This book feels as if it has been around for a lot longer than it has. No doubt that is helped by the recent decision by Faber to reproduce the cover in a 1930s type design. But even inside the stories feel from the past.
Split into three stories the first is a strange and disturbing tale of a writer who answers a wrong call and decides to pretend to be the private detective that the caller is phoning for.
A tale of identity and language unfolds with the main character of Quinn losing his bearings completely as he struggles to solve the case. As he is hired to protect a man from his father after the former survived being locked up as a child by the later who was determined to see what language a child would produce if left sealed off from society.
The expectation is that left alone the vocabulary would come from communion with God and be the language of the Lord, the language probably spoken before the Tower of Babel incident.
Anyway Quinn follows, talks to and then loses the father who seems to be obsessed with the Tower of Babel concept. But Paul Auster introduces a character named after himself as the connection between Quinn and the private detective. The question of identity is constant.
Ultimately Quinn not only loses all track of those who had hired him but also of himself. His apartment, belongings and even name seem to disappear by the end. We are left with a man who has written his thoughts about the case and his predicament down in a red notebook and that is all that seems to remain.
Part II tomorrow…