar post-modern techniques to mirror the crazy logic of nightmares. Brick is told by another character in the story that he can stop the war if he finds Brill and kills him: the civil war is only happening because a disgruntled old man is thinking it up.

"He sits in a room all day writing it down, and whatever he writes comes true. The intelligence reports say he’s racked with guilt, but he can’t stop himself. If the bastard had the guts to blow his brains out we wouldn’t be having this conversation."

Brill distracts himself with only partial success. His thoughts keep drifting back to his dead wife and suffering daughter and granddaughter. By day he watches films, one after another, with Katya, who was a film studies student before her bereavement. man in the dark book cover 2

Lying awake, Brill replays their conversations about Tokyo Story and other classics. These interludes are light relief for the reader: Auster on film is diverting and interesting. But then the nightmare returns. "Think dark, then, and go down into it, see it through to the end."

Towards dawn, Katya arrives in her grandfather’s room and they lie next to one another talking frankly about his life.

He wonders if the intimate details are too much to share. She tells him no, "It’s my fault. I’ve turned this into Truth Night at Castle Despair, and now that we’ve started, we might as well go all the way."

What they don’t talk about, can’t talk about, is the internet video of Katya’s husband’s gory execution in Iraq.

All three occupants of the house watched it together because they felt they owed the victim of violence that much, "so as not to abandon him to the pitiless dark that swallowed him up".
The pages ooze with an audible cry of pain.  As we saw in other of his works, the writer knows that solidarity and companionship in sorrow and sleeplessness are the best there is to hope for.paul auster photo
Out of what you have read and listened to, think of three questions you would like to ask Pual Auster about the novel "Man in the Dark".
Which book cover do you like better?  Why?
Since this blog is not meant for you only guys, I thought of posting a short excerpt of the novel, so that anybody visitig this blog can have a "taste of it!".
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49 Responses to Man in the Dark

  1. anonimo says:

    Listen Paul Auster’s voice reading his novel “Man in the dark” is so involving. He reads some passages with lots of emotions. Paul Auster knows how to read the words that he sees because he knows what the characters think and fell because he is the one that wrote this book.

    With his voice he creates a special atmosphere….

    The cover that I prefer is the European one because it represents maybe a forest during a night….

    But it’s not clear what there is in this cover because it’s all confuse like the protagonist August Brill.

    The questions are: How comes the idea of write this book?

    Why some of the characters the he wrote about are lonely?

    What would you like that we understand from this book?

    Denise Martin

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