The Book of Illusions by Paul Auster
A Novel

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Synopsis

A man's obsession with a silent-film star sends him on a journey into a shadow world of lies, illusions, and unexpected love

Six months after losing his wife and two young sons in an airplane crash, Vermont professor David Zimmer spends his waking hours mired in a blur of alcoholic grief and self-pity. Then, watching television one night, he stumbles upon a clip from a lost silent film by comedian Hector Mann. Zimmer's interest is piqued, and he soon finds himself embarking on a journey around the world to research a book on this mysterious figure, who vanished from sight in 1929 and has been presumed dead for sixty years.

When the book is published the following year, a letter turns up in Zimmer's mailbox bearing a return address from a small town in New Mexico-supposedly written by Hector's wife. "Hector has read your book and would like to meet you. Are you interested in paying us a visit?" Is the letter a hoax, or is Hector Mann still alive? Torn between doubt and belief, Zimmer hesitates, until one night a strange woman appears on his doorstep and makes the decision for him, changing his life forever.

This stunning novel plunges the reader into a universe in which the comic and the tragic, the real and the imagined, the violent and the tender dissolve into one another. With The Book of Illusions, one of America's most powerful and original writers has written his richest, most emotionally charged work yet.

 

About Paul Auster

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Paul Auster is the bestselling author of Invisible, Man in the Dark, Travels in the Scriptorium, The Brooklyn Follies, and Oracle Night. I Thought My Father Was God, the NPR National Story Project anthology, which he edited, was a national bestseller. His work has been translated into thirty-five languages. He lives in Brooklyn, New York. 
 
Published October 27, 2009 by Henry Holt and Co.. 333 pages
Genres: Mystery, Thriller & Suspense, Literature & Fiction, Self Help. Fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for The Book of Illusions

The Guardian

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The one Hector Mann film Zimmer manages to see is called The Inner Life of Martin Frost, which unfolds the tale of a writer and a philosophy student whose chance relationship enigmatically spirals towards a vanishing point - a destination that the novel itself appears to be heading towards.

Sep 27 2002 | Read Full Review of The Book of Illusions: A Novel

The Guardian

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After his book is published, the professor agrees to translate Chateaubriand's Mémoires d'outre-tombe (which he will call in English Memoirs of a Dead Man), but just as he immerses himself in this next round of dealing with the dead, he receives a letter from a woman purporting to be Manning's w...

Sep 29 2002 | Read Full Review of The Book of Illusions: A Novel

Publishers Weekly

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David Zimmer, an English professor in Vermont, is trying to rebuild his life—after his family perishes in an airplane crash—by researching the work of Hector Mann, a minor figure from the era of silent movies, in this enigmatic, elliptical 10th novel, one of Auster's best.

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Book Reporter

He throws himself into the few films of Mann's surviving oeuvre and writes the sole definitive work on the films of Hector Mann.

Jan 21 2011 | Read Full Review of The Book of Illusions: A Novel

AV Club

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(Auster is often compared to Beckett, though he denies the influence.) Miles’ roommates Nathan Bing, Ellen Brice, and Alice Bergstrom are having their own difficulties resolving themselves to their pasts, and the novel could easily have grown ponderous if Auster were forever slowing down the na...

Nov 04 2010 | Read Full Review of The Book of Illusions: A Novel

Entertainment Weekly

In 1986, David Zimmer, a professor immersed in self-pity since his family died in a plane crash, happens across a clip of a Mann film, laughs, and decides to publish a study of Mann's work.

Sep 13 2002 | Read Full Review of The Book of Illusions: A Novel

The Washington Post

Morris wonders if he should have married his second wife first, Bing wonders if he's gay, everyone wonders if the brooding and immensely good-looking Miles will sleep with them, and Miles wonders how fate intervened in his own life.

Nov 29 2010 | Read Full Review of The Book of Illusions: A Novel

Bookmarks Magazine

Kevin Canfield Richmond Times-Dispatch 4 of 5 Stars "Auster is well known for his masterfully cunning postmodern experiments, but with Sunset Park he has shifted gears and written a realist novel that, in the course of a swift-moving, character-driven narrative, explores guilt, luck and our ...

Oct 25 2010 | Read Full Review of The Book of Illusions: A Novel

Military.com

Zimmer's historical trauma is the loss of his wife and children in a plane crash, and like Hector, he has engaged in the compulsive acting out of his trauma, taking on projects that keep him working obsessively with the reminders of silence, loss, and death: a study of Hector's fi lms, a translat...

Oct 16 2009 | Read Full Review of The Book of Illusions: A Novel

ReadySteadyBook

An academic by profession, David writes a critical study of Mann's work, but, as the book is published, he is contacted by sources who claim that Hector Mann, who hasn't been seen for almost sixty years and is presumed dead, is alive and living in New Mexico.

Nov 01 2003 | Read Full Review of The Book of Illusions: A Novel

The Blurb

Then we come to the second section of the book where a college colleague of Walker's, Jim Freeman, a novelist, receives a parcel with a covering letter explaining that now, 40 years later, Walker is dying of leukaemia and trying to write a memoir, the first part of ...

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The Blurb

The book we are reading is made up as much of Sidney's writing as his own tale and that's before we even go in to the plot of Maxwell's Oracle Night in which Bowen 'begins o see a connection between himself and the story in the novel, as if in some oblique, hig...

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