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Travels in the Scriptorium

Travels in the Scriptorium

Written by Paul Auster

Narrated by Dick Hill


Travels in the Scriptorium

Written by Paul Auster

Narrated by Dick Hill

ratings:
3.5/5 (33 ratings)
Length:
4 hours
Publisher:
Released:
Feb 20, 2007
ISBN:
9781400173747
Format:
Audiobook

Description

An old man awakens, disoriented, in an unfamiliar chamber. With no memory of who he is or how he has arrived there, he pores over the relics on the desk, examining the circumstances of his confinement and searching his own hazy mind for clues.



Determining that he is locked in, the man-identified only as Mr. Blank-begins reading a manuscript he finds on the desk, the story of another prisoner, set in an alternate world the man doesn't recognize. Nevertheless, the pages seem to have been left for him, along with a haunting set of photographs. As the day passes, various characters call on the man in his cell-vaguely familiar people, some who seem to resent him for crimes he can't remember-and each brings frustrating hints of his identity and his past. All the while an overhead camera clicks and clicks, recording his movements, and a microphone records every sound in the room. Someone is watching.



Both chilling and poignant, Travels in the Scriptorium is vintage Paul Auster: mysterious texts, fluid identities, a hidden past, and, somewhere, an obscure tormentor. And yet, as we discover during one day in the life of Mr. Blank, his world is not so different from our own.
Publisher:
Released:
Feb 20, 2007
ISBN:
9781400173747
Format:
Audiobook


About the author

Paul Auster is the bestselling author of 4 3 2 1, Sunset Park, Invisible, The Book of Illusions, and the New York Trilogy, among many other works. In 2006 he was awarded the Prince of Asturias Prize for Literature. Among his other honors are the Prix Médicis étranger for Leviathan, the Independent Spirit Award for the screenplay of Smoke, and the Premio Napoli for Sunset Park. In 2012, he was the first recipient of the NYC Literary Honors in the category of fiction. He has also been a finalist for the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award (The Book of Illusions), the PEN/Faulkner Award (The Music of Chance), the Edgar Award (City of Glass), and the Man Booker Prize (4 3 2 1). He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and a Commandeur de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres. His work has been translated into more than forty languages. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.


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3.4
33 ratings / 35 Reviews
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Reader reviews

