``Writing is no longer an act of free will for me, it's a matter of survival,'' declares Auster in this collection, which serves as a kind of literary autobiography. Best known for his novels ( Leviathan ), Auster describes in interviews how he began his literary career as a translator of poetry who eventually progressed to prose. The essays and prefaces are about ``writers I felt a need to respond to''--including the well-known (Kafka), the less-known (Norwegian novelist Knut Hamsun and French poet Paul Celan) and the obscure (American poets Charles Reznikoff and Laura Riding). Auster's interest in the French language emerges in his substantial essay on 20th-century French poetry and in his exploration of the work of Louis Wolfson, an American schizophrenic who wrote in French because he found English ``intolerably painful.'' The literary subjects discussed here may be out of the mainstream, but Auster is an erudite and engaged guide. (Dec.)
Reviewed on: 01/01/1992 Release date: 01/01/1992 Genre: Fiction
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