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Travels in the Scriptorium - Paul Auster (7*)

Title: Travels in the Scriptorium
Author: Paul Auster
ISBN: 9780312426293
© 2006 Paul Auster

An old man awakens, disoriented, in an unfamiliar chamber. With no memory of who he is or how he has arrived there, he pores over the relics on the desk, examining the circumstances of his confinement and searching his own hazy mind for clues.Determining that he is locked in, the man-identified only as Mr. Blank-begins reading a manuscript he finds on the desk, the story of another prisoner, set in an alternate world the man doesn't recognize. Nevertheless, the pages seem to have been left for him, along with a haunting set of photographs. As the day passes, various characters call on the man in his cell-vaguely familiar people, some who seem to resent him for crimes he can't remember-and each brings frustrating hints of his identity and his past. All the while an overhead camera clicks and clicks, recording his movements, and a microphone records every sound in the room. Someone is watching.Both chilling and poignant, Travels in the Scriptorium is vintage Paul Auster: mysterious texts, fluid identities, a hidden past, and, somewhere, an obscure tormentor. And yet, as we discover during one day in the life of Mr. Blank, his world is not so different from our own.

My first 'Auster'. I am not quite sure what to make of it all, but that seems to be the point.

I think it is a well worked out plot with a lot of thought and care gone into the description of the old man and the people that he encounters in his room. I personally do not care much for Mr. Blank. But in all ways he seems to be an old man suffering from from dementia. He's obstinate, dis-oriented, ashamed, child-like, but also a bit of a pervert, other than that he is really a blank person, a mere character in the here and now without a past or a foreseeable future. During the story I was wondering how things were going to enfold.
Nearing the end of the book Mr. Blank seems to have gained somewhat in lucidity and I must say I found it amusing how he decides the written account of Graf should end. His pleasure in doing so was funny, for it reminds me of the way writers can be exhilarated to have finished a book precisely the way they intended it to.

The last few pages took a bit of a weird turn, when Quinn enters the story being introduced as Mr. Blanks attorney. I never saw that one coming. Nor that Mr. Blank seems to trust him and all he says, and accepts his role as 'the bad-guy'.

But a bigger surprise happens in the very last pages of the book, when Mr. Blank picks up another manuscript that was placed on the desk in his room. It is called 'Travels in the Scriptorium' written by N.R. Fanshawe. This Fanshawe was one of the illustrious names Mr. Blank has come to know: the vanished writer. Mr. Blank literally says:"That's more like it. Maybe we're finally getting somewhere, after all."
And indeed we do. The twist is a very cunning one, much to my liking. The story doesn't end here, the plot only thickens and the possibilities are endless.

From time to time this book was a bit of a bore, but never so much to stop me from reading it. Now that I have finished, I am glad I've kept on reading. Auster has delivered a clever story. 


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