  • (5/5)
    I admit it. I've spent more time in the psych ward than the average bear. It was nothing like the setting of this book, and yet, I feel that is where Travels in the Scriptorium takes place. I highly suggest you not read this book until you've read all of Auster's works that came before it. In fact, I am reading all of his works in the order of publication and it is only for that reason that I caught some of the details and there were others that were so close to being in my grasp that I almost want read the whole of the collection again when I am done!
  • (1/5)
    This thing was bizarre just for the sake of being bizarre. The long description of the old man getting a hand job from his nurse? Yuck. The ridiculous descriptions of the cameras and recording devices and monitoring? Not interesting enough to be a spy novel, too ridiculous to be anything else.
  • (4/5)
    This Auster guy writes some real page turners. Do i need to read this again. Still i haven't got over the experience of listening to his book Lost Illusions.
  • (4/5)
    This is a tricky book to talk about for those who haven't read it. On the one hand, I think it's the sort of thing where it's probably best if you go into it knowing as little about it as possible. On the other hand, I think it's also the sort of thing where if you approach it with the wrong expectations, the result might be really frustrating. So, well, I'll say this: it opens with an old man sitting in a white room without knowing where he is or how he got there or even quite who he is. And I'll also say that if, based on that, you're expecting a plot or a puzzle to solve, you're likely to be disappointed. Because what this book is doing is something much more... abstract.I'll also say that the conceit, which I twigged to gratifyingly early on, is one that appealed to me, and that in the end the whole thing worked for me, in its own strange way. Whether it should have worked quite that well, I'm not at all sure. As soon as I finished it, I started thinking back on specific details, wondering exactly what they might mean or if they actually meant anything at all.Basically, it's an odd little literary experiment of a book, but an interesting and I think a worthwhile one. And it's short enough that it can (and probably should) be read in one sitting.
  • (4/5)
    This is my first Paul Auster book and I really love his writing. This book caught my attention right away.There was such a mystery surrounding it that I wanted to finish it all in one sitting. Right towards the end of the book, maybe the second to last part, I almost thought I was going to hate it. So close to the end and so much unexplained. Surprisingly, it ended very well and actually the surprise was not entirely unexpected... I was very close to guessing the mystery and didn't know it. I'm glad I came across this while browsing in the library and can't wait to read more of his books.
  • (3/5)
    A Twilight-Zone-type story, as if told by MC Escher. The mystery: who is the old man confined in this room, lacking memory, and why is he here?
  • (4/5)
    This was my first experience of Paul Auster and my appetite has certainly been whetted. More novella than novel, this slim book tells the story of a day in the life of Mr Blank. An old man, he sits in a sparsely-furnished room with no idea of who he is or where he is. He can't tell whether he is a prisoner or a guest, and he is connected to the wider world only through the series of people who come to visit him. To say much more would be to risk giving things away. There is something very stylised about the action, in which every small gesture or action is faithfully recorded, but this doesn't bother me too much because Mr Blank is starting from scratch, almost, and everything may have significance. Perhaps the thing which I did find tiresome was Auster's emphasis on Mr Blank's bodily functions, which I don't believe we need to know about in quite so much detail. On the plus side, this is a quirky, clever story which simply presents a series of facts and leaves the reader to gradually draw their own conclusions. Although I might have found the knowing conceit a bit trying if it had lasted throughout a full-length novel, Auster gets away with it here. His blend of playfulness and pathos reminded me a bit of Borges, although I suspect that comparison also sprang to mind because of the themes of reading and reality that underpin Mr Blank's existence. In the long run, this book probably won't stick in my mind, but it provided a welcome diversion, and I'll certainly be more likely now to give the rest of Auster's novels a try.
  • (4/5)
    This was my first experience of Paul Auster and my appetite has certainly been whetted. More novella than novel, this slim book tells the story of a day in the life of Mr Blank. An old man, he sits in a sparsely-furnished room with no idea of who he is or where he is. He can't tell whether he is a prisoner or a guest, and he is connected to the wider world only through the series of people who come to visit him. To say much more would be to risk giving things away. There is something very stylised about the action, in which every small gesture or action is faithfully recorded, but this doesn't bother me too much because Mr Blank is starting from scratch, almost, and everything may have significance. Perhaps the thing which I did find tiresome was Auster's emphasis on Mr Blank's bodily functions, which I don't believe we need to know about in quite so much detail. On the plus side, this is a quirky, clever story which simply presents a series of facts and leaves the reader to gradually draw their own conclusions. Although I might have found the knowing conceit a bit trying if it had lasted throughout a full-length novel, Auster gets away with it here. His blend of playfulness and pathos reminded me a bit of Borges, although I suspect that comparison also sprang to mind because of the themes of reading and reality that underpin Mr Blank's existence. In the long run, this book probably won't stick in my mind, but it provided a welcome diversion, and I'll certainly be more likely now to give the rest of Auster's novels a try.
  • (3/5)
    This is quite a reflexive book by Auster, wherein he seems to be weighing in on the ethics of writing fiction and the blankness of the author-figure. This should definitely be read by Auster fans, for past characters from past novels pop in and out of the text. However, non-fans may want to start somewhere else.
  • (2/5)
    Just sort a weird. Too much detail in see areas - toilet facilities and not nearly enough in others.
  • (3/5)
    First impressions (expectativas): Un librito realmente corto. Me da la sensación que va ser un poco metaliteratura. Primeras páginas bien escritas, supongo que va a ser un ejercicio de estilo y que habrá que leerlo con atención y masticando las palabras. Juega a desconcertar. Lo del tío que se despierta y no se acuerda de (casi) nada está un poco visto, pero confío en Paul Auster, seguro que de interesante no baja. We'll see.

