Sometimes we come across books for the weirdest reasons.
I had never heard of Paul Auster and still can’t believe how lucky I was to discover about him in such an unorthodox way. Being a FC Bayern Munich fan, I was scrolling around on Tumblr one day, in a period when all players were on vacations and saw a photo of my favorite player (and one of my favorite people, if it is possible to make such a list), Bastian Schweinsteiger, reading a book at a beach in Miami, completely focused, while his gorgeous girlfriend stood beside him, ignored for a while in favor of what he was reading. Yes, I have proof:
So of course this must be a hell of a book. I googled the author, found out which book it was and, about a month later, bought it, imagining it would be just another great, regular thriller.
I couldn’t have been more surprised. I don’t think I have read something as innovative as Invisible (Paul Auster, St. Martin’s Press, Paperback 308 pages) since I was in high school and was introduced to Brazilian Modernism. This book is so wildly new, fresh and brilliant I hope I manage to find words to show at least half of what I felt about it.
The story revolves around Adam Walker, a young student at Columbia University and aspiring author. In 1967, Walker meets a couple at a party: the beautiful, seductive, mysterious Margot and Rudolf Born, a strong, loud, polemic man. The tiniest event that will, however, change his life forever: as his relationship with both Margot and Born develops, a chain of events (which I will not, of course, reveal) lead to a profound change in Walker’s character, turning his life upside down and leaving him alone to pick up the pieces of his developing personality. I can’t say much about the story itself without spoiling it, but I can talk about the technicalities of the book, which are exactly what make it such a masterpiece.
The book is divided in four parts, all written by different narrators, who tell us four parts of the same story, Walker’s story, from four different points of view. This is where Auster reveals his genius: every part is written in a completely different style, as if real people had actually sat down with a pen and handwritten their quarter of the story. The vocabulary is different, the phrasing is different, the pace is different – even the information each character shares is different from the others, making us eternally skeptical of what each one is saying and, by the end, completely paranoid, trying to figure out which version is true. To make this immersion in each character’s mind even more complete – and, therefore, each line that is written less neutral and objective -, Auster uses no signals on dialogues. Without a “, ‘, or -, the reader is compelled to read through the entire book as fast as possible, the voices are mixed during long dialogues, we lose ourselves inside characters only to have this attachment cut on the next part.
The fact that Walker is writing a book is also part of what makes Invisible so great: Auster seems to put pieces of himself in Walker and the entire book mixes itself with the struggle of writing a novel, making the reader wonder how much the character’s frustration is also Auster’s. Very metalinguistical, the author’s ability to play with text and texture, words and phrasing, prose and poetry, styles and personalities is one of a kind. I had never read anything alike and I’m not sure if I ever will.
I can’t find words precise enough to describe how much I loved this. Who would say that a soccer player would introduce me to one of the most intriguing books I have ever read? Just as I was pleasantly surprised to find out about it, I hope I managed to do Invisible some justice and that, just maybe, someone might end up reading this review and giving the book a chance as well. Maybe it’s too ambitious of me, but as one of the most brilliant lines on the book puts it, I believe we all live by
“Never nothing but the dream of nothing / Never anything but the dream of all”.