1 May 2024

US author Paul Auster dies aged 77

11:02 pm on 1 May 2024
US writer Paul Auster in 2018.

US writer Paul Auster in 2018. Photo: JEFF PACHOUD

US author Paul Auster, who wrote the New York Trilogy mystery novels, has died at the age of 77.

Auster wrote more than 30 books across his career and gained cult status in the 1980s and 90s.

His novels were often existentialist stories about outsiders, and were particularly successful in Europe.

The writer died on Tuesday at his home in Brooklyn due to complications from lung cancer, his friend and fellow author Jacki Lyden confirmed.

In March 2023, Auster's wife, author Siri Hustvedt, announced he had been diagnosed with cancer.

The son of Jewish Polish immigrants, Auster grew up in Newark, New Jersey, later moving to New York to attend Columbia University.

After graduating, he spent four years in France, where he honed his craft as a writer.

The sudden death of his father prompted Auster to write 1982's The Invention of Solitude, a haunting reflection on father-son relationships, which became a recurring theme.

But his breakthrough came with The New York Trilogy, a philosophical twist on the detective genre centred on a shady quartet of private investigators named Blue, Brown, Black and White.

His subsequent novels included Timbuktu and existential capers Moon Palace, The Music of Chance and Leviathan.

Auster was praised for his sharp dialogue, and his books have been translated into more than 40 languages.

In addition, Auster wrote the screenplay for 1995's Smoke, a film about a Brooklyn tobacco shop, starring Harvey Keitel, which won the writer an Independent Spirit Award.

He also co-directed the follow-up, Blue in the Face, which starred Keitel again.

In 2017, Auster published 866-page novel 4321, which charted US society through the life of an everyman, Archie Ferguson.

The author was said to have considered it his masterwork, although it received mixed reviews from critics.

Last year, Auster published Bloodbath Nation along with his photographer son-in-law Spencer Ostrander, which focused on gun violence in America.

Auster's text was accompanied by Ostrander's black-and-white pictures from the sites of 30 mass shootings.

In recent years, Auster's own life was struck by tragedy, with his 10-month-old granddaughter Ruby dying after ingesting heroin and his son Daniel, the child's father, dying of an overdose 10 months later.

Prior to his death, Daniel had been found guilty of negligent homicide. Auster never publicly discussed their deaths.