The Story of my Typewriter

storyIs there any meaningful object in your life you have had for a long time, you wouldn’t ever part from, you feel so attached to that you would suffer if it ever got lost, damaged or stolen?

Write about it.


“The story of my typewriter” is an essay about the author’s decades-long relationship with his typewriter, discussing his care for the machine and his growing affection for it through its years of diligent service. The typewriter is a manual Olympia, more than 25 years old, and has been the agent of transmission for the novels, stories, collaborations, and other writings Auster has produced since the 1970s.  It is also the story of a relationship. A relationship between Auster, his typewriter, and the artist Sam Messer, who, as Auster writes, "has turned an inanimate object into a being with a personality and a presence in the world."  This is also a collaboration: Auster’s story of his typewriter, and of Messer’s welcome intervention into that story, illustrated with Messer’s muscular, obsessive drawings and paintings of both author and machine.

Aspiring writers are often fascinated by the processes and the tools of the professional; in this elegant art book collaboration between writer Auster and painter Messer, they can get a detailed, expressionistic perspective on the old-fashioned machine Auster uses to get the words out of his head and onto the page: a vintage manual Olympia typewriter. "Since… 1974, every word I have written has been typed out on that machine," writes Auster in the essay that accompanies the drawings and paintings reproduced in this volume. Though very short, the text is revealing of the author’s unique sensibility: "Like it or not, I realized we [Auster and the Olympia] had the same past.  As time went on, I came to understand we had the same future." The starring attraction here is the art.  Primarily done in oils, the works reveal Messer’s obsession with Auster’s typewriter.  Most of the depictions are head-on, sometimes with backgrounds that reflect the writer and his New York milieu.  One version is backed by a shelf of Auster’s works, another by the Brooklyn Bridge, and one haunting image shows the lower Manhattan skyline as seen from Brooklyn, with the still-standing towers of the World Trade Center prominently featured. The novelist himself is portrayed in several works, the best of which shows Auster conjuring the keys off of the machine and into a swirl of floating letters. This is an undeniably odd but captivating book, in which Messer, in Auster’s words, turns "an inanimate object into a being with personality and a presence in the world."

the story of my typewriter

I found two short comments/personal opinions on the book.  Read the story in Italian (should I ever be able to get the version in English, you will certainly be given the opportunity to read it!) and say whether you agree with the positive or negative review herewith below.  Of course, it is not possible for you to appreciate the artistic side of the book, since there are not the works by Messer.  However, you will certainly appreciate the text by Auster:


If you’re a typewriter fetishist or Paul Auster devotee, this book is definitely worth it. I am a bit of both, so the book is quite an endearing eyecandy for me. This slim volume is really the work of Sam Messer, an artist who became enamored with Auster’s Olympia portable and decided to paint it everytime he visited. The paintings are quite good, as a matter of fact. Auster provides a quick, anecdotal history of his typewriter, and if you are a writer, you will empathize how he or anyone can grow so enamored with a writing tool.



I was really looking forward to this book. And, I have to admit it was not quite what I was expecting. I truly enjoyed the paintings and reading about Paul Auster and his strange and interesting typewriter. But, I expected more in the way of reading. I expected a nice long read.  The writer is such a creative and imaginative storyteller, full of surprises. I wanted him to reveal more, to tell more and weave this story into something I could really sink my teeth into. But, the real star of this book is Sam Messer and his wonderful paintings. Perhaps I would have enjoyed this more if it were presented like a *big* art book, with large pictures, and plenty more of them.



You are the “generation” of the computer era.  How could you convince Mr. Auster to have a go at the computer?

Do you think that not using a computer or other technological gadgets/devices means being an “enemy of progress”?

Is there anything you have not “surrendered to” that most of your friends have? For example I don’t have an i-pod and I don’t have any intention of getting one.  Perhaps I should write a short essay to reveal why.  The title could be "TO i-pod or not to i-pod?  This is the question"

I am sure you are not that prone to reading my essay.  SO, read Paul Auster’s!

La storia della mia macchina da scrivere

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35 Responses to The Story of my Typewriter

  1. anonimo says:

    I’m not a Motorola kind of girl and I enjoy writing using pen and paper. It’s simpler and you don’t have to backup continuously in order not to loose all your work. Anyway I use my laptop quite often to write, to check e-mails, to surfing the Net, etc…I have to admit it’s a useful device but I’m not going to convince anyone to use it. I’ve tried with my grandparents and I didn’t reach any goal. I, also think that Mr. Auster isn’t damaging anyone using a typewriter, indeed he is giving work to someone that has to copy his works.

    About the surrendering thing, then I was younger I was more idealist: I refused to have a cell phone, I never bought all the cool things that were fashion and than passed away, from Pokémon cards to the pendant for the telephone. Now-a-days I still not buy all the cool and useless things but I surrendered to the phone, I need it even if most of the time is closed and I loose it once a week.

    Luckily I’m not too attacked to my object, because I often “momentarily don’t find” something so I’m quite trained to not to give things deep meanings (but when I loose all my files in the PC I get a little angry).

