LONGLISTED FOR THE MAN BOOKER PRIZE 2017
On March 3, 1947, in the maternity ward of Beth Israel Hospital in Newark, New Jersey, Archibald Isaac Ferguson, the one and only child of Rose and Stanley Ferguson, is born. From that single beginning, Ferguson's life will take four simultaneous and independent fictional paths. Four Fergusons made of the same genetic material, four boys who are the same boy, will go on to lead four parallel and entirely different lives. Family fortunes diverge. Loves and friendships and intellectual passions contrast. Chapter by chapter, the rotating narratives evolve into an elaborate dance of inner worlds enfolded within the outer forces of history as, one by one, the intimate plot of each Ferguson's story rushes on across the tumultuous and fractured terrain of mid twentieth-century America. A boy grows up-again and again and again.
As inventive and dexterously constructed as anything Paul Auster has ever written 4 3 2 1 is an unforgettable tour de force, the crowning work of this masterful writer's extraordinary career.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
Paul Auster’s long, rich novel—about the life of a curious, observant boy named Archie Ferguson—is well worth the time investment. Auster writes magnificent sentences, and the book’s characters are all incredibly compelling, which meant we couldn’t wait to find out where the story would take them. 4 3 2 1 is a book about family and Americana and the ways we find and make meaning in the world.
Almost everything about Auster's new novel is big. The sentences are long and sinuous; the paragraphs are huge, often running more than a page; and the book comes in at nearly 900 pages. In its telling, however, the book is far from epic, though it is satisfyingly rich in detail. It's a bildungsroman spanning protagonist Archie Ferguson's birth in 1947 to a consequential U.S. presidential election in 1974. Some warm opening pages are dedicated to the romance of the parents of Ferguson (as the third-person narrator refers to him throughout), Rose and Stanley. In its depiction of the everyday life of its hero, the book also gives a full history of America during this period through the eyes of Ferguson who, not coincidentally, is roughly the same age as Auster. He roots for the nascent Kennedy administration, sees Martin Luther King's peaceful resistance, and recognizes both the greatness and the iniquity in L.B.J.'s actions as president. These national events are juxtaposed against Ferguson's coming-of-age: he goes to summer camp, has a sad first love with a girl named Anne-Marie, and gets an education via his beloved aunt Mildred. One of the many pleasures of the book is Ferguson's vibrant recounting of his reading experiences, such as Emma Goldman's Living My Life, Voltaire's Candide, and Theodore White's The Making of the President, 1960. Auster adds a significant and immersive entry to a genre that stretches back centuries and includes Augie March and Tristram Shandy.