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The Book of Illusions

3.89  ·  Rating Details  ·  14,885 Ratings  ·  808 Reviews
Six months after losing his wife and two young sons in an airplane crash, Vermont professor David Zimmer spends his waking hours mired in a blur of alcoholic grief and self-pity. Then, watching television one night, he stumbles upon a clip from a lost film by silent comedian Hector Mann. Zimmer’s interest is piqued, and he soon finds himself embarking on a journey around t ...more
Paperback, 336 pages
Published August 1st 2003 by Picador (first published 2002)
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Richard Derus
Mar 07, 2014 Richard Derus rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Rating: one furious, disgusted star of however many stars there are in a galaxy

I've never been fond of pompous writing, the kind that checks its look in the mirror of acclaim and piles on the self-satisfied smirking smugness that makes me want to torch all the MFA schools I can reach.

My review, which I've moved to my blog, says that and more. Apparently the hoi polloi slithering in from the Internet's more sanctimonious quarters don't agree with me, therefore I must be wrong.
Erik
Aug 19, 2011 Erik rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Paul Auster, you bastard!

The man writes such depressing stuff. As with the other Auster I've read (I know I've only read 2 Austers, I am such a failure at being pretentious), I finished this and I was like... what, why did I read this?

To explain myself I should say that I follow the Roger Ebert school of criticism. Roger Ebert cares more about how a movie makes him feel than on its technical merits. Granted, this is rather less valid in the medium of words on a page than the sound and fury of fi
...more
Jill
Feb 17, 2009 Jill rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
By reading this book I have become a die-hard Auster fan. The man is amazing. So clever, so imaginitive, so poetic and almost profound. This book rambles, and in doing so touches on so many intertwined narratives that one almost gives up on what was assumed to be the original plot and assumes the opening catch phrase was just another Paul Auster smoke screen story line. But this one, even in creating such an intricatedly woven network of a character experiences, never looses sight of its ultimat ...more
Krenzel
Aug 08, 2008 Krenzel rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ala-notables, 1001
*WARNING FOR SPOILERS*

If a tree falls in the forest and no one hears it, does it make a sound or not? This famous question is closely examined in "The Book of Illusions," by author Paul Auster, as he tells the story of literature professor David Zimmer, who copes with the death of his wife and two sons by shutting out the real world so that he can inhabit the "silent world of Hector Mann," an obscure actor from the 1920s. After leaving a dozen movies behind that nobody seems to know about, Hecto
...more
Blair
Aug 07, 2014 Blair rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
David Zimmer is a teacher and writer whose wife and two young sons have been killed in an aeroplane crash. At his lowest ebb, suicidal and alcoholic, David sees a silent film on television and laughs for the first time since the tragedy. Thereafter, he develops a fascination with the actor featured in the old movie, Hector Mann - a minor star of silent comedies who vanished in 1929 and was never seen or heard of again. Travelling around the world in order to visit the film archives containing He ...more
Doug
May 28, 2007 Doug rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: someone who's stranded in an airport for 24 hours
I just recommended this book to someone stranded in the Minneapolis airport. I had forgotten how much I liked it until I saw it sitting there quietly on the shelf, minding it's own business.

This is why real books are so much more awesome than ebooks--they come back to tickle your mind. That, and when you spill wine on them (like I did on my copy of The Book of Illusions) they don't give up the ghost in an electric funeral.

Anyhow. Take that, Minneapolis.
Alika Yarnell
Feb 14, 2008 Alika Yarnell rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Grief-striken wordsmiths and lovers of silent film trying to piece their lives back together
A surprising book that is riveting through to the final words. I say "surprising" because at first it's not clear as to what kind of book this is going to be. As with some of Auster's other work, the novel is told through a first-person narrator who happens to be a writer. We get long accounts of the book he is writing (about a silent filmmaker who went missing some years prior) and almost forget that there is a narrator involved, that we aren't reading a third-person account of this filmmaker's ...more
George Georgiadis
Jul 08, 2015 George Georgiadis rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: hamburger
Μου θύμισε εκείνη τη φράση που ειπώθηκε δια στόματος Μάθιου Μακόναχι στην πρώτη σεζόν του True Detective: "To realize that all your life, all your love, all your hate, all your memories, all your pain, it was all the same thing. It was all the same dream, a dream that you had inside a locked room, a dream about being a person". Μεγάλος Auster και πάλι.
Schuyler
Oh Mr. Auster, what are we to do with you? This might have been the last book I end up reading by Paul Auster. It's been a nice ride, but I think he's run his course in my literary life. He's not doing anything great with language, though that's not really his "thing" anyway...he's more about playing with narrative and building pseudo-complex plots whose ideas aren't fully realized.