    Francesca Cazorzi

  2. anonimo says:

    i’m sorry..I wanted to do this post, but the comments of my classmates have moved me.

    I admit that is the most beautiful post and i have to think more to know what to write.

    i’ve tried to send you the e-mail with presentation of DE PROFUNDIS but i have some problem with my e-mail box. i’m sorry. i answer the post tomorrow.

    Laura S.

  3. anonimo says:

    I absolutely don’t want to induce Paul Auster to buy a PC!! i think that is a personal decision and personally i admire Auster’s relationship with his typewriter. This is the proof that writing for him is very deep and goes over any type of technology and materialism. For Auster the most important thing is writing for the pleasure to write. I think that there are a lot of advantages using the PC, but also a lot of disadvantages. so..i’d prefer that Auster uses typewriter. Also because…i like imagine a writer who is writing with typewriter…with only the sound of its keys.

    I’m not particularly attached to something. But in this week very often has happened that I tought: “if i were in Abbruzzo…what i have saved?”. I don’t know…there isn’t something that is the most important thing. For example i have some T-shirts that i can’t leave, altough are small. Everyone has a story and through them i can remember some events happened in my childhood. It’s the same thing with photos. Yesterday i have leafed through albums family…how many memories!! with new digital era you have photos on PC and you can’t smell the paper (great sensation). But the advantage is that you can do a lot of photos and if you make a mistake you can do another photo!! i don’t know what i prefer…like the Auster’s typewriter. this way you can look in your past and understand what are your improvement or not…and you can compare Past with Present, look the difference and technologycal changes.

    Sincerely i’m not particularly attached to technologyc objects. But, i admit that for me cell phone is really important to call some friends that are far from me, or to decide to go out. For also I-pod is really important…in fact music for me is fondamental. For example to escape from reality…like in schooltrip…there were some moments that to not explode in front of some behaviour, I switched on my I-pod and i listened music…then i felt better.

    Some technologyc objects are became important for the improvement of society and human resources, but i think that it’s always important looking behind us to see what and how many step we have done and why not…through objects (that tell about us)!!

    Lauri S.

  4. anonimo says:

    Emh, maybe you won’t believe me but I haven’t ever had, and I don’t have a meaningful object in my life. When I was a child I had a doll…I got enough of it after only one year. That’s my vice: I grow bored of everything (also person ç_ç). Obviously I will always want a cellular, but I don’t care if it’s the first I ever had or the one my parents gave me. But I am very attached to ALL my things. I mean I am attached to them but I’m not attached to them. I can suffer for a week because my sister broke my bedside lamp but if I decied it wasn’t so important I feel better.

    I do not want to convince Mr. Auster to get a PC. If he likes writing on his “old-fashioned” typewriter why he can’t cointinue doing it? I have a wonderful PC and I love it, it’s a beast, it’s the fastest and the best at performances and I will never renounce it, BUT (there is always a “but”) I don’t think that not using tchnological devices means being an enemy of progress. Everyone choose a technological gadget that suits his needs in the best way. I mean: I love working on picture and photos so I needed a PC with lots of memory and fast, and I get it, but I haven’t an i-pod. My sister loves listen to music while she walks down the street so she get a fantastic i-pod. Maybe Mr. Auster doesn’t feel the need to have a machine with a screen that allows him to see digitally what he writes. Maybe he’s satisfied by his old typewriter, unhandy typewriter maybe, but if it suits his personality I think it’s ok. Technological devices aren’t the binding path of the future. Technology has to be a help for us, not an imperative. We are judged enough in our life for hundred of things, technology has not to be one of them. I am proud of not having an i-pod, and I haven’t ever had the playstation, I don’t know how to paly it! I think that if Mr. Auster loves writing he can do it with everything: a Pc, a typewriter, pen and ink, blood and sheets of paper. The important thing is the action, not the gadgets that permits us to do it.

    Giulia Raineri

  5. anonimo says:

    I don’ t have a particular object that I feel so attached to that I would suffer if it ever got lost or demaged, but if someone steal me my phone,my clothes or some important photos, I would immediately get mad. I am very jealuos of my things and nobody can touch them:)

    I really appreciate “The story of my typewriter”. Paul Auster is so attached to his typewriter that he transforms it in a real person,that has a soul and that in some way inspire him to write his novels. Since 1974 every word he have written has been typed out on that machine. He never would change it with a modern laptop. I agree with Mr Auster because for a writer is simpler writing down on a typewriter than in a computer. If you press a wrong key the work of a whole day or month can delate it all.

    I wouldn’ t convince Paul Auster to have a go at the computer.I think that his choice is the best one.Writers must continue the tradition to write on a typewriter as it was for long years in the past.


