02 September 2007

Scattered notes on ephemeral illusions, Part I

(First page of notes on
The Book of Illusions by Paul Auster)

Man has not one and the same life. He has many lives, placed end to end, and that is the cause of his misery.
~ Chateaubriand

  • He says he "stuck to a close reading of the films themselves" and on the same page is the first reference to "Tierra del Sueño" (Land of the Dream or Land of Dreams). Page 3, and I already know I'll have to pay careful attention to this one. Is George Berkeley alluded to from the very beginning?
  • He soon invokes "Proudhon's well-known anarchist dictum: all property is theft" (p. 31).
  • "Everything from Meister Eckhart to Fernando Pessoa would be included"... I've fancifully thought that Pessoa could be the figure that inspired the character of Hector Mann (or, at least, a way of thinking about or interpreting him). His physical description immediately made me think of this portrait of Pessoa by his contemporary José de Almada Negreiros, but the issue of heteronyms brought me further. (This article explains things more thoroughly.)
  • Zimmer's translation of Chateaubriand's Mémoires d'outre-tombe goes from Memoirs from Beyond the Grave to Memoirs of a Dead Man. Obviously, this extends to Mann's work and what eventually happens in the novel, but it also applies to The Book of Illusions itself--something we're reading only because Zimmer himself has left the stage. Self-referential echoes haunt the characters as they eventually become what they initially only pursue.
  • And then I creeped myself out by noticing that Chateaubriand wrote his introduction to Memoirs of a Dead Man on 14 April 1846: "Ruination Day." Gillian Welch's songs "April 14th, Part I" and "Ruination Day, Part II" off Time (The Revelator) revolve around disasters that have occurred on that date: Lincoln's assassination, the sinking of the Titanic, and Black Sunday (the worst storm of the Dust Bowl era).
  • "Death does not reveal the secrets of life." ~ Chateaubriand (Although there will be some answers offered at the end of the novel, they reveal themselves as conjectures on closer inspection and only provoke even more questions.)
  • Alma = Soul (Zimmer trying to reclaim life...)
  • Brigid is found "lying facedown on the rug in front of the sofa." But does this make sense if she was actually shot in the face? (Doubt #1)
  • "It felt like some cunningly devised form of punishment, as if the gods had decided that I wouldn't be allowed to have a future until I returned to the past. Justice therefore dictated that I should spend my first morning with Alma in the same way I had spent my last morning with Helen. I had to get into a car and drive to the airport, and I had to be rushing along at ten and twenty miles over the speed limit to avoid missing a plane." The ability to see symmetry (or patterns) in the events of one's life helps to make life liveable. (But too much of this can become a form of psychosis.)
  • There's an excellent discussion of Hawthorne's "The Birthmark" on pp. 103-104.


Brian said...

Interesting notes and I'll be sure to reference them when I give TBOI a second run through. Which I want to make sure I do prior to seeing The Inner Life of Martin Frost.

Link attempt:


amcorrea said...

Thank you very much for this, Brian! It will add a new angle to my next Auster post...