In the beginning, everything was alive

“American novelist Paul Auster dies at 77”. I read the news in my bed, in the gray silence of the early morning, around 6:15 a.m. It is regularly said of someone who dies that they pass away. It’s an effective choice of word, a kind of classic that the headliner must have resorted to, believing that the story didn’t need any further embellishments. But it seemed to me that it was perfectly appropriate, a deliberate choice that named the state of things: a light was no more.

A cardinal whistled somewhere and, at my feet, Lupine the cat turned over in his sleep. He started purring when I petted him. I had a very absurd thought, in fact I think I whispered to the cat, “thanks for being here”. Let’s see, I said to myself, looking out the window. So I am well sad.

However, there is no shortage of sad news, we won’t list it again here, but I didn’t read anything else that morning before getting up, it seemed to me that that was enough. Birds flew past me, blackbirds, starlings, sturdy little sparrows, geese – always geese –, turkey vultures and great blue herons, which live together on the island in front of the house. Paul Auster, who never stopped writing about mourning, had passed away.

I had read, first, The Music of Chance. I don’t remember who put the book in my hands and said “this is weird”. Not the best pitch sales, especially since I was already wary of this author to whom the French had a passion (always be wary of Americans idealized by the French), but I had gone through the book in just a few days, and I was there stayed for a while afterwards.

All his novels were going to have the same effect on me: I was not inhabited by his books, it was me who inhabited them. A more or less long residence, but which always extended beyond simple reading.

For a few days, sometimes a week or two, I continued to wander through its beautiful labyrinths where nothing was what it seemed and yet everything was crystal clear.

He was also one of those rare authors who existed for me, very strongly, outside of their books. He was translating Mallarmé, this poet who is already difficult to understand when you are born French-speaking. He stood with Lou Reed and Sophie Calle. I could perfectly imagine his office, facing a window overlooking a tree and through which a slightly foggy day always peeks through. He wrote by hand, I think, but I always saw an old Remington sitting next to a half-full ashtray. I found him fantastically “fictionable”, perhaps because he had the head for the job, a magnificent main character, and a kid kodak side that is rarely found in great authors.

And then there was his wife. Siri Hustvedt, giant among giants, a monument of talent, intelligence, erudition and sensitivity, sublime marmorean figure who could very well have embodied Galadriel in the Lord of the Rings if Cate Blanchett had had better things to do. In my girlish dreams, when I stopped wanting to ride dragons and brandish swords in palaces of pure gold, I wished to be that queen, who would dazzle first with her smoldering storm gaze , to end up defeating everyone with his pen.

Together they embodied a very, very glamour of literary life, a way of being of writers which undoubtedly had little to do with their reality – but it is difficult to think of Paul Auster without blurring the border between reality and perception of reality.

And I realized, as I watched the great blue herons perch with astonishing delicacy on their nests, that I held on to this somewhat naive image of these two intellects forever magnetized. I loved that this couple existed in the world, I loved this fiction of them chatting in a house of red and chocolate hues, in an eternal October evening.

I suppose that’s what we mourn above all when an artist we love disappears, even more than his texts or his songs: the possibility of a world where his creativity pulses, a world which can be translated by his glance. That of Paul Auster, master of the absurd, champion of the megalopolis, revealed himself to be overwhelmingly tender in his memoirs, among the most evocative I have ever read.

I thought, Wednesday morning, of the little boy who was passionate about baseball, in love with women and fascinated by the cinema that he revealed in Winter Journal. To the man too, who wrote, at the opening of Report from the Interior: “In the beginning, everything was alive. » In the beginning, everything was alive.

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