Monday, February 23, 2009

Man in the Dark

War. Darkness can take many forms, and in this short novel, Man in the Dark, Paul Auster explores many of those forms. Following a car accident, protagonist August Brill at age 72 is recovering in the Vermont home of his daughter. In pain and sleepless, Brill tries to write his memoir, but instead creates stories to battle his depression. During the day, he watches movies with his 24 year old granddaughter, Katya, whose boyfriend was tortured and murdered in Iraq. His divorced daughter, Miriam, struggles to write about Nathaniel Hawthorne’s youngest daughter, Rose. Each of these characters grapples with the darkness of their lives. Brill uses the darkness of night to write about a parallel world, one in which the war in Iraq didn’t happen. He creates the parallel protagonist, Owen Brick, who finds himself involved in the Second American Civil War, between the red states and the blue states, and on a mission to kill August Brill. Any war ravages relationships and leaves consequences for survivors that can feel like a permanent state of darkness. Man in the Dark might be our common condition as long as we engage in war. In the meantime, stay up in the dark for a few nights, and read Auster’s way of trying to make sense of the nonsense of war.

Rating: Three-star (Recommended)

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