There was a lot in this novel that I found almost laughably cliche, but the bath tub sex scene towards the end sta
...more
Michael
Feb 03, 2009 Michael rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Paul Auster
Recommended to Michael by: The library dollar bin
Paul Auster needs to stop. Now. In the beginning (starting with The New York Trilogy) his work was an interesting theoretical experiment. As of late he's become a caricature of himself. I'm tempted to accuse him of plagiarizing the Paul Auster of 20 years ago. The transcription of that court case would be like a general survey of his career and what he still insists on doing in his literature. The prosecution (Paul Auster) would convince the jury that the defense (Paul Austen, probably under a p ...more
Cassie
Mar 08, 2010 Cassie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I LOVED this book! This is a story within a story within a story. It's no wonder why it's called "The Book of Illusions." What I like most out of it is that you can choose what is real and what is fantasy. Even if all the stories told within these pages are real (fictional real, I mean), it is still takes you on an amazing metaphysical journey. It is about a supposed "missing" silent film star, Hector Mann, who is presumed dead after so many years after his disappearance. We learn about him thro ...more
Carl
Dec 07, 2007 Carl rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A few of my favorite things: smart men, secret lives, cinema, facial scars, multi-layered mystery, artistic masterpieces unveiled, itchy sexual tension...I can't love this book any more. One of my favorite books ever.
Fiona
A strong 4.5, highly recommended, and an excellent borrow from my housemate. Clearly I should nick her stuff more often.
Bev
Aug 20, 2012 Bev rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novel, kindle
Professor David Zimmer's life is destroyed when his wife and two young sons are killed in a plane crash. He goes on a destructive binge of drinking and taking pills until he happens to see a documentary in which he is drawn to silent film comedian Hector Mann, who vanished around 1929 after a brief but promising film career. Zimmer begins to investigate the work of Hector Mann, an interest which becomes an obsession which takes him on a quest to see the 12 films which were mailed, anonymously, t ...more
Meera
Aug 12, 2013 Meera rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm a bit torn about this book, which may be the last Auster I read after a year-long affair. It suffers from many flaws:

It generally reads, as someone writes below, like a self-parody. (You can't fault Paul Auster for trying to explore too many themes, too many kinds of characters, too many stages of life.)

It drags a lot in the middle. (Ross and I were taking turns reading this aloud to each other from his Nook and we just stopped at some point months ago. I finally picked it up on my own to
...more
Betül
Jan 22, 2016 Betül rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Almost everything is perfect about Auster. He portrays perfectly the lives of people who had frustrating losses but trying to cling to life; who made big mistakes but trying to compensate them with functional and right acts and who lost their ways somehow but trying to make their existence meaningful again and do their best to the end. Accordingly his fiction always gives me inspiration. Whenever i read his books, i think about my life and my motivations, that's why i like reading him, he always ...more
Mircalla64 (free Liu Xiaobo)
"Quando ti sono contro tutte le carte del mazzo, l'unico modo per vincere una mano è infrangere le regole"

questo è un libro che parla di relitti, frammenti scavati tra le macerie di vite distrutte, vite di cui in alcuni casi si perdono le tracce anni addietro e di cui si bruceranno i resti dopo la morte avvenuta fuori scena...David è un relitto pescato nella tempesta di una vita falciata, la sua famiglia è sparita in un sol colpo e lui per non affogare del tutto si aggrappa ai film dell'epoca de
...more
Mónica Mar
Jul 21, 2015 Mónica Mar rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
David Zimmer es un hombre sin familia. Su esposa y sus dos hijos murieron en un accidente de avión, y sus muertes han sumergido a David en un maremágnum de alcohol y desesperanza. Aislado en la cáscara de su hogar y rodeado de fantasmas, a David se le ha escapado el sentido de la vida. Pasa sus noches echado en un sofá frente al televisor, y es una de estas noches que, a través de un sopor etílico de rutina, ve la escena de una película muda de los años veinte. Del pecho de David sale el rumor d ...more
Erin
Oct 03, 2014 Erin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I think I first became interested in this because I lovelovelove books where a character is obsessed with a filmmaker (see Flicker and Night Film - for any authors reading this, more like these pleaseandthankyou) and while this wasn't quite the same as those great books, I thoroughly enjoyed it.

David Zimmer is a man who has lost everything - his wife, his sons, his interest in a career and his interest in life. He randomly comes across a silent film by forgotten star Hector Mann and he feels som
...more
Laura
Just arrived from Australia through BM.

Man has not one and the same life. He has many lives,
placed end to end, and that is the cause of his misery.

by Chateaubriand

Opening Lines:
Everyone thought he was dead. When my book about his films was published in 1988, Hector Mann had not been heard from in almost sixty years.


After a terrible family tragedy, Professor David Zimmer starts a huge translation project, namely Chateaubriand's Memoires D'outre Tombe, a book of 2,000 pages.

