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Return to the 1960s: the Role of ‘68 in Paul Auster’s Life and Work

Retour aux années 1960 : le rôle de 1968 dans la vie et l’œuvre de Paul Auster
Jesper Præst Nielsen

Résumés

Cet essai explore l’impact de 1968 sur la vie et l’œuvre de Paul Auster. L’analyse porte principalement sur la critique de l’esprit antiautoritaire formulée par Auster au sujet de sa génération dans l’autobiographie fictionnelle Moon Palace (1989), à l’aune de ses travaux plus récents sur le sujet, qui incluent 4 3 2 1 (2017), et les autobiographies Hand to Mouth (1997) et Report from the Interior (2013). La participation de Paul Auster aux mouvements étudiants de 1968, dont il a par la suite été témoin de la radicalisation, résulte en une position auteuriste sur 1968 marquée par l’ambivalence et un recul biaisé. Les lettres de jeunesse de Paul Auster démontrent qu’il adhérait à une vision du monde marxiste avant 1968, que ses expériences au mois d’avril le transformèrent, et qu’il a depuis adopté une position de centre-gauche dans son œuvre de prose. Initialement fondée sur la philosophie post-cartésienne de Merleau-Ponty, cette position permet à Auster de soutenir les causes égalitariennes et pacifistes de la Gauche, tout en restant critique envers le rejet des autorités en général, si représentatif de la fin des années 1960. En conclusion, cet essai propose de lire Moon Palace comme un appel à la dépolarisation du passé politique américain.

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Entrées d’index

Index de mots-clés :

1968, autorité, autobiographie, fiction, politique

Index by keywords :

1968, authority, autobiography, fiction, politics
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Texte intégral

1968: A Crisis of Authority

  • 1 Jeremi Suri, Power and Protest: Global Revolution and the Rise of Détente. Cambridge (Mass.); Londo (...)
  • 2 Jeremi Suri, Power and Protest: Global Revolution and the Rise of Détente, op. cit., 164.

1Most historians agree that the 1960s were an extraordinarily turbulent decade in US history and 1968 one of the most significant years in the post-World War II era. Jeremi Suri calls 1968 the year “the entire world shook” when “a global wave of urban protests produced a crisis of authority in nearly every society.”1 It was a wave, he writes, that spread from the US across the Atlantic to most parts of Europe and beyond and effectively resulted in a “global disruption,” the most significant consequence of which was that a “very wide chasm––one that still exists today – opened up between the aims of established elites and of social activists in every major society.”2 With the rise of populist movements in recent years and the collateral struggles of governments in many Western democracies, including the US, the UK, France, Germany, Italy, and Sweden, to acclimate themselves politically to the ethos of such movements, it seems that the chasm has only widened since then and, moreover, that it is unlikely to diminish anytime soon. Not since 1968 have the political systems in Western democracies been under such pressure as they are today, and like in ‘68, that pressure is building due to a pandemic lack of trust in traditional political authority, the 2016 US presidential election and Brexit being two momentous cases in point.

  • 3 Ibid., 88.
  • 4 Samuel P Huntington, in Michel Crozier, Samuel P Huntington and Joji Watanuki, The Crisis of Democ (...)
  • 5 Ibid., 75.
  • 6 See Ralph Young (op. cit.); Arthur Marwick (op. cit.); Heller in Vladimir Tismăneanu, Promises of 1 (...)

2Suri attributes the disruption in 1968, which many saw as verging on outright revolution, in large part to the demographical fact that an unprecedented proportion of the youth generation, the baby boomers, went to college during the 1960s, which provided them with what he calls the “infrastructure for dissent” while the “words of prominent iconoclasts – writers as well as musicians and artists – supplied the language.”3 This language enabled them to express their dissent from authorities – whether parental, religious, educational, political, or cultural – in ways that had not been seen or possible before, but also in ways that were fundamentally democratic. With regard to the US, Samuel P. Huntington writes already in 1975 that the 1960s “witnessed a dramatic renewal of the democratic spirit,” which involved not only “the challenging of the authority of established political, social, and economic institutions,” but also a “renewed commitment to the idea of equality.”4 The rationale at the time, Huntington claims, was that “Authority based on hierarchy, expertise, and wealth all, obviously, ran counter to the democratic and egalitarian temper of the times,” and therefore needed to be rejected, subverted, if not entirely destroyed.5 In fact, if there is one characteristic of 1968, and of the ‘60s in general, that historians and social scientists can agree on, it is the pervasiveness of anti-authoritative attitudes especially among the youth.6

  • 7 The building Auster helped occupy, Mathematics Hall, proved to be the most difficult for the police (...)
  • 8 See Paul Auster, Hand to Mouth: A Chronicle of Early Failure, New York: Picador, 1997, 43; Winter J (...)
  • 9 Hannah Arendt, Crisis of the Republic, San Diego; New York; London: Harcourt, 1973, 76.
  • 10 Paul Auster, Winter Journal, op. cit., 65.
  • 11 See Paul Auster, 4 3 2 1, New York: Henry Holt, 2017, 633-661.

3Born in 1947 and a college student at Columbia University between 1965 and 1969, Paul Auster was one such youth and not impervious to the democratic temper of the times. He took part in the disruption when in April 1968 he joined hundreds of other Columbia student protesters in an eight days long sit-in and occupation of the campus buildings. The students protested against two university-administrational decisions: the planned construction of a college gymnasium in a park in Morningside Heights, which many students saw as a racist annexation of one of the few recreational areas of neighboring Harlem, and the unpublicized affiliation between Columbia University and the military think tank, Institute for Defense Analysis (IDA), which was perceived as a testament to the university’s complicity in the Vietnam War. The occupation began on April 23 and ended somewhat violently on April 30 when the police finally stepped in at around two o’clock in the morning and evicted the students from the buildings.7 Auster was among the arrested, he spent a night in jail and was later required to appear in court. As he writes in passing in Hand to Mouth (1997), then later describes in greater detail in Winter Journal (2012), he passively resisted the police when they stormed the building.8 In so doing, he committed an act of civil disobedience, which according to Hannah Arendt’s definition is essentially a selfless, nonviolent act of defiance of “the established authorities on the ground of basic dissent.”9 In a word, Auster’s act of civil disobedience on April 30, 1968 was both a manifestation of his disagreement with the university administration’s politics and a demonstration of defiance of the police. Although the method was by no means unusual for the times – in Auster’s own words he simply “used the classic strategy of passive resistance developed in the South during the civil rights movement”10 –, it was nevertheless an experience that has stayed with the author over the years, which both his latest autobiographical works and his most recent novel, 4 3 2 1 (2017), underline.11

4To the extent that Auster has written about 1968 over the course of his career as a writer, we could say that if Auster the person was a part of the history of 1968, 1968 has also become a part of Auster the author. To varying degrees, it figures in the autobiographical works Hand to Mouth (1997), Winter Journal (2012), and Report from the Interior (2013), as well as in a handful of his novels, namely Moon Palace (1989), Leviathan (1992), Invisible (2009), and 4 3 2 1 (2017). In these works, 1968 recurs as a topos in the sense that it is a time and a place that the author returns to, and for the reader who knows at least something about what happened that year, it often functions as a point of reference that helps contextualize the narrative and lends it some measure of historical and indeed political relevancy and connectedness.

