Sunday, September 27, 2009

The Locked Room by Paul Auster

It seems to me now that Fanshawe was always there. He is the place where everything begins for me, and without him I would hardly know who I am.

Title: The Locked Room
Author: Paul Auster
ISBN: 9780940650763
Publisher: Sun and Moon Press/1986
Pages: 179 pages

The book begins with the narrator rceiving a mail from Sophie Fanshawe. Fanshawe has gone missing and after six months his pregnant wife, Sophia contacts the narrater who is a childhood friend of Fanshawe, so as to evaluate Fanshawe's work as per his instructions. Inevitably Sophie and the narrater, who too is a writer fall in love and eventually marry and he becomes the father of the baby.

The narrator publishes the work of Fanshawe, which is hailed as greatest piece of writing and many assume that the narrator wrote it as Fanshawe had not published anything when he was very much there. . Meanwhile the narrator finds himself unable to write anything. After sometime, he takes it upon himself to write Fanshawe's biography. And Sophie doesn't like it one bit. However, it doesn't prevent the narrator him from researching Fanshawe's life. He finds interesting bits about his childhood friend. His father had died of cancer, his sister is now in an institute for the insane and his mother hates him

In his quest for writing the biography of Fanshawe, the narrator's marriage almost comes to an end and he also has an illicit affair with Fanshawe's mother. In each frame, the disappeared Fanshawe's presence looms large. Our narrator seems to have been taken over by him. It seems, narrator, while researching the life of a missing writer for a biography, slowly begins to assume his identity. At some points, even the reader starts having doubts.

The title makes sense as one can see that, Fanshawe is the locked room. He can't express all that he feels. So he has to keep himself out. Only way he can do it by locking himself. In a way, it is he who designed that Sophie and the narrator should meet, fall in love and marry. Fanshawe knows that his friend is capable of sustaining power of love. Fanshawe, although a genius, doesn't have it in him to be a loving family man.

Reality and fantasy co-exist here. The short novel can be interpreted profane or profound, depending on the mindset of the reader. I think, it is what Auster intends in all his writings. One can call his work entirely absurd or the work of a genius.


JoAnn said...

I'd like to give Auster a try...have been curious about his work for some time.

serendipity_viv said...

This sounds really interesting. I like the sound of the doubt as to whether they are the same person.

I have the New York Trilogy by Paul Auster still to read, but I would definitely add this one to my list.

Literary Feline said...

This sounds like such an interesting book. I haven't read anything by Paul Auster, but you've got me curious, Gautami. Thanks for the great review.

Anonymous said...

I've seen the name, but this is the first review I've read of any of his books. I'm curious.

Unknown said...

@ Vivienne
The Locked Room is part of the NY Trilogy, which imho should be high up on your reading list.

Anonymous said...

Okay, I definitely need to give Auster a try. I wonder if my library has any?

Unknown said...

I don't know where your library is, but mine, overhere in the Netherlands, has, in dutch as well as in english.
But "they" say Auster is very much a European writer, whatever that means.
However: it was Oracle Nights that got me onto Auster in the first place. His most accesible work is The Music of Chance (I think).