This remarkable novel is a typical Austerian opus on American intellectual and cultural life ,yet the enigmatic significance of the story evades the hapless reader: the first part dealing with the life and sorrows of narrator David Zimmer is fascinating enough , the second part which tackles the unbelievable adventures of Hector Mann, the hidden and real hero of the novel, is absolutely too much .We are led to believe in the Hollywood adventures of a crook and insufferable clown, a character which often introduced in Auster's novels and viewed by critics as "absurdist ", but the grotesque here turns out to be simply tiresome. Because, I insist , this novel starts and means to be realistic and impart an element of tragedy. But this writer , curiously, does not allow himself to be tragic.
Yes, the loss of Identity of the narrator and his grief at the death of his family are a wonderful novelistic material; yes , failure and inability to survive are further quality to keep us riveted because we expect either a Dostoïevskian disaster or a form of Rothian redemption. The human reader is simple enough to decipher but he is not stupid and definitely not a catapult to throw away in space with the hope of keeping him reading.
The exploits of Hector Mann,a silent film actor once famous, are the subject of the narrator's book , are cascading through the rest of the novel: it is mind blowing . Hector disappeared after the suspect death of his first wife, changed identity a dozen times, had a million jobs, became rich , remarried an insane artist genre Georgia' O Keefe in New Mexico where he made new movies in secret , is now dying etc…. Naturally the story ends up tragically, murder and a lot of sex with a woman also writing a book on Hector are heaped up , and all traces of Hector's life and works disappear in a bon fire as if nothing ever happened .This is indeed the book of illusions : Auster is a well known metaphysician, no question about it.The book is finally, immensely entertaining and imaginative.
Yet, this novel is disappointing , and we are faced with a work of fiction which degenerates in a rather cheap thriller, gorged with stupendous subplots , which ruins the beauty and powerful emotions inherent to the beginning of story. It is indeed difficult to equal the greatness of " Leviathan " or "Moon Palace" and Auster not only writes a great deal , but makes movies, delivers lectures and is present in multiple cultural events . He has become an undisputed star.