The New York Trilogy
“Becoming a writer is not a career decision like becoming a doctor or a policeman. You don't choose it so much as get chosen, and once you accept the fact that you're not fit for anything else, you have to be prepared to walk a long, hard road for the rest of your days.” Paul Auster
A contemporary American novelist, Paul Auster published a memoir titled “The Invention of Solitude” in 1982. He was launched to prominence with “The New York Trilogy” (1987), a collection of novels called “City of Glass,” “Ghosts” and “The Locked Room” from which he nabbed the 1989 Prix France Culture de Littérature Étrangère. Since then, he has written many novels, including “Moon Palace” (1989), “The Music of Chance” (1990), “Leviathan” (1992, won a Prix Médicis Étranger), “The Book of Illusions” (2002), “The Brooklyn Follies” (2005), “Man in the Dark” (2008), “Invisible” (2009) and “Sunset Park” (2010). He has also written poems, essays, translations and screenplays. Auster made his directorial debut in 1995 with “Smoke” and “Blue in the Face” in partnership with director Wayne Wang. He won an Independent Spirit Award for his script for “Smoke” and shared a Bodil Award and a César nomination for the same film. On his own, Auster made his directing debut with “Lulu on the Bridge” (1998), from which he received a Golden Spike nomination at the 1998 Valladolid International Film Festival. He also directed, wrote and produced “The Inner Life of Martin Frost” (2007).
Auster was the recipient of the 1990 Morton Dauwen Zabel Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He also picked up the John William Corrington Award for Literary Excellence in 1996 and the Prince of Asturias Award for Literature in 2006. Also in 2006, he was elected into the American Academy of Arts and Letters for Literature. He became a member of the jury at the Venice Film Festival in 1996 and the Cannes Film Festival in 1997.
Currently, Auster and his wife, novelist Siri Hustvedt, live in Brooklyn, New York. He has two children, Daniel and Sophie Auster. He was previously married to writer Lydia Davis.
Childhood and Family:
Paul Benjamin Auster was born on February 3, 1947, in Newark, New Jersey, to Jewish middle class parents of Polish ancestry Samuel Auster, a landlord, and Queenie Auster. He was raised in the Newark suburbs of South Orange and Maplewood. He developed a love for writing and literature thanks to his uncle, translator Allen Mandelbaum, who left a number of books in storage at their house while he traveled to Europe. Paul attended Columbia High School in Maplewood, but missed his high school graduation to travel to Europe. After returning to the U.S., he enrolled at Columbia University and in 1967, traveled to Paris to attend Columbia's Junior Year Abroad. He, however, grew bored with the program and decided to quit. He stayed in Paris for a time before returning to New York. With the help of a dean, he was reinstated at Columbia and eventually received a B.A. in English and comparative literature in 1969. He went on to get his M.A. in comparative literature the following year.
On October 6, 1974, Paul married Lydia Davis, whom he had dated since 1966. They later divorced. The marriage produced one child, a son named Daniel Auster. Paul married writer Siri Hustvedt in 1981. They have a daughter named Sophie Auster, who is a popular singer in France.
After completing his Master's degree at Columbia, Paul Auster left the U.S. for France, where he took on a variety of odd jobs and minor literary projects. In 1973, he moved to Provence, France, with Lydia Davis and they worked as caretakers of a farmhouse. After returning to the United States in 1974, he began establishing a flourishing career as a writer. Auster's early work included translations of “The Uninhabited: Selected Poems of Andre du Bouchet” (1976), and “Life/Situations, by Jean-Paul Sartre (1977), in partnership with his wife Lydia Davis.
A memoir titled “The Invention of Solitude” was published in 1982 by Faber & Faber. The book consisted of “Portrait of an Invisible Man,” which dealt with the sudden death of his father, and “The Book of Memory,” where he shared personal thoughts. The same year, Auster also published a fiction work called “Squeeze Play” under the pseudonym Paul Benjamin.
In 1985, Auster released the novel “City of Glass,” the first of his popular “The New York Trilogy.” The second part of the trilogy, “Ghosts,” followed in 1986. “The Locked Room” was released later in 1986. With “The New York Trilogy” (published in 1987), the writer gained an international reputation as an original writer and was handed a 1989 Prix France Culture de Littérature Étrangère for his work. Later, in 1994, “City of Glass” was adapted into a graphic novel by Paul Karasik and David Mazzucchelli. It was re-released in 2004 under the title “City of Glass: A Graphic Mystery.”
Following the success of “The New York Trilogy,” Auster wrote “In the Country of Last Things,” which was first published in 1987. It was followed by “Moon Palace” (1989) and “The Music of Chance” (1990). The latter work was nominated for a PEN/Faulkner Award. Eventually, the film adaptation “The Music of Chance” was released in 1993, starring James Spader and Mandy Patinkin. The film was screened at the 1993 Cannes Film Festival.
Auster's seventh novel, “Leviathan,” was published by Viking Press in 1992. The book won a 1993 Prix Médicis Étranger. The same year, he also released “The Art of Hunger.” Three years later, Auster resurfaced with his next novel, “Mr. Vertigo,” which was about a young orphaned boy from St. Louis. It was published by Faber & Faber on April 5, 1995.
It was also in 1995 that Auster embarked into feature film screenwriting and directing. In collaboration with director Wayne Wang, he wrote the screenplay of “Smoke.” The film won a Special Jury Prize at the 1995 Berlin International Film Festival, a Bodil for Best American Film, a German Film for Best Foreign Film, and a Robert for Best Foreign Film, to name a few awards and nominations. Auster was also given credit as a co-director for the film. Auster and Wang were reunited for the follow up, “Blue in the Face” (also 1995), which they co-directed and co-wrote. The comedy starred Harvey Keitel, Victor Argo, Giancarlo Esposito, Roseanne Barr, Michael J. Fox, Lily Tomlin, Mira Sorvino, Lou Reed, Mel Gorham, Jim Jarmusch and Malik Yoba. It was nominated for a Bronze Horse at the 1995 Stockholm Film Festival and an American Comedy Award for Funniest Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture (Lily Tomlin).
In 1998, Auster made his solo directorial debut with “Lulu on the Bridge,” a mystery about a celebrated jazz saxophonist whose life is changed after he is accidentally shot. The film, which he also wrote, was nominated for a Golden Spike at the 1998 Valladolid International Film Festival. It starred Harvey Keitel as Izzy.
Auster published a novella called “Timbuktu” in 1999. He then wrote the novels “The Book of Illusions” (2002), “Oracle Night” (2003), “The Brooklyn Follies” (2005), “Travels in the Scriptorium” (2006), “Man in the Dark” (2008) and “Invisible” (2009). He also contributed story to various film projects, including Wayne Wang's “The Center of the World” (2001), the 6 minute short “Fluxus” (2004) and the French short “The Red Notebook” (2004). He returned to the director's chair to helm David Thewlis, Irène Jacob and Michael Imperioli in the film “The Inner Life of Martin Frost” (2007), which he also wrote and produced.
Auster's new novel, “Sunset Park,” was published in November 2010.
Prince of Asturias: Letters, 2006
Bodil: Best American Film (Bedste amerikanske film), “Smoke,” 1996
Independent Spirit: Best First Screenplay, “Smoke,” 1996
John William Corrington: Literary Excellence, 1996
American Academy of Arts and Letters: Morton Dauwen Zabel Award, 1990
Prix France Culture de Littérature Étrangère: “The New York Trilogy,” 1989