  • 12 See Madeleine Sorapure, “The Detective and the Author: City of Glass”, in Dennis Barone (ed.), Beyo (...)
  • 13 Aliki Varvogli, op. cit., 18.
  • 14 See Alastair Minnis, Medieval Theory of Authorship: Scholastic Literary Attitudes in the Later Midd (...)

5One of the central questions that the abovementioned narratives consistently raise is the question of authority. Since the early critical reception of Auster’s work, a considerable proportion of the scholarly work has focused on Auster’s tendency to gravitate toward this particular question, and yet the concept of authority is seldom defined in its own right.12 Varvogli, for example, writes that “Auster does not seek to assert his own authority, but rather to undermine that very concept.”13 Thus, we might speak of authorial authority in the same terms that we speak of the issues of narratorial reliability, accountability, and authenticity that inhere in the concept authorship, and these are certainly concepts that Auster explores and undermines in his metafictional work, as Varvogli and others also observe. But while authority and authorship are indeed interrelated concepts, it does not mean they also hold interchangeable meanings.14 Especially when we focus our attention on the 1960s – the era in which Auster not only entered adulthood but also started to write –, we need a more precise definition of what authority actually is.

  • 15 Hannah Arendt, Between Past and Future: Eight Exercises in Political Thought, New York: Penguin, 20 (...)
  • 16 Ibid., 121.
  • 17 Ibid., 92.

6According to Hannah Arendt, authority must be defined “in contradistinction to both coercion by force and persuasion through arguments,” and thus, paradoxically, authority “implies an obedience in which men retain their freedom.”15 Examining the etymology of the word, she writes that authority derives from the Latin auctoritas, which in turn “derives from the verb augere, ‘augment’, and what authority or those in authority constantly augment is the foundation.”16 As Huntington and Suri also suggest, by the 1960s, that foundation is crumbling, giving way to a new egalitarian order and a heightened awareness of oppressive power relations in society. A mainstay of 1960s humanist philosophy, Foucauldian skepticism toward such power relations, though much needed in many respects, also hides a conflation of the concept of power with that of authority. Arendt argues that, at the same time that authority “demands obedience,” it also “precludes the use of external means of coercion; where force is used, authority itself has failed. Authority, on the other hand, is incompatible with persuasion, which presupposes equality and works through a process of argumentation. Where arguments are used, authority is left in abeyance.”17 In other words, an authority is something or someone whose dictum one follows, not because one is forced or persuaded to do so, but because one recognizes that the dictum originates from an authentic source with a legitimate claim to the truth as well as a stake in protecting the common good, our shared societal foundations.

7Understanding the concept of authority in this way enables us to critically examine the sometimes unequal interrelations between individuals and between individuals and society’s institutions without reducing the discourse to being essentially about oppressive power relations. Moon Palace – the first of his novels to raise the question of authority in relation to 1968 – is particularly susceptible to such an examination, for the novel directs criticism at the anti-authoritative ethos of 1960s but does so ambivalently. Comparing Moon Palace with central passages in 4 3 2 1 and Hand to Mouth, both of which express similar ambivalent, yet critical stances on 1968, prompts a discussion of the autobiographical aspects of Moon Palace and the notion of hindsight bias. Reading Auster’s letters from the 1960s in Report from the Interior gives further insight into the young Auster’s political convictions, but also into how his participation in the Columbia uprising in 1968 affected those convictions and arguably shaped his views on rebellion in ways that surface in subsequent works such as Moon Palace and 4 3 2 1.

Return to Moon Palace

  • 18 As Stefania Ciocia and others have noted, in France in the mid-1990s several monographs on Moon Pal (...)
  • 19 In Dennis Barone (ed.), The Red Notebook, op. cit.

8The question of authority in relation to 1968 was first raised in Moon Palace. Aside from The New York Trilogy (1987), Moon Palace is perhaps that work from the early period of Auster’s novelistic career that has received the most scholarly attention.18 But while such scholars as Steven Weisenburger,19 Aliki Varvogli and Brendan Martin have explored both the historical-political setting of the novel and, especially in the latter critic’s case, its autobiographical underpinnings, what we know now from Auster’s latest autobiographies, including his letters from the late 1960s that appeared in Report from the Interior, opens up new avenues of interpretation of the seminal and complex work that Moon Palace is.

  • 20 Paul Auster, Moon Palace (1989), London: Faber, 2004, 1.
  • 21 Ibid., 27, 74.

9Auster’s first venture into writing fictional autobiography, Moon Palace, is told from the vantage point of 1986 and is mainly set between 1969 and 1972, but recounts parts of the protagonist and first person narrator Marco Stanley Fogg’s life before that, including his participation in the rebellion at Columbia in 1968. Fogg begins his story by characterizing himself as something of a rebel, but a disillusioned one at that: “I was very young back then, but I did not believe that there would ever be a future. I wanted to live dangerously, to push myself as far as I could go, and then see what happened to me when I got there.”20 Fogg admits later that he was quite an activist during his student years. Not only did he “attend the countercommencement […] to protest the official university ceremony” when he graduated in 1969, but he also vaguely remembers filling out forms at the medical exam for the draft, “checking the organizations I had belonged to […] SDS from college, SANE and SNCC from high school.”21 In these regards, Auster clearly casts Fogg in the mold of a typical 1960s student activist. And yet, when Fogg relates his experiences of 1968, he is reluctant to say much about it:

  • 22 Ibid., 24-25.

Those were difficult days for everyone, of course. I remember them as a tumult of politics and crowds, of outrage, bullhorns, and violence. By the spring of 1968, every day seemed to retch forth a new cataclysm. […] the Columbia campus was turned into a battleground, and hundreds of students were arrested, including daydreamers like Zimmer and myself. I am not planning to discuss any of that here. Everyone is familiar with the story of that time, and there would be no point in going over it again. That does not mean I want it to be forgotten, however. My own story stands in the rubble of those days, and unless this fact is understood, none of it will make sense.22

10Aside from the fact that Auster is clearly drawing on his own experiences here, the ostensibly pivotal passage above lays ambiguous emphasis on ’68. At the same time that Fogg presumes his reader’s familiarity with “the story of that time” and therefore refrains from “going over it again,” he asserts its importance for appreciating his story. He certainly seems to suggest that his experiences in 1968 had a profound impact on his life, but because the passage is the only reference in the novel, his statements come across as convoluted, if not outright cryptic – unless, of course, the reader knows about the period and about Auster (the person) during that time of his life and applies that knowledge as a lens through which to read the novel.

  • 23 Ibid., 10.
  • 24 Ibid., 7.

