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May 20, 2024

In The Country of Last Things: Book Review

By Wendy Robards

In the Country of Last Things, by Paul Auster.

You would think that sooner or later it would all come to an end. Things fall apart and vanish, and nothing new is made. People die, and babies refuse to be born. In all the years I have been here, I can't remember seeing a single newborn child. And yet, there are always new people to replace the ones who have vanished. -From In the Country of Last Things, page 7-

Anna Blume arrives in an unnamed city to search for her brother -- a journalist who has vanished without a trace. The city is one of unspeakable destruction and horror, where dead people lie in the street (either by their own hand, or from hired assassins, or from starvation or violence). Things disappear daily along with memories. To survive, Anna becomes an object scavenger, gathering up things from the past to sell for food and shelter. Who and what can survive in this bleak and desolate city?

Paul Auster's novel is written from Anna's point of view -- and presented in a letter she writes to someone in her past. For Anna, there is no going back "home."

In spite of what you would suppose, the facts are not reversible. Just because you are able to get in, that does not mean you will be able to get out. Entrances do not become exits, and there is nothing to guarantee that the door you walked through a moment ago will still be there when you turn around to look for it again. That is how it works in the city. Every time you think you know the answer to a question, you discover that the question makes no sense. - From In The Country of Last Things, page 85-

Unable to go back, and uncertain about going forward, the reader learns how Anna survives and what she finds in a place where everything seems to be lost.

The novel is not particularly hopeful -- the characters not only lose the past, but also their faith.

"I don't believe in God anymore, if that's what you mean," I said. "I gave all that up when I was a little girl."
"It's difficult not to," the Rabbi said. "When you consider the evidence, there's a good reason why so many think as you do."
"You're not going to tell me that you believe in God," I said.
"We talk to him. But whether or not he hears us is another matter."
-From In the Country of Last Things, page 96-

The novel is well written and I found myself turning the pages seeking the same answers that Anna seeks. Auster offers a glimmer of promise -- but ultimately, I finished the book with a feeling of disappointment.

Catch all of Wendy Robard's reviews and her quilting finesse in her fabulous blog, "Caribousmom".


Article © Wendy Robards. All rights reserved.
Published on 2014-09-01
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