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'That is how it works in the City. Every time you think you know the answer to a question, you discover that the question makes no sense . . .'
This is the story of Anna Blume and her journey to find her lost brother, William, in the unnamed City. Like the City itself, however, it is a journey that is doomed, and so all that is left is Anna's unwritten account of what happened.
Paul Auster takes us to an unspecified and devastated world in which the self disappears amidst the horrors that surround us. But this is not just an imaginary, futuristic world: like the settings of Kafka stories, it is one that echoes our own, and in doing so addresses some of our darker legacies.
In the Country of Last Things is a tense, psychological take on the dystopian novel. It continues Auster's deep exploration of his central themes: the modern city, the mysteries of storytelling, and the elusive and unstable nature of truth.
Imagine an American city in the near future, populated almost wholly by street dwellers, squatters in ruined buildings, scavengers for subsistence. Suicide clubs offer interesting ways to die, for a fee, but the rich have fled with their jewels, and those who are left survive on what little cash trade-in centers will give them for the day's pickings. This enthralling, dreamlike fable about a peculiarly recognizable society, now in the throes of entropy, focuses on the plight of a young woman, Anna Blume. Anna has memories of a gentler life, but comes to the city in a "charity ship'' to hunt for her missing brother. She first finds shelter with a madman and his wife and later experiences a brief idyll with a writer, Samuel Farr.Together they live in the deteriorating splendor of the marbled public library. Promise is ultimately rekindled when the survivors consider taking to the road as magiciansan action implying that art and illusion can save. Auster, an accomplished stylist, creates a tone that deftly combines matter-of-factness and estrangement. The eerie quality is heightened by the device of a narrator who learns everything from Anna's journal. Auster's The New York Trilogy is soon to be reissued in Penguin paperback.