    On reading impressions: Me recuerda un poco (a muuuucha distancia) a Waiting for the Barbarians, de J.M. Coetzee, con un aire de ciencia ficción que no tengo claro si se mantendrá. Es más interesante la historia (ficticia por el momento, o ficticia dentro de la ficción) de Sigmund Graf que la de Mr. Blank. En verdad es interesante, pero no para tirar cohetes. No está siendo lo que esperaba (no metaliteratura) pero me está gustando. Sigo "in the dark", no se que va a pasar.

    After reading impressins: pues bueno, me corrijo de nuevo: si era metaliteratura. Como cuento funciona bien, me ha gustado bastante. Es uno de aquellos libros que funcionan mejor a nivel oral: está escrito para ser leído en voz alta, por su cadencia y la musicalidad de la prosa. Curioso, pelín tramposo y recomendable sólo si te gusta Paul Auster. Se lee en un plís, vale la pena darle una oportunidad.

  • (4/5)
    This is a very short book. Reading it, I felt I had found a lost work from the French nouvelle vague and was amused later when Auster decides to call his tribes the Djinn, surely a reference to Alain Robbe-Grillet’s book which does what this one does; it finishes back where it started on an endless revolution.The Day I DisappearedThe good news is that this is a return to the style Auster first delivered with The New York Trilogy. The bad news is that, when all is said and done, this latest novel disappoints. Although I like surrealism in my reading, I felt the situation he sets up is unoriginal – a guy waking up in a kind of cell not knowing who he is or where he came from. Auster never sets up enough questions for us to go figure our own version; instead he just throws a catalogue of obscure, undeveloped characters at us. Perhaps what I liked least, however, was an obsession with bodily functions which did nothing for this reader. In the course of this short novel, we are ‘treated’ repeatedly to our hero stripping, urinating, vomiting, masturbating and fondling his nurses breasts.As frequently before, Auster provides us with an unfinished novel within the novel but I have to confess to mixed feelings here. Is Auster telling me that ideas are so easy to come up with that they are disposable and he can throw them away, half-done, in his books? or is he an author full of ideas who is unable to bring any of them to completion? He writes so appealingly that I’m inclined to opt for the former, but I can’t help worrying about it.Ultimately, the book seems to be aimed at Auster’s die hard fans who will certainly appreciate his many references back to characters in previous works. Presumably we can take the old man to be himself and his ‘crime’ to be setting up the characters from his previous books and leaving them with unresolved lives; his punishment is that his life will now also be unresolved. Occasionally an author will entertain the conceit of writing a book aimed only at those who know his work well. Iain M. Banks did that with Inversions, a book which can really only be properly appreciated by a fan of his Culture, but Inversions can be enjoyed (albeit at a lower level) on its own merit. Here Auster, gives us a book which is completely impenetrable for the uninitiated.
  • (4/5)
    If you're not familiar with Paul Auster, this may not be the best place to start (I would highly recommend NY trilogy and City of Glass) but it follows the main tenants of experimental fiction very well...questionable main character and awareness of the characters as characters also. I just finished this one today and it's difficult to talk about without completely ruining the premise. As a criticism, I found it was too short and that it could have been another 100 pages easy with a more developed protagonist and story line. I was just starting to get really intrigued when it ended...I hate it when that happens. But, I will say I think Paul Auster is a kind of genius and I don't toss that word around lightly.
  • (4/5)
    This novella was a bit less satisfying than other Auster's I have read. Still it was interesting, and I enjoyed the the story within a story as well. I think this is the first time that I noticed direct linkages to other works with the story within a story linked to Oracle Night.
  • (3/5)
    A fun little indictment of the author by the author.
  • (4/5)
