Invisible by Paul Auster

We are often birds of impulse buying, and a blurb can be a genuine bait for a reader who is willing to spend some money to immerse oneself in the world of thinking, meditation, good story, or send a reader on a journey of profound self discovery. On the other hand, I always wonder why and if any post-modern book needs a plot-driven blurb because – let us be honest here – a plot is a gimmick, a trick, a device to entice people to read an eclectic and often labyrinthine work.
Invisible by Auster is a perfect example of the over-discussed pros and cons of post-modern fiction. It does have a plot, but the mystery at the core of the book is not solved and should never be solved; it has a complex narrative structure, but an unprepared reader could be slightly taken aback and confused, and no one has ever banned or cancelled a good, interesting, dynamic character.
Conversely , in the eternal opposition ‘form vs. meaning’ the former can occasionally win with flying colors, and that is exactly what I witnessed in this novel. Auster skillfully demonstrates that one and the same story told by one and the same person can and will look different if it is presented by different pronouns. The first part, told my Adam Walker, is more relatable and more involving because of the first-person narrator; we implicitly trust this young man and what he is telling just because we are all under the spell of ‘I’.
The second part is more complex in its structure, involving frame stories, the same plot line continues, but the same narrator relies on the present tense that does give an unmistakable feeling of edginess, discomfort, and even an imperative. This is all ‘you’ doing. I am talking, of course, about the second-person narrator with the pronoun ‘you’, quite an orphan in fiction.
The third part features the third-person narrator with syncopated, uneven, telegraph-style writing, fragmented sentences, typical syntactical confusion, and … well, you guessed it … a stream of consciousness.
One could easily think that the book can hardly get even more experimental without sacrificing the plot, but then there is chapter four for you where Auster uses an unreliable diary to tell us the final elements of the story.
The experiment continues not only with the form, but with the meaning as well. A discerning reader can pick up Biblical allusions, elements of different genres – bildungsroman, travelogue, epistolary genre, spy story, thriller, post-colonial literature, and even sensational romance.
Despite the multiplicity of form and a game of genres, the underlying message is clear – the invisible is a big part of our life, and this invisible can be occasionally unearthed, but there layers after layers of other truths or what is truth for other people as we are all mired in the timeless debate of ‘implication vs. inference’. Literature itself is a shining example of this game – an author implies and we readers are free to infer. The truth is out there … An interesting meditation on literature and a compellingly readable example of meta-fiction.

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Filed under Book Review, Literary Fiction, Post-Modernism

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