11As established earlier, the 1960s were generally characterized by a widespread challenge to authority which culminated in a global crisis of authority in 1968. In Moon Palace, Fogg is a product of that crisis. Orphaned at the age of eleven when his mother dies in an accident, Fogg goes to live with his Uncle Victor in Chicago until he is eighteen and moves to New York to study. Uncle Victor is a musician and the only authority figure in Fogg’s life during adolescence, and while he is lovable and caring, he is also someone who is “bound up in the logic of impulse”,23 who repeatedly demonstrates poor judgment in his choice of partner, and moreover, someone who opts to leave Fogg behind when the opportunity to tour the country with his orchestra arises. In other words, he is not the most reliable authority figure one could imagine. He does give Fogg some valuable advice at one point when he tells him that “Every man is the author of his own life”,24 which is a paraphrase of the old proverb: ‘Every man is the architect of his own fortune.’ Uncle Victor’s rendition of the proverb turns on the notion that one, in a sense, authors one’s own fate, but it can also be interpreted as an allusion to the fact that Fogg’s story is an autobiography and that Fogg is indeed authoring his own life. But given that ‘author’ is a very broad term that intrinsically, and contrary to the synonym ‘writer’, implies authorship as well as authority over something created, we might also read Uncle Victor’s advice as an encouragement for Fogg to assume authority – control and accountability – over his own life.

  • 25 Ibid., 19.
  • 26 Ibid., 20.
  • 27 Ibid., 20.
  • 28 Ibid., 22.

12For the most part, Fogg fails to do just that. When Uncle Victor dies in 1967, Fogg’s life spirals out of control: “A whole chain of forces had been set in motion, and at a certain point I began to wobble, to fly in greater and greater circles around myself, until at last I spun out of orbit.”25 Lack of money as well as the prospect of the draft contribute to Fogg’s growing despair in his apartment on West 112th Street. He considers the options available to him, “scholarships, loans, work-study programs,” but for reasons that escape him the mere thought of such solutions to his financial predicament has him “stricken with disgust.”26 Refusing to find work, his solution becomes a Melvillian rebellion against capitalist society that at once sees him remain independent from outside support and transforms his otherwise lamentable existence into a nihilistic project: “I wanted to spit on the world, to do the most outlandish thing possible. […] I decided that the thing I should do was nothing: my action would consist of a militant refusal to take any action at all. This was nihilism raised to the level of an aesthetic proposition.”27 Fogg sells all the books that Uncle Victor gave him and divests himself “of [his] inheritance” and thereby severs the ties to the generation before him.28

  • 29 Ibid., 24.

13Fogg’s nihilistic project of becoming a “gathering zero,” indeed like a Kafkian hunger artist, takes place between 1967 and 1969, and it ultimately leads to his eviction from his apartment in 1969.29 In the meantime, of course, the student rebellion at Columbia has also taken place, and while Fogg is silent on the impact of this event on his life at the time, his self-divestment and Melvillian refusal to work and thus to contribute to society represent a continuation of his dissent and civil disobedience during the April rebellion. They are acts of self-ordained perpetuations of his disagreement with society and the societal status quo. Thus refusing not only to work, but also to partake as a political being in society, Fogg opts for vagrancy. His experience of what that involves at a subjective level amounts to a kind of political education whereby a truer solidarity with society’s disadvantaged and voiceless is learned – a solidarity that Fogg could not have acquired merely by reading about the social injustices of the society he lives in.

  • 30 Ibid., 56.
  • 31 Ibid., 60.

14For a period, Central Park becomes Fogg’s designated habitat. Ironically, as a de-politicized public space within the city, the park actually offers him a renewed sense of democracy: “The grass and the trees were democratic, and […] I felt that I was blending into the environment, that even to a practiced eye I could have passed for one of the picnickers or strollers around me. The streets did not allow for such delusions.”30 The extreme consequence taken in his nihilistic project, Fogg’s stay in Central Park sees him humiliated by passersby more privileged than he, but depending on his mood, he interprets “these humiliations” either spiritually as “obstacles […] to test my faith in myself” or politically as evidence that he is in fact posing “a challenge to the American way” and representing “an instrument of sabotage […], a loose part in the national machine, a misfit whose job was to gum up the works […] living proof that the system had failed, that the smug, overfed land of plenty was finally cracking apart.”31 Contrary to his participation in the Columbia rebellion – a rebellion from which the majority of students, privileged as they were by virtue of their mere enrolment, had very little to actually lose – Fogg’s rebellion here embodies, rather than cites, the social injustice and inequality that many student radicals railed against. And were it not for his being rescued by his friends, David Zimmer and Kitty Wu, it would have cost him his life.

  • 32 Ibid., 117.
  • 33 Ibid., 120.

15If Fogg undergoes a political education during his homeless period, an education which seems to bolster his determination to resist the societal status quo and remain critical of capitalism, his subsequent employment under the blind and disabled Thomas Effing, who turns out to be his grandfather, provides him with an aesthetic education. As a former talented painter, Effing is an authority on aesthetics and aesthetic perception, and under his mentorship Fogg learns how to perceive art and to put into words what he perceives, which in turn teaches him another important and potentially political lesson: that no two entities are alike. Reflecting on Effing’s demands that he describe the surroundings for him on their walks through the city, Fogg says that “Until then, I had always had a penchant for generalizing, for seeing the similarities between things rather than their differences.”32 To be sure, Fogg is referring to inanimate objects here, but that does not make the ability to appreciate differences and particularities any less of an ethical quality for a person to possess. Indeed, as Fogg himself says, after a while he “no longer saw it as an aesthetic activity but as a moral one […].”33

  • 34 Ibid., 181.
  • 35 Ibid., 120.

16At the same time, however, Effing also shows himself to be a bygone aristocrat, who had grown up and traveled “among the most elegant circles of society,”34 and encountering the local community on one of their walks, Fogg finds that Effing is someone who commands respect, as if he were “a nobleman who had come down from his castle to mingle with the people of the village.”35 As such, Effing would appear to represent quite the opposite of Fogg. Whereas Effing represents the older generation, the patriarchy and the hierarchically structured society, Fogg is a baby boomer, a student radical, and a social democrat. In a post-1968 context they certainly make an odd couple. That they nevertheless end up getting along has everything to do with Fogg’s disposition toward authority in the given situation. Rather than challenge Effing as the aesthetic authority that he is, Fogg realizes that something may be gained from doing what the old man tells him to do:

  • 36 Ibid., 118.

In order to do what Effing asked, I had to learn how to keep myself separate from him. The essential thing was not to feel burdened by his commands, but to transform them into something I wanted to do myself. There was nothing inherently wrong with the activity, after all. If regarded in the proper way, the effort to describe things accurately was precisely the kind of discipline that could teach me what I most wanted to learn: humility, patience, rigor.36

  • 37 Hannah Arendt, Between Past and Future, op. cit., 93.
  • 38 Paul Auster, Moon Palace, op. cit., 120.

