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Leviathan by Paul Auster

Leviathan (original 1992; edition 2005)

by Paul Auster

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2,156383,017 (3.82)41
Authors:Paul Auster
Info:Rowohlt Tb. (2005), Edition: 7., Aufl., Taschenbuch, 319 pages
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Leviathan by Paul Auster (1992)

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Am I crazy or does it seem when you are reading a Paul Auster novel and you look down and realize you only have 10 pages or so left, that the novel doesn't seem like it should be ending. It feels right in the middle of things and then, well, book's done. Another fine outing from Mr. Auster. ( )
  BooksForDinner | Jan 26, 2016 |
As, Peter Aaron, reads in a newspaper that someone has blown himself up in his car, he realizes that it concerns his friend Benjamin Sachs. He knows that the FBI will in the end get him and starts to write the story of this friend compulsorily.
They met each other on a lectors afternoon. As it was snowing, it had been cancelled, although both went to the meeting. Ben is a known writer, with a novel on the statue of liberty. Peter still has to find his way. They become close friends.
Ben is an idealist. He wants to change the world by writing essays, articles, etc. A twist of fate changes his destiny; he is lost in the woods, gets picked up by a guy, the guy is killed and he kills the murderer. He finds a huge quantity of money in the trunk of the murderers car. Ben runs away.He decides to blow up all the replica statues of liberty that are a bit everywhere in the US, as a kind of wake -up call for the americans that have lost their traditional values. ( )
  albertkep | Jan 25, 2014 |
This is, by most people's account, a minor novel of Auster's, and so it may be an especially go one to raise the question of what drives the work, as opposed to what happens when the writing succeeds in some more specific way. This book has a kind of unremitting literalism in its narrative. In a nearly blank, neutral voice, the narrator tells us dozens of dates, places, and names; in part that's justified by the notion that this is a book written at speed in order to provide legal evidence about one of the narrator's friends. But aside from that, the studiously neutral tone is increasingly difficult to understand. Auster barely uses adjectives; he doesn't pause to pick the write phrase, or find the right image; his writing is utilitarian and evidential, even when the subject is sex, love, murder, or jealousy.

After fifty pages or so I finally realized what that was all about: Auster is driven, in this book at least, with an overpowering desire to keep my attention, to be the one whose stories I want to hear. It's a kind of underlying urge to write, independent of his subject matter. It pushes so hard on his imagination that it even prevents him from pausing long enough to construct metaphors, analogies, figures of speech, or other tropes that could make the writing interesting in itself. A typical example of a trope is this:

"But a new element was added to the already unstable mixture of the past twenty-four hours, and it wound up producing a deadly compound, a beakerful of acid that hissed forth its dangers in a billowing profusion of smoke."

This passage, like others involving figures of speech, is a rare interruption in a generally prose that's generally free of metaphor, and it's awkward: first the "element" is a "compound," then it's a container of acid. The acid "hisses forth" (an overdone image, and a dramatic and clichéd qualifier), and then the "hiss" becomes "smoke." The sentence is confused and hard to picture; it's as if Auster were writing at speed, and couldn't be bothered to stop and tune up his images.

That sense of the rush to write also comes out in passages that seem never to have been re-read:

"Iris was just twenty-four back then, a dazzling blond presence, six feet tall with an exquisite Scandinavian face and and the deepest, merriest blue eyes t be found between heaven and hell."

It's not hard to find yourself writing boilerplate text, but even a single editing session should reveal and correct drivel like this.

In "Leviathan" it's as if the psychology, politics, characters, style, and mood of the novel are all arbitrary, and what matters is writing continuously, adding new plot elements with every sentence, propelling the story onward. I began to feel this (his intense desire to hold my attention no matter what the subject might be) as a kind of unslakable desire to compel attention, and in that way the book began to be more and more what it almost is: a book about an ambitious author and his struggle to write.

