The Invention of Solitude by Paul Auster

– In searching out the truth, be ready for the unexpected, for it is difficult to find and puzzling when you find out. Heraclitus

– It was a life that suited him, and I can see why he went back to it after his marriage broke up. For a man who finds life tolerable only by staying on the surface of himself, it is natural to be satisfied with offering no more than this surface to others. There are few demands to be met, and no commitment is required. Marriage, on the other hand, closes the door. Your existence is confined to a narrow space in which you are constantly forced to reveal yourself – and therefore, constantly obliged to look into yourself, to examine your own depths. When the door is open there is never any problem: you can always escape. You can avoid unwanted confrontations, either with yourself or with another, simply by walking away.

– Slowly, I am coming to understand the absurdity of the task I have set for myself, I have a sense of trying to go somewhere, as if I knew what I wanted to say, but the farther I go the more certain I am that the path towards my object does not exist. I have to invent the road with each step, and this means that I can never be sure of where I am. A feeling of moving around in circles, of perpetual back-tracking, of going off in many directions at once. And even if I do manage to make some progress, I am not at all convinced that it will take me to where I think I am going. Just because you wander in the desert, it odes not mean there is a promised land.

– Marx: If money is the bond binding me to human life, binding society to me, binding me and nature and man, is not money the bond of all bonds? Can it not dissolve and bind all ties? Is it not therefore, the universal agent of separation?

– Wallace Stevens in Opus Posthumous, ‘ In the presence of extraordinary reality, consciousness takes the place of imagination.’

– He notes, with a certain fascination, that Anne Frank’s birthday is the same as his son’s. June twelfth. Under the sign of the Gemini. An image of the twins. A world in which everything is double, in which the same thing always happens twice. Memory: the space in which a thing happens for the second time.

– Memory as a room, as a body, as a skull, as a skull that encloses the room in which the body sits. As in the image: ‘a man sat alone in his room.’

‘ The power of memory is prodigious,’ observed Saint Augustine. ‘It is a vast, immeasurable sanctuary. Who can plumb its depths? And yet it is a faculty of my soul. Although it is part of my nature, I cannot understand all that I am. This means, then, that the mind is too narrow to contain itself entirely. But where is the part of it which it does not itself contain? Is it somewhere outside itself and not within it? How, then, can ti be part of it, if it is not contained in it?

– Holderlin: To Zimmer: The lines of life are various as roads or as/The limits of the mountains are, and what we are/Down here, in harmonies, in recompense,/In peace forever, a god will finish there.

– As Jerome commented on the Book of Jonah, glossing the passage that tells of Jonah in the belly of the whale: ‘You will note that where you would think should be the end of Jonah, there was his safety.’

– ‘The image of man has eyes,’ wrote Holderlin, during the first year of his life in that room, ‘whereas the moon has light. King Oedipus has an eye too many perhaps. The sufferings of this man, they seem indescribable, unspeakable, inexpressible. If the drama represents something like this, that is why. But what comes over me as I think of you now? Like brooks the end of something sweeps me away, which expands like Asia. Of course, this affliction, Oedipus has it too. Of course, that is why. Did Hercules suffer too? Indeed…For to fight with God, like hercules, that is an affliction. And immortality amidst the envy of this life, to share in that, is an affliction too. But this is also an affliction, when a man is covered with freckles, to be wholly covered with many a spot! The beautiful sun does that: for it rears up all things. It leads young men along their course with the allurements of its beams as though with roses. The afflictions that Oedipus bore seem like this, as when a poor man complains there is something he lacks. Son of Laios, poor stranger in Greece! Life is death, and death is a kind of life.’

– Emily Dickinson: the soul could be content with its own society, but consciousness is captivity as well as liberty.

– Yes, it is possible that we do not grow up, that even as we grow old, we remain the children we always were. We remember ourselves as we were then, and we feel ourselves to be the same. We made ourselves into what we are now then, and we remain what we were, in spite of the years. We do not change for ourselves. Time makes us grow old, but we do not change.


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