In the meantime, he b
...more
Khaoula
Feb 09, 2014 Khaoula rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own, 2014-reads
This was a very interesting book. To see a man losing everything and going into a sort of trance, completely losing himself as well. And find it again (or at least some of it) and then lose it one more time.
This is the first Paul Auster book that I've read, and I definitely feel like diving into more of his books.
Throughout the whole book, you can't help but sympathise with David throughout his tragedy. And then the story takes an interesting turn where it reveals the past of Hector Mann, a com
...more
Simona
Mar 08, 2015 Simona rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"Questo è un libro di frammenti".

Ed è proprio così. Sono frammenti di dolore, di angoscia, di gioia, di una bellezza struggente. Sono frammenti di parole, di immagini. Sono frammenti di vita, frammenti di un uomo che ritorna a vivere dopo un dolore atroce, di un uomo che ritorna a sperare, ad amare, grazie a dei film e al cinema che si intreccia con la sua vita. E' un collage di emozioni, di immagini, sogni di arte. Un'arte che, con la sua forza e fragilità, è capace di dare e togliere, di commu
...more
Chris Dietzel
Aug 08, 2015 Chris Dietzel rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
While the quality of writing is typical Auster, the quality of story-telling is the weakest of his books that I've read. Parts of this were great and would have made for a terrific full-length book. Other parts left me disinterested and wishing the story would move along. Therein laid the problem: Auster never settled in to one story and, unlike his other books which are very linear, it felt like not even the author knew where this one was headed at times. Still an interesting read, but I would ...more
David
Dec 08, 2012 David rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This one was a weird one for me, precisely for how unweird it was. The only other fiction I'd read for Auster was "The New York Trilogy," and one thing I didn't expect after that was pretty straight realism. It's really well done. The story is very creative and entertaining, the characters are strong, and the emotion is tangible. It just felt so odd because I expected it to get odd at any moment, and it was never going to and had never said it would.
Stacie
Dec 12, 2015 Stacie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: paul-auster
Written 10/26/2015 (repost): Paul Auster's Book of Illusions, is a story about a man who loses his wife and two sons in a plane crash. He survives, but doesn't.

This is the story of grief.

My personal opinion: He (Paul Auster) got it right. This book is important. Anyone who has been through loss of this magnitude will connect with this book. Souls capable of deep sympathy will connect with it as well.

I am posting a link to an article about a local murder that occurred recently, because many of th
...more
Ms.pegasus
Nov 12, 2015 Ms.pegasus rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone interested in well written fiction
Shelves: fiction
A linear account of the story would disclose that David Zimmer, professor of comparative literature at a Vermont liberal arts college, lost his wife and two young sons in a tragic plane crash, and as an antidote to debilitating depression, threw himself into a study of the films of Hector Mann, an obscure comedian from the silent film era who disappeared some 60 years ago. Three months after this analytic tome was published, he received a cryptic letter from a woman named Frieda Spelling. Would ...more
Adam
Mar 29, 2013 Adam rated it really liked it
Shelves: 1970-present, prose
An elegant book of Austerian (obviously) mystery and coincidence, penetrated by the ghostly aura of film, the ecstasy of encountering art, and the very real spectre of mortality. I read most of it the way Zimmer, in the book, encounters Mann's work, enraptured. In the last fifty pages or so, the book unfortunately starts to feel a bit clumsy, a bit hastily put-together, but the very end is as strong as the first two-thirds.

I'm not sure where I predict this will rank when Auster's complete oeuvr
...more
Will Byrnes
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Nancy Oakes
Drawing obvious parallels between the character of Hector Mann and the character of David Zimmer, Auster explores redefinition of the self. In his own circumstance, Zimmer, a professor at a college in Vermont, gets a phone call one day that his wife and two children have been killed in a plane crash. He is left alone, and the weight of his grief leaves him to want to do nothing. He contemplates suicide from time to time. Then one day of mindless television watching something happens...he laughs ...more
Isabel Maia
“Todos acreditavam que estava morto.”. Até David Zimmer, o personagem principal deste livro, achava que Hector Mann estava morto. Zimmer é um professor de Literatura Comparada numa Univerdade no Vermont, EUA. Com a morte da família num trágico acidente, o professor entra numa espiral de dor e depressão que este expia através da escrita de um livro sobre Hector Mann, um actor de segunda linha de filmes cómicos mudos. Terminado esse projecto, embrenha-se noutro numa tentativa de não pensar no pass ...more
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Paul Auster is the bestselling author of Report from the Interior, Winter Journal, Sunset Park, Invisible, The Book of Illusions, and The New York Trilogy, among many other works. He has been awarded the Prince of Asturias Prize for Literature, the Prix Médicis Étranger, the Independent Spirit Award, and the Premio Napoli. He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the American Ac ...more
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“We all want to believe in impossible things, I suppose, to persuade ourselves that miracles can happen.” 104 likes
“What matters is not how well you can avoid trouble, but how you cope with trouble when it comes.” 21 likes
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