Auster is known for metafiction, and for writing about writing, and those devices might be the best expressions of what really matters to him--by which I don't mean participation in postmodernism and its possibilities, but his own ambition to keep a reader's undivided attention. I hope this observation can't be generalized across metafiction or literary postmodernism--that is, I hope many more things are at stake in self-referential fiction. It's often said that Auster practices a literary fiction version of popular crime fiction, blending metafiction with complex narratives. I imagine people generally mean that his work is an interesting, literary variation on the sorts of tight, complex narratives typical of crime fiction. But I wonder if it might not be better to say he uses devices of postmodernism in order todo what popular trade press authors do--write what Naipaul disparagingly called "puzzles." I can't imagine a reason for reading another of his books. ( )
1 vote JimElkins | Nov 23, 2013 |
For me the tale did not merit the lengthy narrative, the book within the book seemed contrived and interfered with the tension. I felt it was too much blathering and was in need of editing. Perhaps it's a case of not being able to latch on to either of the main male characters as sympathetic or interesting. The female protagonists started out as more captivating particularly since I'd seen museum exhibits of Sophie Calle and immediately recognized her in Maria but they were reduced to pretty much sexual objects as the tale continued. Is the narrator Peter Aaron the novelist Paul Auster and is it important to the story? The book talks a great deal about identity and stories and whether Aaron's recreation of Sachs' life is true and how far does truth go when told by another in a memoir. Did Sachs really die in Wisconsin? Is Aaron a reliable reporter of his friend's motivations and life? Is Auster? Do I need to read Hobbes Leviathan to find out? Other Auster books I liked better were Moon Palace, City of Glass.
Favorite quote: Books are born out of ignorance and if they go on living after they are written, it's only to the degree that they cannot be understood. (Auster. Leviathan, p. 40) ( )
  featherbooks | Apr 30, 2013 |
I was somewhat disappointed in this novel. Not my favorite by Auster. A man retrospectively analyzes the decline of his friend, whose demise is explosive, literally. ( )
  hemlokgang | Apr 9, 2013 |
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Every actual state is corrupt.

Ralph Waldo Emerson
for Don DeLillo
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Vor sechs Tagen hat sich im nördlichen Wisconsin ein Mann am Rand einer Strasse in die Luft gesprengt.
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Book description
"Six days ago, a man blew himself up by the side of a road in northern Wisconsin..." So begins the story told by Peter Aaron about his best friend, Benjamin Sachs. Sachs had a marriage Aaron envied, an intelligence he admired, a world he shared. And then suddenly, after a near-fatal fall that might or might not have been intentional, Sachs disappeared. Now Aaron must piece together the life that led to Sachs's death. His sole aim is to tell the truth and preserve it, before those who are investigationg the case invent an account of their own.

A provocative novel about friendship and betrayal, sexual desire and estrangement--about the unpredictable intrusions of violence in the everday. Leviathan reveals Paul Auster at his prime, confecting worlds of tremendous complication and bizarre plausibility. It is a daring and immensely moving story by an author whom The Times Literary Supplement has called "one of America's most spectacularly inventive writers."
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Leviathan begins when a woman finds an address book and steals a new identity. Or it begins with a sudden, violent death. Or it begins as Peter Aaron sits down to tell the story of his best friend, Benjamin Sachs - to take us, through a life, to the road in rural Wisconsin where Sachs has accidentally blown himself up. Aaron's sole aim is to tell the truth and preserve it, before those who are investigating the case invent a story of their own. Aaron's clues are the small mysteries of any lifetime. Sachs had a marriage Aaron envied, an intelligence he admired, a circle of friends he shared. And then suddenly, after a near-fatal fall that might or might not have been intentional, Sachs disappears. For a while, Aaron's only link to him is through Maria Turner, an artist, and the one witness to Sachs's balcony plunge. Periodically, Sachs reappears, talks manically, and vanishes again - in pursuit of mercy or salvation, in thrall to an idea. Since the first book in his brilliant and acclaimed "New York Trilogy," Paul Auster's "rare combination of talent, scope, and audacity" (The New Republic) has given us worlds in which chance and destiny collide, in which solitary protagonists take us on mysterious, soul-wrenching journeys unparalleled in contemporary fiction. His seventh novel is about friendship and betrayal, sexual desire and estrangement, and the unpredictable intrusions of violence in the everyday. Rooted in American mythology and archetype, Leviathan is both timeless and resolutely about this moment. It is a daring and immensely moving story by "one of America's most spectacularly inventive writers" (The Times Literary Supplement).… (more)

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