17What Auster is really describing here is a didactic situation wherein one person (Effing) knows something that the other person (Fogg) does not. This imbalance in knowledge creates a hierarchical relation between them, but because Fogg is more concerned with learning what it is that Effing knows (“humility, patience, rigor”) than with what power over him the sheer knowledge of it gives Effing, actual learning can take place. In a word, Fogg is interested in the object of knowledge rather than the subject that knows, or what we today commonly call the ‘expert’. The relation between them is exemplary of what Hannah Arendt has described as an “authoritarian relation between the one who commands and the one who obeys” which “rests neither on common reason nor on the power of the one who commands; what they have in common is the hierarchy itself, whose rightness and legitimacy both recognize and where both have their predetermined stable place.”37 Before Fogg can learn what Effing knows, he must accept the hierarchical, authoritarian relation between them and learn, as he says, to “keep myself separate from him.” Fogg and Effing are not equals in this matter. Over time, however, Fogg adjusts to their unequal relationship, realizing that “I was the monk seeking illumination, and Effing was my hair shirt, the whip I flayed myself with.”38

18Hierarchical differentiation is also what guides the project that Fogg and Effing undertake together near the end of their relationship. At Effing’s request, they hand out the money that he stole from the Gresham brothers on his journey out West to strangers in New York City. Of course, their project turns on creating less inequality on the streets of the city, but it is premised on “a hierarchy of worthiness” and thus, implicitly, on Fogg’s recognizing the differences between people:

  • 39 Ibid., 201.

The idea wasn’t to hand out money to anyone who happened to pass by, but to look conscientiously for the most deserving people, to zero in on those whose want was greatest. The poor automatically deserved consideration over the rich, the handicapped were to be favored over the well, the mad were to take precedence over the sane.39

19Their project is a social democratic one whereby they attempt to right a democratic wrong and redistribute capital among the socially and bodily disadvantaged, a demographic Effing and Fogg can relate to, the former because he is himself blind and disabled and has seen in his lifetime the ruthlessness of capitalism; the latter because he has lived among the disadvantaged, the homeless, and the starving. Their endeavors ultimately lead to old Effing’s being stricken with pneumonia and dying, but not before he tells Fogg about his son, Solomon Barber, who turns out to be Fogg’s father.

  • 40 Ibid., 272.

20Upon Effing’s death, Fogg receives a large sum of money as an unofficial inheritance from Effing, and suddenly his initially pessimistic uncertainty about his future is transformed into hopefulness. Fogg is able to come to terms with the contingencies of the world. During the period that ensues, he and his girlfriend Kitty begin to live what is perhaps best described as a modern-day bourgeois life. When Kitty gets pregnant, Fogg sees it as an opportunity to “undo the loneliness of my childhood, to be part of a family, to belong to something that was more than myself.”40 It is a chance for Fogg to assume fatherhood, to become an author in the sense that the unborn child represents a new beginning in Fogg’s life, a future that Fogg and Kitty write together, as it were. As such, we are reminded of Uncle Victor’s motto at the beginning of the novel, that “every man is the author of his own life.” Insofar as there is a prophetic dimension to the motto, in getting an abortion, Kitty denies Fogg the fulfillment of his destiny to author his own future. Arguably, it is a denial that returns Fogg to a previous state of disconnectedness from his own ancestry. However, it is Fogg himself who completes this return when he accidentally causes the death of his father, the author of his life, Solomon Barber.

21Visiting his mother’s grave with Barber, Fogg finally learns that Barber is his father. Fogg cannot contain his rage, and before he knows it, he has pushed Barber into a nearby open grave, a fall with devastating consequences as it eventually leads to Barber’s death. Fogg later describes the experience of learning the truth in terms of an ontological disruption:

  • 41 Ibid., 287.

My origins were a mystery […] This was what defined me, and by now I was used to my own darkness, clinging to it as a source of knowledge and self-respect, trusting in it as an ontological necessity. No matter how hard I might have dreamed of finding my father, I had never thought it would be possible. Now that I had found him, the inner disruption was so great that my first impulse was to deny it […] A shock had been sent through my entire system, and I didn’t know how to absorb the blow.41

  • 42 Hannah Arendt, Between Past and Future, op. cit., 92.
  • 43 Paul Auster, Moon Palace, op. cit., 298.

22Fogg’s self-perception hinges on the notion that his life is a clean slate, that it is not predetermined by his ancestry and, in extension of that, by authorities above him. Part of the reason that he defines himself thus is to do with the lack of a stable authority figure in his early adolescence, one who could help designate a place for him in the world and in society. Another part of it is to do with the historical circumstances. Indeed, recalling how Fogg emphasizes that “my own story stands in the rubble of those days,” meaning the days of social and political upheaval during the late 1960s, Fogg’s inadvertent patricide at the end of the novel appears as symbolic of his generation’s challenge to authority, one that for better or worse succeeded in destroying the old framework of authority, prompting a widespread crisis of authority while heralding an age in which, as Arendt puts it, “we are no longer in a position to know what authority really is.”42 And while this new age grants Fogg a chance to author his own life – “This is where I start,” he tells himself at the very end of the narrative, “this is where my life begins”43 – it also leaves him materially, economically, and above all, familially impoverished.

Speaking of the 1960s

23In that conclusion to the story there is great ambivalence. It suggests that in this post-1968 narrative, Auster is simultaneously showing how the slate was definitively wiped clean for one of the youths of 1968 and critiquing the anti-authoritative ethos of the period. That is not to say that Auster disagrees with the politics of his generation; on the contrary, the author of Moon Palace seems entirely sympathetic to the politics of his characters – Fogg and Effing’s social-democratic project of redistributing capital being a case in point. Rather, Auster is critical of the notion that authority should be dismantled merely because it implies an unequal relationship between subjects. The incident where Fogg learns from Effing how not to generalize in his description of things and to become more sensitive to differences and particularities constitutes a didactic situation that necessitates an authoritarian rather than egalitarian order. The essential lesson here is not that such an order is the right order, but rather that any situation in which teaching and learning takes place presupposes a hierarchical difference between someone who knows and someone who does not; so long as both subjects remain focused on the object of knowledge, rather than the epistemological hierarchy between them, what is eventually learned can potentially benefit themselves and others, as Fogg and Effing’s project also underline.

