Paul Auster, American author and experimental man of letters and filmmaker dies at 77

Paul Auster. Image credit: X/@PaulAusterFans

CMEDIA: A prolific, prize-winning man of letters and filmmaker, Paul Auster,  known for his inventive narratives and meta-narratives as The New York Trilogy and 4321, has died at age 77.

Auster’s literary representatives, the Carol Mann Agency, confirmed his death on May 1.

Additional details were not immediately provided.

Auster had been diagnosed with cancer in 2022.

Auster started his literary career in the 1970s, and completed more than 30 books, translated into dozens of languages.

Although not gaining much recognition and commercial success in the U.S. he was widely admired overseas for his cosmopolitan worldview and introspective style and received a chevalier of the Order of Arts and Letters by the French government in 1991.

Being called the “dean of American postmodernists” and “the most meta of American meta-fictional writers,” Auster blended in his writing history, politics, genre experiments, existential quests and references to writers.

A postmodern detective saga, The New York Trilogy, which included City of Glass, Ghosts and The Locked Room, in which names and identities blur and one protagonist is a private eye named Paul Auster.

The author’s longest and most ambitious work of fiction, and  a Booker finalist was 4321 published in  2017, a  800-plus page novel is a tale of realism in the post World War II era revealing the parallel journeys of Archibald Isaac Ferguson during the mass protests of the late 1960s.

“Identical but different, meaning four boys with the same name parents…Each one on his own separate path…three imaginary versions of himself, and then himself thrown in as Number Four for good measure; the author of the book,” Auster wrote.

In the mid-1990s, Auster collaborated with director Wayne Wang in the acclaimed art-house film Smoke, an adaptation of Auster’s humorous story about a Brooklyn cigar shop and a certain customer named Paul and brought Auster an Independent Spirit Award for best first screenplay. 

Auster eventually made the movies himself.and nine years later wrote and directed the drama The Inner Life of Martin Frost.

Born in Newark, Paul Benjamin Auster grew up in a middle class Jewish home, he was more inspired by James Joyce’s Ulysses or the tales of Edgar Allan Poe than by the security of a traditional job.