  6. anonimo says:

    First of all let me point out that the fact that Paul Auster is deeply affected to his typewriter is certainly not a reason to say: “he is an enemy of technology”. I don’t think that his decision is a critic to computer or technologies but a personal decision. The tie that binds Paul Auster to his typewriter does not mean a refusal to modernity, but it’s such strong because it stimulate memories…he has written all his novels and short stories with his olympia. When he is in front of his typewriter he can concentrate, remember and reflect which would be absolutely not possible with a sterile, though beautiful and new, computer.

    Personally I am very attached to objects, especially those that conjure up memories and with whom I spent most of my life. This bond that binds us to the objects (that evoke memories) is only apparently material, but is actually a deep bond with our memories and the past. Only these things can in fact make us remember the actions that otherwise would be lost in the oblivion of the forgotten.

    Unfortunately sometimes I’m jealous of my objects just because I’ve paid them or just because they are comfortable, such as mp3 player. I think that this is the worse link we can have with things. We must know and accept technological items, but we also must be able to do without them and not be dependent.


  7. anonimo says:

    I would not advise Paul Auster to use a computer. If he feels well writing on an old typewriter, why not? The important thing is to feel at ease during our work…I am part of the ‘computer era’, and I must say that I feel proud of it. There are lots of positive aspects (the distances from one country to another have shortened, you can find lots of information in little time, you can keep in touch with people far away from you) but also negative ones (internet is some times very insidious!). I think that the real problem with globalization is that if in the past you found typical products from land to land, nowadays we tend to homologate everything: everywhere you find the same things. This will lead to the loss of the different traditions that characterize every single place. So, Paul Auster one day won’t be able to find his ribbons any more!This is quite sad, but there’s not much to do…

    I admit I ‘surrendered to’ a lot of technological devices (I-Pod, msn, facebook..). I could not live without these things!The next thing I’m going to buy is the new Sony digital photo frame…I love it!:)

    Jana Stefani

  8. anonimo says:

    I don’t think that I would try to convince Paul Auster to replace his old typewriter with a computer, first of all because he is certaily aware of the advantages of having a computer, and secondly because this is a personal choice, and it shouldn’t be considered wrong, although it is different from that of most people. Indeed, I believe that it is enough to read this essay by Paul Auster on his old-fashioned Olympia to understand the deep bond between them: in some way, the typewriter has turned ideas, stories, thoughts and inventive into something real and lasting.

    Personally I don’t have an object indispensable or a object I wouldn’t ever part from. If I have to give an example of something to which I am affectionate, I would mention my childood toys: items which I don’t remember most of the time,but when I find them by chance going into the attic, they make me smile and transmit serenity.

    As for the question of i-pod or any other gadget, technological or not, I think the problem is not that of having one, (also because, in the case of the mp3 player, I think it is one of the best inventions 🙂 ), but that of being obsessed with the latest model, the most expensive, the most fashionable.

    Federica Cozzarin

  9. anonimo says:

    I think that is something wrong if we want to convince Mr. Auster that a computer is better than a typewriter for many reason: first of all i think that as a writer he is linked with a particolary objet that could be a pen or, like in this case, a typewriter that helped him to find the ispiration to write a book; in the second poit there is the sort of ”ribellion” that a man could have for the new technology.

    however, i also disagree with Auster’s opinion because i think that if there is something that i do not know i try to learn it and i compared it with what, in my opinion,could be better for me. So like i have just said i do not absolutely want to convinced Mr Auster to use the computer instead of his typewriter; i Just want to convinced him to try and see what are the differences between the two machines and than that he decides what is better for him.


  10. anonimo says:

    I do not believe that it would be possible to convince Mr. Auster to use a computer to write his novels, but it does not mean that he is an “enemy of progress”: in fact he demonstrates he is not absolutely a “laudator temporis acti”. Not having a computer is not a guarantee that you are not able to use it, but there is probably a explanation why most of the writers on the world use computers: they permit you to change parts of the text without rewriting the entire page, with them you can delete words or phrases without creating blank parts and you can send your work or parts of it with a click of the mouse. That does not mean that Auster is a fool, but only that he likes his typewriter and he prefer that bond to the commodity of a pc. Everyone has something that has a particular meaning, and that can lead to choices that can seem strange to other people. However, there are every time other reasons than the affection for that thing, like a good memory, a habit or just a particular in that thing, but all of that reasons are the real reason of that affection. And that “part of ourselves” can make us stoically support critics from the others. However, if you make a “strange” choice not to keep a part of yourself, you are not affectionate to an item but more probably you merely need more attention from the others.

    Damiano Verardo

  11. anonimo says:


    I don’t think that convince Mr. Auster to buy a computer throwing away his typewriter is a good idea. After all I’m sure that a computer is very useful but not for a writer. The being of a writer, like Mr. Auster, is to catch the moment and immediately put it on the paper and a computer doesn’t give the same satisfaction as seeing a word printed on the sheet of paper. But I’m convinced also that “not using a computer or other technological gadgets/devices” doesn’t mean be an “enemy of the progress” but doesn’t feel the necessity to have it.

    About the two short comments on the book I agree with the second one because if Paul Auster is so affectionate of his typewriter I’m sure that he could write a long story and not only thirty lines.

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