24That Auster should be critical of the anti-authoritative ethos of 1968 is something we also see in his most recent fiction as well as in his early autobiographical work. In 4 3 2 1, one of the four versions of the main protagonist, Archie Ferguson, works as a reporter for the university newspaper, the Columbia Daily Spectator, and it is in that journalistic capacity that he observes the Columbia uprising in April. A very clear example of how Auster uses Ferguson, or rather the third person narrator of the novel, to express sympathy for the goals and ideals of the student radicals but at the same time direct a critique at the way they challenged authority, is when Ferguson reads an open letter from the leader of the SDS chapter at Columbia, Mark Rudd, to the university president, Grayson Kirk, on April 22 – a day before the uprising begins.44 In the letter, Rudd tells Kirk, “You call for order and respect for authority; we call for justice, freedom and socialism,” before concluding with a statement that since became quite infamous: “There is only one thing left to say… ‘Up against the wall, motherfucker, this is a stick-up’.45 Ferguson is “appalled” by the tone of the letter and finds it “an example of SDS talking to itself rather than reaching out to others, and Ferguson wanted SDS to win… he mostly stood behind the group and believed in its cause, but a noble cause demanded noble behavior from its advocates.”46 Ferguson later realizes that SDS’s aim was to radicalize their fellow students and thus “to eliminate the middle,” and while Ferguson himself, not unlike Auster himself, maintains his center-left position throughout, his girlfriend, Amy, throws her lot in with the radicals, and before the school year is out their relationship has fallen apart.47 To Ferguson, then, the Columbia uprising is not only a personally consequential moment in his life, one that in some ways echoes Fogg’s loss of familial relations in a post-1968 world in Moon Palace; it is also an event that shapes him politically at the same time that it inspires ambivalent feelings about the means with which the student radicals fought for their otherwise “noble cause.”

25Ambivalent feelings about 1968 and the Columbia uprising we also detect in Hand to Mouth where Auster’s description of the event reveals the author’s rather equivocatory view on the long-term effect of the rebellion:

  • 48 Paul Auster, Hand to Mouth, op. cit., 42-43.

There were riots, police raids, slugfests, and factional splits. Rhetorical excesses abounded, ideological lines were drawn, passions flowed from all sides. Whenever there was a lull, another issue would come up, and the outbursts would begin all over again. In the long run, nothing of any great importance was accomplished. […] In spite of the efforts of thousands, the ivory tower did not collapse. But still, it tottered for a time, and more than a few of its stones crumbled and fell to the ground.48

  • 49 Ibid., 43.
  • 50 Ibid., 44.
  • 51 Ibid., 44.

26Auster draws attention to the lack of agency behind the otherwise turbulent goings-on and to the cyclical nature of the protests rather than their accumulation which, by the end of 1968, had ostensibly brought about the global disruption that Suri speaks of. Auster portrays the April rebellion as if it were but a cog in a much larger machinery fated, nevertheless, to run out of steam. At the same time, Auster admits that the specific demands of the protesters, which would include himself, were in fact met, and even though “the ivory tower did not collapse […] it tottered for a time, and more than a few of its stones crumbled and fell to the ground.”49 These ambiguities stem from the phrase “in the long run”: Is Auster referring to the long-term effects of the Columbia rebellion specifically or to the student protests of 1968 in general? Part of the explanation for this ambiguous position must be found in Auster’s subsequent witnessing of the radicalism that grew out of 1968. Describing “the climate of my last two years of college,” Auster recalls among other things that one of the central SDS spokesmen at Columbia, Dave Gilbert, “whose speeches had impressed me as models of insight and intelligence,” was sentenced to seventy-five years in prison for complicity in armed robbery and murder,50 and furthermore, that several former students by 1969 were wanted by the FBI. Gilbert along with SDS’ers Ted Gold, who died in 1970 when the bomb he was building accidentally detonated, and the leader of the SDS chapter at Columbia, Mark Rudd, all became “casualties of their own righteousness” Auster writes, suggesting that the ambitious ideals on the radical Left were rapidly warping into indefensible extremism.51 However, Auster fails to mention that Gold only died in 1970 as well as the fact that Gilbert was only arrested in 1981, which indicates that when Auster describes the “climate” of his graduate years, he is doing so in light of later events. From a strictly historiographic point of view, Auster commits the historian’s fallacy of teleological representation of past events in that he gives the reader of Hand to Mouth the impression that Auster the person, who in fact experienced the events related as they took place around him, also understood at that time what they were going to mean. In other words, the phrase “in the long run” is laden with hindsight bias informing the narrative as such: by 1989, when Moon Palace came out, and certainly by 1997, when he published Hand to Mouth, Auster had witnessed not only the radicalization and dissipation of a previously ideologically unified New Left, but also the concurrent and more enduring rise of the New Right.

27According to Seán Burke, hindsight bias is an intrinsic part of autobiographical literature and derives from the genre-conventional conflation of the autobiographical authorial ‘I’ into both the subject and the object of writing. “Writing at a temporal and epistemological remove from the experiences recounted,” Burke writes,

  • 52 Seán Burke, The Death and Return of the Author: Criticism and Subjectivity in Barthes, Foucault and (...)

the [autobiographical] author becomes the interpreter of those experiences. In any conventional autobiographical récit, the author splits into a detached subject who reads a past self from a vantage of superior knowledge and the past self who lives through experiences without realising what place they will occupy in narrative reconstruction. This split can be rendered in formalist terms as the difference between an extradiegetic and intradiegetic subject or, epistemologically, as the gap between a subject of knowledge and of experience. Along either register, the author becomes a reader through recognising that the self read is no longer his or her self.52

  • 53 Ibid., 214.

28According to Burke, then, two authorial selves prevail in autobiographical texts: an extradiegetic subject that writes and reads and an intradiegetic subject that is being written and read. The difference between the two is not only formal, but also epistemological, as Burke says. Because of the temporal gap between the writing and the written self, the former knows what the latter cannot; the former can make sense of the latter’s experiences and what they have come to mean over a period of time, or to use Auster’s own expression, “in the long run.” The implications of this epistemological difference are particularly important to keep in mind when we read autobiography because the past self, the intradiegetic subject that is read and written by the present extradiegetic subject, cannot but become a product of the totality of the latter’s knowledge about and understanding of what happened before, during, and indeed after the events and experiences recounted. As Burke argues, these two categories – understanding and experience – are mutually exclusive since “To understand experience is to be an experiential and temporal remove from that experience. Understanding takes place but what is understood is no longer experience.”53

  • 54 Paul Auster, Moon Palace, op. cit., 256.

29If this is true of Auster writing Hand to Mouth, it is also true of Fogg writing his autobiography in Moon Palace. Indeed, both are teleological narratives about the authors’ former selves and how their lives have been shaped by what happened in the past. The question is to what extent Fogg’s post-1968 politics resembles his creator’s. When Fogg reads and interprets his father’s fictional tale, Kepler’s Blood, he certainly seems to suggest that the autobiographical is a layer that is always latently there in the text: “For all its shortcomings and excesses, the book is valuable to me as a psychological document, and more than any other piece of evidence, it demonstrates how Barber played out the inner dramas of his early life.”54 The same question arises as regards Moon Palace. Comparing the views on 1968 expressed in that novel with the views expressed in Hand to Mouth suggests that there is indeed a deep-seated autobiographical layer to the former, but, returning to the question of authority, how far would a biographical reading of the fictional work that Moon Palace ultimately is take us before we imbue the figure of the author with too much authority?

