A Tomb for Anatole

Overview

An immensely moving poetic work addressing inconsolable sorrow: a father's pain over the death of his child. Bilingual."One of the most moving accounts of a man trying to come to grips with modern death that is to say, death without God, death without hope of salvation and it reveals the secret meaning of Mallarme's whole aesthetic: the elevation of art to the stature of religion." Paul Auster, from the Introduction The great French Symbolist poet Stephane Mallarme (1842-1898), who changed the course of modern ...
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Overview

An immensely moving poetic work addressing inconsolable sorrow: a father's pain over the death of his child. Bilingual."One of the most moving accounts of a man trying to come to grips with modern death that is to say, death without God, death without hope of salvation and it reveals the secret meaning of Mallarme's whole aesthetic: the elevation of art to the stature of religion." Paul Auster, from the Introduction The great French Symbolist poet Stephane Mallarme (1842-1898), who changed the course of modern French literature (and influenced writers from James Joyce to T.S. Eliot to Wallace Stevens), suffered many tragedies. His mother died when he was just five years old, but in 1879 the cruelest blow of all struck when his beloved son Anatole died at the age of eight. A Tomb for Anatole presents the 202 fragments of Mallarme's projected long poem in four parts. By far the poet's most personal work, he could never bring himself to complete it. To speak publicly of his immense sorrow, Mallarme concluded, "for me, it's not possible." Unpublished in France until 1961, these works are very far from the oblique, cool "pure poetry" Mallarme is famous for, poetry that sought to capturepainstakingly"l'absente de tous bouquets" (the ideal flower absent from all bouquets). Paul Auster, who first published A Tomb for Anatole with the North Point Press in 1983 (a volume long out of print), notes in his excellent introduction that facing "the ultimate horror of every parent," these fragments "have a startling unmediated quality." As Mallarme writes, it is "a vision / endlessly purified / by my tears."

Written by the poet at a time when he was deelpy affected by the death of his son -- but never completed -- these 202 fragments are now available in English for the first time.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
French symbolist poet Mallarm wrote these 202 fragments of poems as a testament to his son, who died at age eight. The pieces are presented in English and French. Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780811215930
  • Publisher: New Directions Publishing Corporation
  • Publication date: 6/1/2005
  • Pages: 202
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Paul Auster has earned international praise for the imaginative power of his many novels, including The New York Trilogy, Moon Palace, The Music of Chance, Mr. Vertigo, and Timbuktu. He has also published a number of highly original non-fiction works: The Invention of Solitude, Hand to Mouth, and The Art of Hunger.

Biography

Much later, when he was able to think about the things that happened to him, he would conclude that nothing was real except chance. But that was much later. In the beginning, there was simply the event and its consequences.

This sentence from the opening of Paul Auster's first novel, City of Glass, could also serve as a template for the author's career, both in circumstance and theme. City of Glass is perhaps the best known of Auster's postmodern detective New York Trilogy, which is rounded out by Ghosts and The Locked Room. Though the novels nominally involve cases to be solved, at base they are about the mystery of identity and how easily it can be lost or altered. In City of Glass, a mystery writer mistakenly receives a phone call for detective Paul Auster and assumes his identity, becoming embroiled in a case. The trilogy was a welcome breath of fresh air for both detective stories and postmodernist writing, and it put Auster on the publishing map.

Setting out to write his subsequent novel, Auster kept in mind the subtitle "Anna Blume Walks Through the 20th Century." The result was a woman's post-apocalyptic urban journey, In the Country of Last Things. Subsequent works such as Moon Palace, The Music of Chance, Leviathan, and Mr. Vertigo offered heroes caught up in strange worlds, playing out their stories over existential subtexts. The Music of Chance carries references from Beckett's Waiting for Godot in its story about a drifter who ends up teaming with a card player named Jack Pozzi to hustle two wealthy eccentrics in a fateful poker game. In Mr. Vertigo, a boy who has the ability to levitate goes on the road in the 1920s as "the Wonder Boy," moving through a panorama of pre-Depression America.

Auster's ability to blur the line between fantasy and reality has resulted in unique stories that never operate solely as good yarns. The New York Times wrote of Leviathan -- a dead man's coincidence-ridden story, as narrated by his friend -- "Thus in the literary looking glass of Leviathan, in which things are not always what they seem, our pleasure in reading the story is enhanced by the challenge of making other connections." Auster's fondness for allegory has earned him both praise for his cleverness and criticism from reviewers who, even as they praise his talent, occasionally find him heavy-handed.

The director Philip Haas adapted The Music of Chance for the 1993 film starring James Spader and Mandy Patinkin. But it was Wayne Wang who drew Auster to the movie business in earnest, convincing him to write the screenplay for 1995's Smoke, which was adapted from the short story "Auggie Wren's Christmas Story." The film did well enough to get producer Miramax on board for a sequel bringing back star Harvey Keitel, Blue in the Face. This time, Auster not only wrote the script but co-directed with Wang; he later went full-fledged auteur with the 1998 film (also starring Keitel) Lulu on the Bridge.

In 1999, Auster made the unconventional choice of writing from a canine's point of view in Timbuktu -- although as Auster noted in the Guardian, Mr. Bones "is and isn't a dog." In telling the story of himself and his owner, a homeless "outlaw poet" named Willy G. Christmas, Mr. Bones offers a meditation on mortality, human relationships, and dreams. "If anything," Auster said in a chat with Barnes & Noble.com readers, "I thought of Willy and Mr. Bones as a rather screwball, nutty, latter-day version of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza, the befuddled knight-errant and his loyal squire." The New York Times called Timbuktu his "most touching, most emotionally accessible book."

Auster earned some of his best reviews with his tenth novel The Book of Illusions, about a widower who develops an obsession with an obscure silent-film star and is surprised with an invitation to meet the presumed-dead actor. Book magazine called it "certainly his best...the book [has] the drive and dazzle reminiscent of the classic hardboiled yarns of Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett."

Auster is an author who, in both his fiction and his nonfiction, rekindles hope for the romantic, the coincidental, and the magical in everyday life. He does this not with fantastic story lines but by heightening the significance of twists and coincidences that happen to us all the time -- if we approach things in a certain light, our lives become like movies. Auster spins the projector.

Good To Know

Auster's wife Siri Hustvedt, whom he met in 1981, is also a novelist and essayist; writing about her novel The Blindfold, the Village Voice Literary Supplement called Hustvedt "a writer of strong, sometimes astonishing gifts." Auster's first wife was writer Lydia Davis.

Desperately poor in the late '70s and working unhappily as a French translator to make ends meet, Auster wrote a detective novel called Squeeze Play to make some money. He also invented a card game called Action Baseball that he tried to sell to game manufacturers. However, Squeeze Play is "not a legitimate book," he told the Guardian; it was published under a pseudonym. Later, an inheritance from his father allowed Auster the financial freedom to focus more on his writing.

Auster has enjoyed a remarkably international following, even in the days before his Hollywood projects raised his profile; his novels have been translated into several languages, and web sites from Germany to Japan pay him homage.

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    1. Also Known As:
      Paul Benjamin
    2. Hometown:
      Brooklyn, New York
    1. Date of Birth:
      February 3, 1947
    2. Place of Birth:
      Newark, New Jersey
    1. Education:
      B.A., M.A., Columbia University, 1970

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