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Extended Audio Sample The Book of Illusions, by Paul Auster Click for printable size audiobook cover
3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (8,858 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Paul Auster Narrator: Paul Auster Publisher: HarperCollins Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: August 2004 ISBN: 9780060784362
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After losing his wife and two young sons in an airplane crash, professor David Zimmer spends his waking hours in a blur of alcoholic grief and self-pity. Then, watching television one night, he sees a clip from a lost film by the silent comedian Hector Mann. Zimmer soon finds himself embarking on a journey around the world to study the works of this mysterious figure, who vanished from sight in 1929.

Presumed dead for sixty years, Hector Mann was a comic genius who had flashed briefly across American movie screens, tantalizing the public with the promise of a brilliant future. Then, just as the silent era came to an end, he walked out of his house one January morning and was never heard from again.

Zimmer's research leads him to write the first full-length study of Hector's films. Upon publication the following year, a letter turns up bearing a return address from New Mexico -- supposedly written by Hector's wife. "Hector has read your book and would like to meet you. Are you interested in paying us a visit?" Is the letter a hoax, or is Hector Mann still alive? Torn between doubt and belief, Zimmer hesitates, until one night a strange woman appears on his doorstep and makes the decision from him, changing his life forever.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “Mr. Auster’s elegant, finely calibrated Book of Illusions is a haunting feat of intellectual gamesmanship.” 

    New York Times

  • “A nearly flawless work…Auster will be remembered as one of the great writers of our time.”

    San Francisco Chronicle

  • “Auster [is] a master of narrative sleight-of-hand and cerebral formalism…Moving.” 

    New Yorker

  • “This noirish, layered tale will keep you guessing to the very end.” 

    Time Out New York

  • Book of Illusions brings together his gift for fluid, evocative prose and his ongoing fascination with the aesthetics of film to produce a dark, moving meditation on the power—and fragility—of art.” 

    Barnes & Noble, editorial review

  • “As in previous novels, Auster here makes the unbelievable completely credible, and his overall themes are very much of a piece with those of earlier works: the ‘mutinous unpredictability of matter’ and the way storytellers shape and organize unpredictability. A darker and more somber mood shadows this book; Mann and Zimmer both are tragic figures—even melodramatic—and their stories are compelling. Auster is a novelist of ideas who hasn’t forgotten that his first duty is to tell a good story.” 

    Publishers Weekly

  • “Oh, what a tangled web Paul Auster weaves in this mesmerizing tale of death and resurrection and love…Paul Auster’s narration of his own book, which is mostly told in the first person, is a part of the story’s fascination…He reads skillfully, using pauses and intonation to good effect—and his diction is perfect. To press the play button is to succumb.” 

    AudioFile

  • “This ‘book of illusions’ shows how those many inner lives intertwine and diverge, setting off an array of possibilities…Much of Auster’s work has already probed the unpredictability of faith, and his fans are also familiar with heroes trapped in the ‘labyrinth of memories’ and the story-within-the-story writing technique. But Auster never repeats himself, instead attacking familiar territory from a new angle to craft tales of profound dimension. Essential.”

    Library Journal

  • “Auster’s tenth novel is one of his finest: an elegant meditation on the question of whether an artist or his public ‘owns’ the work he creates, and a thickly plotted succession of interlocking mysteries reminiscent of his highly praised New York Trilogy…A gripping and immensely satisfying novel.”

    Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

  • Winner of the AudioFile Earphones Award
  • One of the 2002 New York Times Book Review 100 Notable Books for Fiction

Listener Opinions

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Liz | 2/9/2014

    " Paul Auster's books are full of coincidence and somehow both dissecting and intersecting lives. and no joke, just as i was starring all his books on this site, i heard from the tv in the other room "tonight we'll be interviewing Paul Auster, author and filmmaker..." coincidence? "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Gaspar | 2/5/2014

    " This is one of Auster's better books in my opinion, but perhaps I have become a little fatigued with what I feel is sort of a "one trick pony" style of writing. I almost feel as if I know what is going to happen (both for the more predictable parts AND the less predictable ones). Also, I don't know what to make of this, but I find that the story within the story is much better than the main text itself (I don't know if that is a good or bad thing). All in all, I like Auster and I think that this book is perhaps even more appealing to somebody who is not very familiar with him. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Zack | 1/26/2014

    " Fascinating book, crappy title. The premise of the book is really creative--I have no clue how Auster came up with it. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Sharon Stockwell | 12/29/2013

    " Good but could not stay with it for long? It is definitely worth a read. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Rachel | 12/16/2013

    " One of the most accessible and Irvingesque book of Auster's. I am doing a re-read and am once again thrilled my memory is so poor. Future pages are just peeking out, winking at me and waiting for me to remember or read. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Raphael Paulian | 12/16/2013

    " Auster is excellent, as usual. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Susan Kavanagh | 12/16/2013

    " One of those times when I was glad I had not read the many mixed reviews on Paul Auster's wonderful novel. A friend handed it to me and said, "This is a really good book." He was right. A fine stylist delivers a fascinating, complex story. I loved the book and the ending. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Maria | 12/6/2013

    " I love it but found its end very dissappointing. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Charlotte | 11/16/2013

    " Not one off my favourite Paul Auster books, but it still has his unique perspective. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Cristina | 11/5/2013

    " Amazing style! Wonderful story...The descriptions keep you wanting for more and the story shifts again and again, just like a whirlwind towards the essence... "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Jenny | 5/9/2013

    " i remember reading this in a bathtub on a cruise to europe. that memory places me directly into the novel; an oddly appropriate location, for some reason. if you love funhouse mirrors, endless loops, and lynch-ian twists and turns, (which i normally don't, mind you) you'd be wise to pick this up. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Nate | 4/27/2013

    " really sad, but really good. not as strange as his early stuff, but still has a nice labyrinthine (is that a word?) plot. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Martha | 1/31/2013

    " This was my introduction to Paul Auster and it is awesome. Also, still my favorite of his books. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Lauren | 11/17/2012

    " It is possible to just simply be a good writer without being FANTASTIC in some way. This book was just soundly good, though not extraordinary. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Stephanie Boggs | 10/10/2012

    " This was the first of Auster's books that I read and I loved every second of it. I was completely swept away by the story. I decided he was my favorite author. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 VeganMedusa | 9/20/2012

    " This book makes me want to go and watch silent films. I loved all the characters' stories and the stories within stories - Hector's films. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Alfredo Mordezki | 7/10/2012

    " I probably reached the top of my devotion to Auster after finishing it. What came later was a bit "more of the same" and seemed to be already told in a better way before. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Diana Georgina | 2/16/2012

    " It was slow to gain my interest...but it got me there, then it a good read. Hated the ending. Auster does a fine job of exploring human impulses. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Kit Fox | 8/4/2011

    " The section that recounts the silent actor's past was amazing. The rest was pretty good, but not as great as. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Tom | 5/18/2011

    " One of my favorite books ever. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Cynthia | 4/18/2011

    " Dark story of an author writing about a silent film star. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Mark | 4/18/2011

    "
    Such a wonderfully rich and powerful tale. My favourite of Auster's work, so far. Although there are a few gaps I need to fill. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Flora | 4/2/2011

    " Auster's narrator begins to come to terms with a tragic loss when he becomes absorbed in the mystery of a silent film star who disappeared at the height of his career. What is art? Who is it for? Who decides? "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Gerard | 3/21/2011

    " My first one... and I was blown away. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Swanbender2001 | 2/15/2011

    " "This is a book of fragments, a compilation of sorrows and half-remembered dreams..."
    I found Auster's writing to be very comforting and thought-provoking and I look forward to reading more by him. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Elena | 1/26/2011

    " Beautifully written. It shook me to the core at some points. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Tom | 1/26/2011

    " Odd story of man obsessed with a silent film star from the past. But well written. "

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