  • 55 This is an issue that Stefania Ciocia raises in her review of the various, yet predominately postmo (...)
  • 56 Seán Burke, The Death and Return of the Author, op. cit., 196.
  • 57 Ibid., 194.
  • 58 Ibid., 194.

30The biographical reading has long been taboo in the fields of literary theory and criticism, and as Burke argues, it has stifled debate of authorial political engagement.55 What literary criticism has failed to “overtly recognise,” Burke argues, is that “the author is that one category which clearly overlaps – one might even say conjoins – text and context.”56 Contrary to the postmodernist rejection of the author as anything other than a linguistic construct or a function of the text, Burke argues that especially in today’s digitalized society where anyone and everyone can author and publish texts online, we must recognize the “need to treat authorship as a situated activity” and, in doing so, realize that there is “only one tenet that can be stated with any confidence: to wit, that authorship is the principle of specificity in the world of texts.”57 Such an acknowledgement, however, does not imply a return from a postmodernist to a modernist conception of authorship that sees the author as an authoritative figure, but rather that we retrace “the work to its author” in “a working-back to historical, cultural, and political embeddedness.”58

Learning the Language of Dissent

  • 59 Jon A. Krosnick and Duane E. Alwin, “Aging and Susceptibility to Attitude Change,” Journal of Perso (...)

31Some of Auster’s letters dating back to the period 1966-1969 give insight into the impact 1968 had on the young, aspiring author, and provide authentic details of a youth whose political and philosophical worldviews are in the process of being shaped. Now, there is general consensus in the fields of social and political psychology that the age period 18 to 25 is the most impressionable period during a person’s life. As Jon A. Krosnick and Duane F. Alwin put it: “The historical environment in which a young person becomes an active participant in the adult world shapes the basic values, attitudes, and world views formed during those years. Once the period of early socialization has passed […] its residuals are fixed within individuals, and these core orientations are unlikely to change.”59 Arguably, an examination of the letters might reveal when and where certain ideas and convictions, political or otherwise, took root in the author, but also explain why some of those ideas and conviction have stayed with the author ever since.

  • 60 Paul Auster, Report from the Interior, London: Faber, 2013, 206, 229.
  • 61 Ibid., 211.
  • 62 Ibid., 212-213.
  • 63 Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels, and Martin Milligan, Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844, New (...)

32To paraphrase Suri at the beginning of this essay, during Auster’s education at Columbia, Auster did in fact read the words of some of the most prominent iconoclasts of the times, including Karl Marx. In one of his letters from Paris to Davis in London, dating August 21, 1967, he informs her that “I’ve been reading books on politics and Marxism,” and in another from November 23 he impels her to read both Marx’s The German Ideology and The Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844, which he finds “Very precise, very illuminating,” and the more recent The Wretched of the Earth from 1961 by the Marxist Frenchman Franz Fanon.60 In the months between these two letters, the twenty-year-old Auster had demonstrated how “illuminating” Marx was to him. In a letter from September 5, he “launch[es] an attack against […] bourgeois philosophy,” an attack that amounts to what the present-day Auster reading and commenting on the letters calls a “free-floating discourse on politics and revolution”.61 One of the lamentable “bourgeois philosophers” is the rationalist skeptic Descartes whose dualistic worldview and division of mind and body, according to the young Auster, “led to the exaltation of strictly objective methods of describing the universe,” and further still, “to the disassociation between thought & action […] and thus in the economic world […] to the idea of the worker considered as a machine. The contract of labor was reduced to a contract of capital, rather than a contract between men, which it actually is. […] The capitalist world is a world of objects rather than people.”62 Clearly, Auster has both read and understood Marx and the latter’s theory on the division of labor as laid out in The Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844. Here, Marx argues among other things that the division of labor “impoverishes the worker and reduces him to a machine,” and that this form of estrangement of man from his essentially social nature rests precisely on the theoretical assumption that consciousness, man’s inner life, is “an abstraction from real life,” which indeed has legitimized the exploitation of the capacity of man’s body for labor. “Thinking and being are […] no doubt distinct,” Marx concedes, “but at the same time they are in unity with each other.”63

  • 64 Paul Auster, Report form the Interior, op. cit., 213.

33In Report from the Interior, Auster comments on his own letter with some hesitation, saying “It’s not that these words are incoherent, precisely, or that you don’t know what you are talking about, it’s simply that you are going too fast […].” Moreover, he also suspects the letter was written while he was “probably exhausted, probably a little drunk, without question miserable and lonely.”64 Perhaps these remarks are intended to slightly undermine the seriousness with which we can take the content of the letter; perhaps they are simply what he remembers. Although Auster presents some letters in their full length, he also edits out certain parts in others, including the above letter, which should make us skeptical, not about their authenticity or content per se, but about the process of selection that has gone into their editing.

  • 65 Ibid., 213.

34Regardless of his intention, though, it seems that the young Auster has appropriated the language of a Marxist, indeed of Marx himself. He transforms this language into a language of dissent when he concludes the letter with a solemn (if inebriated) call to action “for the middle class youth (for instance us) to nullify the society we have been brought up in––to transcend our class out of shame for what it stands for & join the ranks of the poor & the persecuted races.”65 These final remarks would seem but the feathery ideas of a youth enthralled by the mindset of a great thinker had Auster not put action behind his words the following semester when he participated in the student rebellion at Columbia. To the extent that Auster’s participation in the protests implicitly meant that he subscribed to the agenda of the protests, he did in fact “join the ranks” of the underprivileged.

  • 66 Ibid., 250.
  • 67 Ibid., 250.
  • 68 Ibid., 192.
  • 69 Paul Auster, Collected Poems, London: Faber, 2004, 203.
  • 70 Paul Auster and I. B. Siegumfeldt, A Life in Words: Paul Auster in Conversation with I. B. Siegumf (...)

35In his own words, the protests changed him. On July 12, 1968, shortly before he was to appear in court for his acts of civil disobedience in April, he writes: “Once I thought that art should be […] divorced from society […]. Once I wished to live with my back turned to the world. I see now that this is impossible. Society, too, must be faced – not in the purity of contemplation, but with the intention of acting.”66 Moreover, while he still believes in the “social revolution,” he also realizes that it “must be accompanied by a metaphysical revolution,” and that “Men’s minds must be liberated along with their physical existences––if not, any freedom obtained will be false & fleeting.”67 In other words, Auster realized, first, that all art must engage with society and thus, if implicitly, with politics as well in order to change it, and second, that the quest for true human emancipation depends on conceiving the mind and body as one. This latter notion is actually something Auster had already pondered the previous year in his “Notes from a Composition Book” from 1967, the first of whose thirteen “philosophical propositions,” as he refers to them in Report from the Interior,68 reads: “The world is in my head. My body is in the world.”69 Auster writes in Report that his paradox is inspired by another critic of Descartes, namely the phenomenologist Maurice Merleau-Ponty, and in his interviews with I. B. Siegumfeldt in A Life in Words, he comments further that “I think those two sentences capture the essence of what I’ve been trying to do all my life.”70

  • 71 Paul Auster, Moon Palace, op. cit., 24.
  • 72 Ibid., 60.

