‘Leviathan’ by Paul Auster
thus starts the gripping tale of Benjamin Sachs. There are books that make you cry, ones that make you smile and sometimes laugh, some make you think and a few that refuse to leave your mind. Then there are those rare ones that leave you with a haunting , disturbing feeling that is beyond any definition. And this is one of those rare ones.
As soon as author Paul Aaron catches the news item in The New York Times, he is absolutely certain about the identity of the dead man. It is confirmed once the FBI reaches him after finding a piece of paper with his name and number from the explosion site. Paul denies any knowledge about who the man could be. He knows he is just buying some time, but for him , however small that time is, he has something important to do before the man’s identity is out in the open.
“It’s not that I want to defend what he did, but since he is no longer in a position to defend himself, the least I can do is explain who he was and give the true story of how he happened to be on that road in northern Wisconsin.”
What follows is a brilliant narration of Paul’s friendship with Sachs. From the moment they meet in a deserted bar, buying drinks for each other till both of them run out of money, there is an instant bond between the two writers. While Aaron is at the beginning of his literary career, Sachs already has a published novel to his credit, one that he wrote while in prison. He is also a well known author of regular articles in varied publications. The book takes you through the lives of both of them and their families. As Paul’s life and career becomes stable, we find Sachs’ life getting more and more troubled. He starts questioning his existence, he feels guilty about his wife’s love for him, in fact he even feels guilty about being alive. This leads him to an attempt on his own life. And this proves to be a crucial turning point of his life.
The three female characters that Auster introduces plays a pivotal role in Sach’s life – his wife Fanny of twenty years, the eccentric Maria Turner whom he considers his friend and the seductive Lillian Stern. It is as though they are destined to come into his life and turn his life to a different direction at each juncture till it ends up in pieces on a cold morning by a roadside.
To call it a story would be sacrilege. It is the pouring out of a bleeding heart, a futile attempt to make some sense out of the hopelessness that Aaron feels when he thinks of his friend. The more you get engrossed in the life of Benjamin Sachs, the more difficult it is to believe that this is a work of fiction. The characters are deeply etched with all the flaws and weaknesses that a normal or even a slightly abnormal human being could have. Aaron’s love for his friend seeps into you as well and you end up feeling as though you know Sachs as much as Aaron did. Some might find the narrative style too descriptive, but I felt that was the real strength of the book. This is one book that will really leave you shaken for some time and even question some of the things that you believe in.
Amit, I can’t thank you enough for this beautiful gift.
Verdict : If you are looking for the normal path a plot would take with a clever play of dialogues, please turn away immediately. But, if you are someone who loves a brilliant piece of narration and characters that are so strongly developed that you end up feeling like someone close to them, this is pure gold.