Invisible by Paul Auster

Written for The Guardian:


Paul Auster is a writer with many skills: a disarming directness of style, a subtle ability to render subtle psychology, a connoisseur’s feel for the novel form – its limits and its play – and much besides. Invisible is the story of Adam Walker who, while a student at Columbia University in 1967, meets a visiting Swiss professor, Rudolf Born. Born offers him money to found and run a literary magazine. Walker then sleeps with Margot, Born’s girlfriend, for “five straight nights” while Born is away.

On Born’s return, they are held up at gunpoint; Born pulls a knife and Walker is horrified to see him use it. Walker runs off to fetch an ambulance, but Born and the would-be mugger are gone. Walker later discovers that said mugger died of multiple stab wounds “gouged into his chest and stomach”. Freaked out, Walker moves in with his sister and starts sleeping with her. Freaked out even more, Walker moves to Paris where he sleeps with Margot again and decides to exact revenge on Born (who escaped New York for Paris) by revealing to Born’s new woman, Hélène, the truth about the man she is set to marry – which plan he will execute through winning the friendship and confidence of her frumpy daughter, Cécile.
The story is told as three parts – a manuscript that has been written by the dying Walker in 2007 and then sent bit by bit to Walker’s old college friend, Jim Freeman, himself an author. Freeman thus narrates passages relating to the modern-day Walker. At the end, Cécile takes over the narrative to describe her trip to visit a fat and elderly Born on the island of Quillia in the Caribbean.