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In the Country of Last Things

In the Country of Last Things

4.5 6
by Paul Auster

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From the author of the forthcoming 4 3 2 1:  A Novel – a spare, powerful, intensely visionary novel about the bare-bones conditions of survival

In a distant and unsettling future, Anna Blume is on a mission in an unnamed city of chaos and disaster. Its destitute inhabitants scavenge garbage for food and shelter, no industry exists,


From the author of the forthcoming 4 3 2 1:  A Novel – a spare, powerful, intensely visionary novel about the bare-bones conditions of survival

In a distant and unsettling future, Anna Blume is on a mission in an unnamed city of chaos and disaster. Its destitute inhabitants scavenge garbage for food and shelter, no industry exists, and an elusive government provides nothing but corruption. Anna wades through the filth to find her long-lost brother, a one-time journalist who may or may not be alive.

New York Times-bestselling author Paul Auster (The New York Trilogy) shows us a disturbing Hobbesian society in this dystopian, post-apocalyptic novel.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Praise for In the Country of Last Things:

“Powerful, enigmatic, imaginative, and handled with artistry. . .One of the better modern attempts at describing hell.”
– The Washington Post Book World
“Reminiscent in many ways of Orwell’s 1984. . .Auster creates within these pages a place so real it could be our own country, perhaps our very own city.”
– The Atlanta Journal Constitution

Washington Post
Powerful, original, imaginative... .
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Imagine an American city in the near future, populated almost wholly by street dwellers, squatters in ruined buildings, scavengers for subsistence. Suicide clubs offer interesting ways to die, for a fee, but the rich have fled with their jewels, and those who are left survive on what little cash trade-in centers will give them for the day's pickings. This enthralling, dreamlike fable about a peculiarly recognizable society, now in the throes of entropy, focuses on the plight of a young woman, Anna Blume. Anna has memories of a gentler life, but comes to the city in a ``charity ship'' to hunt for her missing brother. She first finds shelter with a madman and his wife and later experiences a brief idyll with a writer, Samuel Farr.Together they live in the deteriorating splendor of the marbled public library. Promise is ultimately rekindled when the survivors consider taking to the road as magiciansan action implying that art and illusion can save. Auster, an accomplished stylist, creates a tone that deftly combines matter-of-factness and estrangement. The eerie quality is heightened by the device of a narrator who learns everything from Anna's journal.
Library Journal
In a book-length letter home, Anna Blume reports that her search for a long-lost brother has brought her to a vast, unnamed city that is undergoing a catastrophic economic decline. Buildings collapse daily, driving huge numbers of citizens into the streets, where they starve or die of exposureif they aren't murdered by other vagrants first. Government forces haul away the bodies, and licensed scavengers collect trash and precious human waste. Weird cults form around the most popular methods of suicide. Anna tries to help, but the charity group she joins quickly runs out of supplies and has to close its doors. A number of post-apocalyptic novels have been published recently; Auster's, one of the best, is distinguished by an uncanny grasp of the day-to-day realities of homelessness. This is a scary but highly relevant book. Edward B. St. John, Loyola Marymount Univ. Lib., Los Angeles

Product Details

Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
Contemporary American Fiction Series
Edition description:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.20(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.60(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

What People are Saying About This

E.G. Sandvick
The subject and tone of this novel are reminiscent of Walter Miller's A Canticle for Leibowitz and Tim O'Brien's The Nuclear Age; the style and emphasis on philosophical statement will challenge the reader. . . . The author places his protagonist in ethical dilemmas that challenge the usual moral order. The epistolary form poses some limitations: little action, abrupt transitions between episodes, and little character development; nevertheless, a well-written novel, which avoids the usual stereotypes of the postnuclear destruction novel and presents a darker-than-usual moral vision.
Lawrence Norfolk
The business of scratching around in the wreckage, be it of the metropolis, of language or of consciousness, always runs the risk of being boring. Auster declines the risk and has tediousness forced on him anyway. The incidents and objects he describes betray an increasing desire to entertain the reader, but this is matched by their increasing insubstantiality; these 'last things' evoke no pathos, and, trading heavily on the Grand Guignol fascination which apocalyptic visions tend to elicit, the novel stands somewhere between Protect and Survive and Being and Nothingness

Meet the Author

Paul Auster is the bestselling author of The New York Trilogy and many other critically acclaimed novels. He was awarded the Prince of Asturias Prize in 2006. His work has been translated into more than forty languages. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Brief Biography

Brooklyn, New York
Date of Birth:
February 3, 1947
Place of Birth:
Newark, New Jersey
B.A., M.A., Columbia University, 1970

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In the Country of Last Things 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
And one that I keep coming back to and consistently recommend. It was my first Auster and I keep hoping that he will write something else like this. The landscape he paints is unique ad wonderful. Myself, being both a scavenger and a "re-user" of abandoned items I loved best the description of life outside and how each type of person coped (or didnt).
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
Auster's country of last things seems eerie but so familiar. New York has a cult novella to use as a guide. Amazing.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Anna Blume, a young woman, is searching for her brother who disappeared ( a letter is the last sign of life from her brother ). It brings her to a country unknown and without a name. Apparently terrible things happened not so long ago. The people there have to live in poverty and hardship with a never ending struggle with all sorts of criminals. At first sight this book has some things in common with a SF novel. Something very bad happened, civilization is almost gone. But is Paul Auster really a writer to use science-fiction ? He writes about coincidence, about the intertwining of fiction and reality and about individuals in relation to their relatives ( as is the case with Anna Blume ). The ( coincidental ) meeting with the father is one of the most returning subjects. Why would such a writer use science fiction ? Who knows better than Paul Auster himself ? In an interview with L.McCaffery and S.Gregory ( The Red Notebook and other writings - edition Faber & Faber - London ) he says (about The Country of Last Things) that there are specific references to the Warsaw ghetto but also to events taking place in the Third World today and that New York is turning into a Third World city ( again: according to Paul Auster ). As far as I'm concerned I think that everyone has the right to interpret this novel as he/she wants. I like this novel because Anna Blume is a brave and touching character in search for her brother.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I think people tend to take Auster too seriously. Auster writes nice, interesting books, but he never was or will be a great writer. This I say despite the fact that he tries to portray himself as so ¿ using intertextuality, complex narration, brooding and "deep" imagery - and this is his problem ¿ he does it as an amateur. It seems to me that Auster made his homework and read the masters, however, not hard enough. He doesn't have what they have, or have so little of it, yet he approaches writing as if he was one, and the result is dissatisfying. He is simply not Kafka, or Henry James, or even Salman Rushdie or Coetzee. For those of you who have some background, reading serious stuff ¿ and those who've done it know what I'm talking about ¿ stay away or you'll be disappointed. For others, who would like to enjoy more than average level of writing ¿ enjoy.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I personally believe this was a wonderful book. Paul Auster is a genius. I've read other books by him and every time I leave feeling as though I've learned something. I definitely recommend this book to anyone.