36To what extent that is true is of course a matter that lies well beyond the scope of this essay, but there is a rather conspicuous trace of the paradox in Moon Palace. Interestingly, it appears in the context of Fogg’s recollections of the tumultuous spring of 1968. A few weeks before the Columbia protests, Fogg witnesses the explosion of an oil tank on the Hudson River, and “as I watched the chunks of burning wreckage float across the Hudson and land at my feet, it occurred to me that the inner and outer could not be separated except by doing great damage to the truth. Later that same month, the Columbia campus was turned into a battleground […].”71 Although Fogg does not say much else about this post-Cartesian realization, Auster’s letters foreshadow the kind of lesson that he himself drew from partaking in the revolt: that it is not enough to think against the societal status quo; one must also act against it – and vice versa. In that regard, Fogg’s Melvillian refusal to work, his descent into vagrancy in Central Park, and his self-perception as an “instrument of sabotage”72 would represent an outer, bodily expression of dissent, whereas his aesthetic education and his learning to differentiate between objects as well as people under the authoritative mentorship of Effing, translate into an inner, mental, and indeed moral enlightenment. As the story goes, resorting only to the former is an unsustainable enterprise, whereas combining both results in real change, as Fogg and Effing’s social-democratic project illustrates.

37Conclusively, Moon Palace is in equal parts the fictional autobiography of an eyewitness to the turbulent late 1960s and an attempt by the author to engage politically with society with the intention that his critique of the anti-authoritative ethos of the period should have some bearing on how we remember 1968 both collectively and individually. Strengthened by actual autobiographical connections between its protagonist and its author, it is a cautionary tale of what it meant for one youth to come of age in a world whose authoritative foundations, for better or worse, were crumbling. Auster strikes some of the same notes in Hand to Mouth and 4 3 2 1, both of which deal explicitly with the Columbia uprising and both of which express reservations about the methods and long-term effects of the protests. As we have seen, a return to Moon Palace that factors in these subsequent works can shed new light on the political dimension of Auster’s work and on the author’s politics. Notably, that politics involves at a fundamental level a recognition, rather than a dismissal or subversion, of the individual’s dependence on authority – someone who augments foundations, as Arendt would say, rather than encourage their shattering – in the quest to become an educated, enlightened, and indeed moral being in society. Meanwhile, the letters in Report from the Interior show us the author as a young man in the process of appropriating a language of dissent. Evidently, in this formative period of his life, Auster was more receptive to the revolutionary politics of the New Left, which only underlines the fact that his later critique of 1968 in Moon Palace and elsewhere is informed by a teleological understanding of the violent extremes to which that politics took many activist youths of the era. Auster identifies this political development as resulting from a loss of civility and nobleness, but also as an indication of deliberate ideological radicalization and polarization. With his Merleau-Pontian paradox, however, he seems to propose a moderate alternative: the unification of perceived categorical opposites. On the one hand, it is an alternative that can be seen as both foundational to and a manifestation of Auster’s center-leftist political position; on the other, it can also just be interpreted as an appeal for the diminishing, rather than the further widening, of the political chasm that opened in the wake of 1968.

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Bibliographie

ARENDT Hannah, Crisis of the Republic, San Diego; New York; London: Harcourt, 1973.

ARENDT Hannah, Between Past and Future: Eight Exercises in Political Thought, New York: Penguin, 2006.

AUSTER Paul, Moon Palace (1989), London: Faber, 2004.

AUSTER Paul, Hand to Mouth: A Chronicle of Early Failure, New York: Picador, 1997.

AUSTER Paul, Collected Poems, London: Faber, 2004.

AUSTER Paul, Winter Journal, London: Faber, 2012.

AUSTER Paul, Report from the Interior, London: Faber, 2013.

AUSTER Paul, 4 3 2 1, New York: Henry Holt, 2017.

AUSTER Paul and I. B. SIEGUMFELDT, A Life in Words: Paul Auster in Conversation with I. B. Siegumfeldt. New York: Seven Stories Press, 2017.

BANKS Michelle, “‘The Connection Exists’: Hermeneutics and Authority in Paul Auster’s Fictional Worlds”, in Stefania Ciocia and Jesús A. González (eds.), The Invention of Illusions: International Perspectives on Paul Auster, New Castle: Cambridge SP, 2011, 149-172.

BARONE Dennis (ed.), Beyond the Red Notebook: Essays on Paul Auster, Philadelphia: U of Pennsylvania, 1995.

BURKE Seán, The Death and Return of the Author: Criticism and Subjectivity in Barthes, Foucault and Derrida, Edinburgh: Edinburgh UP, 2011.

CIOCIA Stefania, “The Career and Critical Reception of Paul Auster”, Literature Compass 9 (10) 2012: 642–653.

CROZIER Michel, Samuel P HUNTINGTON, and Joji WATANUKI, The Crisis of Democracy: Report on the Governability of Democracies to the Trilateral Commision, New York: New York UP, 1975.

KROSNICK Jon A. and Duane E. ALWIN, “Aging and Susceptibility to Attitude Change”, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 57 (3) 1989: 416–425.

MARTIN Brendan, Paul Auster’s Postmodernity, New York: Routledge, 2008.

MARWICK Arthur, The Sixties: Cultural Revolution in Britain, France, Italy, and the United States, c. 1958 - c. 1974, Oxford: Oxford UP, 1998.

MARX Karl, Friedrich ENGELS, and Martin MILLIGAN, Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844. New York: Promotheus Books, 1988.

McCAUGHEY Robert A., Stand, Columbia: A History of Columbia University in the City of New York, 1754-2004, New York: Columbia UP, 2003.

MINNIS Alastair, Medieval Theory of Authorship: Scholastic Literary Attitudes in the Later Middle Ages, U of Pennsylvania P, 2010.

SORAPURE Madeleine, “The Detective and the Author: City of Glass”, in Dennis Barone (ed.), Beyond the Red Notebook: Essays on Paul Auster, Philadelphia: U of Pennsylvania P, 1995, 71-87.

SURI Jeremi, Power and Protest: Global Revolution and the Rise of Détente, Cambridge (Mass.); London: Harvard UP, 2005.

TISMĂNEANU Vladimir, Promises of 1968: Crisis, Illusion, and Utopia, Budapest; New York: Central European UP, 2011.

VARVOGLI Aliki, The World That Is the Book: Paul Auster’s Fiction, Liverpool: Liverpool UP, 2001.

YOUNG Ralph F., Dissent: The History of an American Idea, New York and London: New York UP, 2015.

