Sunday, December 1, 2013

Man in the Dark: A Review

Man in the DarkMan in the Dark by Paul Auster

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

My first Paul Auster book. I loved how he interweaves several short stories, analysis into a single novel(la) - all of them bearing a common thread. Each of the stories holds a mirror to a major event in the protagonist's (August Brill) life. Things that he does not want to touch (mentally), like Pandora's boxes. Over the course of an insomniac night, he is compelled to reveal these extremely violent and gruesome events which have rendered him in this state of insomnia.

There is a lovely story about love that offers an anchor to the narrative and the protagonist. The contrasting personalities of the people involved and their shared motivations and purposes brings about a war, a tempest which Brill makes a lot of effort to rectify, but makes do with the broken shards of what was once complete.

The book strikes me as being anti-war, but very uniquely so. I couldn't help but draw parallels with Vonnegut's Slaughter House 5. That's a commentary on WWII, and this a commentary on the more recent war in Iraq.

The graphic imagery of the finale is not for the weak stomachs. I found it very hard to digest myself. But it makes sense just the way it is and I would not have wanted anything else in its stead. As he very aptly says - "...although it wouldn't be hard to find a less brutal outcome, what would be the point? My subject tonight is war, and now that war has entered this house, I feel I would be insulting Katya and Titus if I softened the blow... Piss on earth, good will towards none. This is the heart of it, the black center of the dead night..."

It is bold criticism since it spells out Bush's name as the chief architect of the war. Like Brille, he imagined the whole war in his head. Auster does not shy away from it and does not bother with creating a fictitious name. He creates an alternate reality with a civil war in America, orchestrated by Bush again. War is the only thing constant between the 2 worlds and the only thing different is where the war is happening.

I loved how he brings out the parallel between the insomniac nights he is living through (with another war, a civil one, in his mind) and the dark times of the American war in Iraq.

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