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If you enjoy this style of writing, as I do, here is a list of authors like Auster to get your teeth into once you have read your fill of the author of The New York Trilogy.
I have a love/hate relationship with Murakami. I love his manner of storytelling; I sometimes hate the stories he chooses to tell – or at least, their often unsatisfactory conclusions.
Like Auster, Murakami weaves an enthralling picture of the cities and settings in which his stories take place; and also like Auster, he leads the reader down a path that neither seems to know where it will lead.
Both authors frequently concentrate on lonely writers as their central characters, who struggle to overcome personal problems, and both are characterised by light-hearted melancholy undercut with crushing depression.
If you haven’t yet discovered the charms of Murakami’s work, here is a handful of his more accessible efforts to get you started.
An Algerian-born Frenchman, Camus’ writing shares the same existentialist approach to life as Auster’s work.
See in particular The Outsider (also translated as The Stranger), which uses short, uncomplicated sentences and succinct phrasing to detail the more mundane happenings in the life of a confessed murderer. Sounds provocative? It is.
This novel brilliantly encapsulates the disillusionment that Camus and Auster seem to share about modern society and life in general.
The latter novel by Ishiguro was nominated for the Man Booker prize in 2005; in the same year, Arthur & George by Julian Barnes was also shortlisted for the accolade. (In the event, neither won it; instead it went to John Banville’s The Sea.)
This detective yarn, based on the true story of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s attempt to help clear the name of an innocent man, is similar to Auster in its playful tone, its addictive page-turning nature and its focus away from the traditional intrigues of a whodunit.
It’s not so important here who committed the crime or how – but rather, who didn’t.
Barnes is less existentialist and obtuse than Auster, but he does explore wider themes of spiritualism, identity and the queer correlation between innocence and guilt in an expert manner.
While Bulgakov is perhaps more directly unorthodox (or just plain weirder) than Auster, they do share certain similarities in their ability to effectively create a general sense of unease in the reader, without them really knowing why.
His most famous work by far is The Master and Margarita – and deservedly so. The book combines an engaging story with unsettling characters, sequences bordering on slapstick and an undercurrent of vague satirical commentary.
However, Bulgakov also has other important works – check out The Heart of a Dog or some of his many short stories if you liked The Master.
From one Japanese-born novelist to another, Kazuo Ishiguro also writes about real life and real situations, tinged with sadness and nostalgia.
Ishiguro is less obscure and existentialist than Auster, but his novel When We Were Orphans is an unusual detective story in a similar vein to Auster’s and focuses on a central character who is as oddly eccentric as many of Auster’s.
Meanwhile, Never Let Me Go is more than just a nostalgic look at the halcyon schooldays of three young friends; indeed, it is an incisive and insightful criticism of modern society and how easy alienation in today’s world has become.