Paul Auster (3 stars)

Travels in the Scriptorium (Faber)


On the surface, Travels in the Scriptorium takes place in a small room with no means of escape. Its occupant, a confused old man known only as Mr Blank, finds even the most mundane tasks problematic. The who, where and why of Blank’s existence is a mystery, to both him and us. Of course, with Paul Auster, surface is only half the story, and this metaphysical yarn has you searching for meaning in every line.

The room itself, seemingly a metaphor for Auster’s mind, is a place where old characters are recycled. Names such as Fanshawe and Quinn (formerly of New York Trilogy fame) make an appearance, one of a range of devices Auster uses to mess with our heads. But despite its air of mystery, Travels in the Scriptorium smacks of author self-indulgence. And as it screeches to a maddeningly frustrating climax, you can’t help but wonder if this wasn’t written more for Auster’s pleasure than ours.

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