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Notes

1 Jeremi Suri, Power and Protest: Global Revolution and the Rise of Détente. Cambridge (Mass.); London: Harvard UP, 2005, 164. For comparison, Arthur Marwick calls it a “historic year” that echoes the years of the French Revolution, while Ralph Young refers to it as a “watershed” year at the height of a decade in which “dissent exploded” in America. Arthur Marwick, The Sixties: Cultural Revolution in Britain, France, Italy, and the United States, c. 1958 - c. 1974, Oxford: Oxford UP, 1998, 584; Ralph Young, Dissent: The History of an American Idea, New York and London: New York UP, 2015, 471, 453.

2 Jeremi Suri, Power and Protest: Global Revolution and the Rise of Détente, op. cit., 164.

3 Ibid., 88.

4 Samuel P Huntington, in Michel Crozier, Samuel P Huntington and Joji Watanuki, The Crisis of Democracy: Report on the Governability of Democracies to the Trilateral Commision, New York: New York UP, 1975, 59.

5 Ibid., 75.

6 See Ralph Young (op. cit.); Arthur Marwick (op. cit.); Heller in Vladimir Tismăneanu, Promises of 1968: Crisis, Illusion, and Utopia, Budapest; New York: Central European UP, 2011.

7 The building Auster helped occupy, Mathematics Hall, proved to be the most difficult for the police to enter and evict students from. For a full account of the events at Columbia in April, 1968, see Robert A. McCaughey, Stand, Columbia: A History of Columbia University in the City of New York, 1754-2004, New York: Columbia UP, 2002, 432-461.

8 See Paul Auster, Hand to Mouth: A Chronicle of Early Failure, New York: Picador, 1997, 43; Winter Journal, London: Faber, 2012, 65-66.

9 Hannah Arendt, Crisis of the Republic, San Diego; New York; London: Harcourt, 1973, 76.

10 Paul Auster, Winter Journal, op. cit., 65.

11 See Paul Auster, 4 3 2 1, New York: Henry Holt, 2017, 633-661.

12 See Madeleine Sorapure, “The Detective and the Author: City of Glass”, in Dennis Barone (ed.), Beyond the Red Notebook: Essays on Paul Auster, Philadelphia: U of Pennsylvania P, 1995, 71-87; Aliki Varvogli, The World that is the Book: Paul Auster’s Fiction, Liverpool: Liverpool UP, 2001; Brendan Martin, Paul Auster’s Postmodernity, New York: Routledge, 2008; Michelle Banks, “‘The Connection Exists’: Hermeneutics and Authority in Paul Auster’s Fictional Worlds”, in Stefania Ciocia and Jesús A. González (eds.), The Invention of Illusions: International Perspectives on Paul Auster, New Castle: Cambridge SP, 2011, 149-172.

13 Aliki Varvogli, op. cit., 18.

14 See Alastair Minnis, Medieval Theory of Authorship: Scholastic Literary Attitudes in the Later Middle Ages, U of Pennsylvania P, 2010, 10-12.

15 Hannah Arendt, Between Past and Future: Eight Exercises in Political Thought, New York: Penguin, 2006, 93.

16 Ibid., 121.

17 Ibid., 92.

18 As Stefania Ciocia and others have noted, in France in the mid-1990s several monographs on Moon Palace came out, which is not to mention the plethora of scholarly articles and essays on the novel throughout the decade and beyond. Stefania Ciocia, “The Career and Critical Reception of Paul Auster,” Literature Compass 9 (10) 2012, 642–653.

19 In Dennis Barone (ed.), The Red Notebook, op. cit.

20 Paul Auster, Moon Palace (1989), London: Faber, 2004, 1.

21 Ibid., 27, 74.

22 Ibid., 24-25.

23 Ibid., 10.

24 Ibid., 7.

25 Ibid., 19.

26 Ibid., 20.

27 Ibid., 20.

28 Ibid., 22.

29 Ibid., 24.

30 Ibid., 56.

31 Ibid., 60.

32 Ibid., 117.

33 Ibid., 120.

34 Ibid., 181.

35 Ibid., 120.

36 Ibid., 118.

37 Hannah Arendt, Between Past and Future, op. cit., 93.

38 Paul Auster, Moon Palace, op. cit., 120.

39 Ibid., 201.

40 Ibid., 272.

41 Ibid., 287.

42 Hannah Arendt, Between Past and Future, op. cit., 92.

43 Paul Auster, Moon Palace, op. cit., 298.

44 Paul Auster, 4 3 2 1, op. cit., 644.

45 Ibid., 644. The letter is available at: <https://exhibitions.library.columbia.edu/exhibits/show/1968/causes/sds>.

46 Ibid., 644.

47 Ibid., 650, 658-659.

48 Paul Auster, Hand to Mouth, op. cit., 42-43.

49 Ibid., 43.

50 Ibid., 44.

51 Ibid., 44.

52 Seán Burke, The Death and Return of the Author: Criticism and Subjectivity in Barthes, Foucault and Derrida, Edinburgh: Edinburgh UP, 2011, 212.

53 Ibid., 214.

54 Paul Auster, Moon Palace, op. cit., 256.

55 This is an issue that Stefania Ciocia raises in her review of the various, yet predominately postmodernist approaches to Auster’s writing over the years. Stefania Ciocia, “The Career and Critical Reception of Paul Auster”, op. cit., 645.

56 Seán Burke, The Death and Return of the Author, op. cit., 196.

57 Ibid., 194.

58 Ibid., 194.

59 Jon A. Krosnick and Duane E. Alwin, “Aging and Susceptibility to Attitude Change,” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 57 (3) 1989, 416.

60 Paul Auster, Report from the Interior, London: Faber, 2013, 206, 229.

61 Ibid., 211.

62 Ibid., 212-213.

63 Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels, and Martin Milligan, Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844, New York: Promotheus Books, 1988, 26, 105, 106.

64 Paul Auster, Report form the Interior, op. cit., 213.

65 Ibid., 213.

66 Ibid., 250.

67 Ibid., 250.

68 Ibid., 192.

69 Paul Auster, Collected Poems, London: Faber, 2004, 203.

70 Paul Auster and I. B. Siegumfeldt, A Life in Words: Paul Auster in Conversation with I. B. Siegumfeldt, New York: Seven Stories Press, 2017, 74.

71 Paul Auster, Moon Palace, op. cit., 24.

72 Ibid., 60.

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Référence électronique

Jesper Præst Nielsen, « Return to the 1960s: the Role of ‘68 in Paul Auster’s Life and Work », Revue LISA/LISA e-journal [En ligne], vol. 18-n°50 | 2020, document 9, mis en ligne le 02 juin 2020, consulté le 15 juillet 2020. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/lisa/11701 ; DOI : https://doi.org/10.4000/lisa.11701

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Auteur

Jesper Præst Nielsen

Jesper Præst Nielsen is a former Ph.D. student from Copenhagen University, Denmark. He completed his MA at Copenhagen University in 2012 and has taught English at high school level for several years. As a research assistant, he has also transcribed the conversations between I. B. Siegumfeldt and Paul Auster for A Life in Words (Seven Stories Press, 2017). He is currently writing a dissertation on Auster’s critical returns to the 1960s in his novels and autobiographies.

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