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What were Paul Auster’s last years like?

In April 2022, Paul Auster He received news that hit him hard. Deep in your bowels, where the intimate zone of affection rests. His eldest son, Daniel, whom he did not see, He died after a drug overdose at the age of 44.. According to the New York Post: “The overdose is believed to have been accidental because he still had drugs and the dosage was similar to what he would normally take.”

The death of Daniel Auster – the result of the writer’s first marriage to the author Lydia Davis– It occurred at a time when the man was out on bail and was facing charges of involuntary manslaughter, criminally negligent homicide, and endangering the welfare of a child in the death of her 10-month-old daughter, Ruby, on Nov. 1, 2021. A subsequent autopsy concluded that little Ruby died of an overdose of fentanyl and heroin, authorities said. Daniel Auster tried to save her by giving her Narcanthe treatment usually resorted to when there is an opioid overdose, but it was useless.

Daniel and Paul Auster in the past.

Auster Jr. had a troubled life, all as a result of drug consumption, which he became involved in as a teenager. Already at the age of 18 he began to frequent bars and dealers of illicit substances. When the arrest of his son became known, Paul Auster was contacted by the New York Times, but he declined to comment. And until the moment of his death, he never referred to the subject.

Even more, consulted by this means in November 2022, on a visit to Chile, about what happened and how her husband, wife, Siri Hustvedt declined to comment. The thing is that secrecy has always marked the couple of writers.

But in December of that year, another piece of news had an impact on him. Paul Auster was diagnosed with cancer. Over time, it would only be known that it was lung cancer. The information was reserved for a time, and only in March 2023 It was Hustvedt herself who made her known: “I’ve been away from Instagram for a while. Because My husband was diagnosed with cancer in December. (of 2022) after having been sick for several months beforehand.”

On the occasion, the author of Blindfolded provided other information. “He is being bombarded with chemotherapy and immunotherapy,” at Memorial Sloan Kettering in New York, a medical center specializing in cancer treatment. Hustvedt did also comment that his life had changed a lot, and that he was living in a place called Cancerland. “Many people have crossed their borders, either because they are or have been sick or love someone, a parent, child, spouse or friend who has or has had cancer. Cancer is different for each person who has it. All human bodies are equal and no two are alike.”

From time to time, Hustvedt updated her husband’s health status. For example, him August 30, 2023, Hustvedt wrote something he titled “Another Newsletter from Cancerland.” Without going into the medical details, she rather commented on how they have been carrying out a tortuous process of treatments and hospital visits. Humanizing something that at times seems to take away everything you believe in.

“It is a big country, even bigger than I thought. There are many middle-aged and elderly people here, and we know there are children, but we don’t see them because they are cared for in separate places. My husband and I have seen many young people sitting with us in waiting rooms. Their wrinkle-free faces and vigorous bodies often reveal no signs of illness. Sometimes a nice cap covers their baldness, the only sign that they are sick.”

Since cancer, Auster limited his public appearances. But she didn’t stop publishing. In the southern summer of 2023, returned to the shop windows with A country bathed in blood (Seix Barral), and which also arrived in Chile in the Spanish language. In the volume he addressed the relationship that has historically united his compatriots with weapons and how that has led to a health crisis, with millions of victims claimed in the last 50 years. Not only did he draw on his own biography, which includes a grandfather shot dead by his own grandmother; He also focused on the founding and contemporary history of the United States, the diffuse motivations of the murderers who have carried out some of the most devastating shootings, the policies adopted by authorities to mitigate the deadly consequences behind the use of weapons and data.

Speaking to The Guardian, Auster commented that he hoped his book would be a contribution to the endless debate that takes place in his country about gun ownership., and that has meant massacres and shootings, for example at the high school in Columbine, Colorado, in 1999. “(With this book I hope) that it starts a discussion that we really haven’t had in the United States about how to confront this monstrous situation that we have built for ourselves. I see it as a national project that I’m willing to go forward and be a missionary for, and I’m looking forward to seeing what kind of effect it will have. Hopefully it will also be instructive for people outside the US, because a lot of my British and European friends are completely lost when it comes to trying to understand American gun violence. So I tried to explain the story behind it.”

And in November 2023, Auster published what turned out to be his last book in life, the novel Baumgartner, and which in Chile was available since the summer of 2024 via Seix Barral. This is an exercise that is very close to autofiction. The protagonist -Baumgartner- is a septuagenarian American author who makes a series of recollections about his life, which includes his marriage to a poet from his country (in clear allusion to his wife, the writer Siri Hustvedt).

Unlike the rest of his work, this volume has a more evocative tone. At least that’s how the Spanish morning newspaper reports it. The country. “It surprises with its emotional depth and the simplicity of its narrative depth. It is as if it contained, distilled, everything that the author incorporated over the years into his celebrated novel corpus. After playing with all the registers within the reach of fiction, exploring its limits, Baumgartner distills five decades of narrative wisdom.”

“Paul Auster’s latest novel is a volume of barely 200 pages that contains subtle echoes of many of his previous stories, mimicking the dance of death performed in Journeys through the Scriptorium (2006), a novel in which the writer said goodbye to the ghosts of literary creation that had been his characters.”

Paul Auster, writer.  Photography by Edu Bayer.
Paul Auster, writer. Photography by Edu Bayer.

On March 12, 2024, Siri Hustvedt updated her husband’s health statusand had hopeful words. “Today I spoke with him and for the first time since he started his treatment he is working on something,” and added something revealing: “He is stable at the moment. It has been a year full of emergencies, not so much because of the cancer itself, but because of the treatments. Living with someone who suffers from a lethal disease changes your life.” He also hinted that Auster was apparently on the right track in his recovery. “We don’t know what the future holds, without the treatment we wouldn’t have Paul today.”

However, the treatment was not enough and Auster died this Tuesday, April 30. In one of his last interviews, with La Nación, from Argentina, he pointed out something that sounds like a farewell: “I hate the word discipline, it makes me think about things that one doesn’t want to do, and I do want to do what I do. I wake up and have the most boring day you can imagine: orange juice, tea, newspapers and work. I work all day, I take a break in the middle, I eat a sandwich at noon and at four or five I stop. So I’m so tired! My brain is fried, and my body feels like it ran a marathon. And after that day, there are times when I only produce one page, but it brings out everything I have inside. I am very tired, really.”

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