‘In the Country of Last Things’

AUSTER, Paul. In the Country of Last Things. 1987.

‘This is the story of Anna Blume and her journey to find her lost brother, William, in the unnamed City. Like the City itself, however, it is a journey that is doomed, and so all that is left is Anna’s written account of what happened.’

Faber and Faber’s 2005 edition

Faber and Faber’s 2005 edition

A decade ago a friend joined me on a trip to the bookshop and recommended to buy something by Paul Auster. And I did. Only, I hadn’t opened it until this year. As the synopsis on the back cover says, this is a story of a hopeless enterprise in a hopeless place with little to no expectations of success.

From the very first page, the narrator describes the struggling life in the decaying City. At first, I was under the impression that it was an over-dramatic analysis of any city. As I read on and learned new facts, I realised it was the depiction of a specific post-apocalyptic City isolated from the rest of the world. It didn’t look like the happy-ending type of books—and I loved that.

A strong point of the book is that Auster keeps it real—within the fiction—and doesn’t try to explain everything. The reader never gets to know what happened to the City to start with or what the fate of different characters is after they separate from the main character, or even Anna’s own future. The novel is the letter she wrote and it can only tell what she knew and experienced until the moment she wrote the last line.

It also contains lots of food for thought. Isolated post-apocalyptic cities where people are trapped and lead miserable lives while the rest of the uncaring world remains the same are not that fictional after all.

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