The Book of Illusions A Novel

Paul Auster




Trade Paperback

336 Pages



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A New York Times Book Review Notable Book

Six months after losing his wife and two young sons, Vermont Professor David Zimmer spends his waking hours mired in a blur of alcoholic grief and self-pity. One night, he stumbles upon a clip from a lost film by silent comedian Hector Mann. His 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.

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 inviting him to meet Hector. Zimmer hesitates, until one night a strange woman appears on his doorstep and makes the decision for him, changing his life forever.


Praise for The Book of Illusions

"Mr. Auster's elegant, finely calibrated The Book of Illusions is a haunting feat of intellectual gamesmanship . . . Hector is an inspired creation . . . more immediate than many flesh-and-blood actors."—The New York Times

"An older and wiser Auster has added a new ingredient to the metaphysical play and deft storytelling, a sadness that colors all illusion, that creates a stunningly moving and very real portrait of a man over-marked by death . . . It is a story of unspeakable grief told with virtuosic brilliance, which Auster finally brings safely to Earth with a very human simplicity."—Los Angeles Times

"His most compulsively readable, lushly imagined, and deeply pleasurable novel."—Chicago Tribune

"Paul Auster has performed some nifty illusions in his lifetime . . . Yet nothing Auster has written to date quite matches his latest feat of derring-do, The Book of Illusions."—The Boston Globe

"A nearly flawless work, and is the best argument among many that Auster will be remembered as one of the great writers of our time."—San Francisco Chronicle

"A complex weave of dark and melancholy wonders—one in which tragedy and beauty intermingle, and the solid and the illusory are inextricably linked . . . A work of extraordinary power and resonance, which may well be the writer's finest yet . . . One senses the deep empathy he has for his characters on every page. It is a measure of this aspect of Auster's writing that the reader comes away from the dark ending of The Book of Illusions with a sense of hope."—Rain Taxi

"Wondrous . . . The Book of Illusions is a stunning feat of imagination and likely the best book that Auster has written."—Financial Times (London)

"An arresting and captivating novel and certainly one of Auster's best . . . A truly convincing love story, and a good old-fashioned mystery."—Esquire

"By turns dramatic, humorous, and philosophical, this story is also simply a pleasure to read—an emotional puzzle of one man's broken heart that the author mends, page by ingenious page."—Elle

"Through all its dark and delightful twists and turns The Book of Illusions is suffused with warmth and illuminated by its narrator's hard-won wisdom. This artful and elegant novel may be Auster's best ever."—Peter Carey

"An enthralling new summit in Paul Auster's art."—Jonathan Lethem

"Certainly his best . . . The novel is a gleaming storytelling machine . . . Auster's critical acuity, his yen for the philosophical and his love of language are all in extravagant display with The Book of Illusions. It's the sheer delight of Auster's joy in narrative that wins us over."—Book magazine

"Auster's signature fascination with the capriciousness of fate and adept use of the classic story-within-the-story motif are writ larger than ever in his brilliant, sage, and suspenseful tenth novel."—Booklist

"One of his finest [novels]: an elegant meditation on the question of whether an artist or his public 'owns' the work he creates, and a thickly plotted succession of interlocking mysteries reminiscent of his highly praised New York Trilogy . . . gripping and immensely satisfying."—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

Reviews from Goodreads



Read an Excerpt

1EVERYONE THOUGHT THE was dead. When my book about his films was published in 1988, Hector Mann had not been heard from in almost sixty years. Except for a handful of historians and old-time movie buffs, few people seemed to know that he had ever existed. Double or Nothing, the last of the twelve two-reel comedies he made at the end of the silent era, was released on November 23, 1928. Two months later, without saying good-bye to any of his friends or associates, without leaving behind a letter or informing anyone of his plans, he walked out of his rented house on North
Read the full excerpt


  • Paul Auster

  • Paul Auster is the bestselling author of Travels in the Scriptorium, Oracle Night, and Man in the Dark, among many other works. I Thought My Father Was God, the NPR National Story Project Anthology, which he edited, was also a national bestseller. His work has been translated into more than thirty-five languages. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.
  • Paul Auster Lisbeth Salas Soto
    Paul Auster




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