    Part puzzle, part mystery, and part postmodern commentary, I loved how this book kept me guessing until the very end when my head spun around so fast I had to go to the chiropractor. It's not your everyday straightforward narrative, but it's also not so esoteric that you start to snooze just from reading the jacket flap. It would make a great group read, because it's a book begging to be discussed."Interrupt all you like. We're involved in a complicated story here, and not everything is quite what it seems to be."An old man wakes up to find himself alone in a small room with complete amnesia. The only clues are stickers conveniently labeling "wall", "lamp", "desk"; and a pile of photographs and several manuscripts on the desk."He can't remember how long he has been here or the nature of the circumstances that precipitated his removal to this place. Perhaps he has always been here; perhaps this is where he has lived since the day he was born. What he knows is that his heart is filled with an implacable sense of guilt. At the same time, he can't escape the feeling that he is the victim of a terrible injustice."In an existential kind of way, the old man begins to explore his physical and psychological boundaries. I don't want to give away too much, so I'll just say it's a fun read.
  • (3/5)
    This experiment did not work for me. I tried to get interested without success.
  • (3/5)
    I wanted to like this book. It started as the sort of post-modern story that can have an eerie power in its meta-fictional presentation of the story. Unfortunately, it devolved into something thin and predictable. I'm sure I'll try Auster again, but this was a disappointing introduction.
  • (5/5)
    If you’ve ever seen the television program called “The Twilight Zone”, you’ll have an idea of what an eerie read this book is. The feeling it gave me was the same.As the story begins, we encounter an unidentified man, whom we shall call Mr. Blank, waking up in a room containing the bed on which he’s lying, a desk with piles of papers on it, and a chair. Mr. Blank has no idea where he is or even who he is. There are several things within the room which are labeled with a single word. He is not sure if he is a prisoner in this room or if he can get out. The window shade is down so he has no idea of what “out” would even be like. There are people who occasionally come into his room and then later leave. Mr. Blank thinks he might know them, but is not sure. As the story progresses, we readers, along with Mr. Blank himself, attempt to discover his identity and the context of the environment in which he finds himself. He peruses the contents of the typewritten pages on the desk for clues to his own history or where he might be.If this sounds intriguing to you, then grab this quick and engrossing read. If postmodern fiction is not your thing, you might want to skip it. For me, the bizarre ending of this book has me very much wanting to read more of Paul Auster’s works.
  • (3/5)
    An interesting read, but detached emotionally. If you're in the mood for a bit of a trippy intellectual puzzle, try it.
  • (3/5)
    Even though this isn't Auster's finest, I finished it in a single day. The 'mystery' about the main character's identity wasn't that difficult to decipher, and in the end the repetition was rather cheap, but still the very last paragraph was surprising. All in all the experiment of keeping the story confined to a single room isn't worthy of repetition...
  • (4/5)
    This is the first Auster novel in some time that I felt I wanted to read all the way through. There is a sense of things aren't what they seem, and I felt intrigued enough to want topeer around the door. Mr. Blank is locked in, and the description in the novel makes it into a physical reality. But is Blank suffering from the locked in syndrome, and the protagonist knows he can't get out of it. There is a suggestion that he could walk away, but can he really?The novel can also be seen as commentary on what happens to older people. How they can't function like their younger years, how fleeting memory is, how to fathom the strangers about. How angry one can be when the body doesn't function correctly. But the midrange of the body has its own functioning, including sex.Not entirely satisfying novel, but a good cause to ponder.
  • (4/5)
    Like some of Auster's other work, there isn't any fixed narrative framework to rely on (lines are blurred between author [both Auster and authors within the book:] characters and you, the reader) which is a risky thing to do but somehow very satisfying. The narrative does unexpected things, stories detach themselves from the storyline and become the author's reflections on what to do with his characters. Somehow it's not the point to have the story end traditionally with all questions answered, and experienced Auster readers don't expect this. The point is the prose, which is in itself all one needs to have enjoyed the book, and the text's unexpected transformations, flexibility and playfulness.
  • (4/5)
    Intriguing if somewhat predictable.
  • (2/5)
    This one didn't grab me the way his others have.
  • (4/5)
    An engaging story about a man, mr. Blank, who is seemingly trapped in a sterile room. He has no idea why he was put there. Mr Blanck's mind is fragmented, unfocussed, and his behavior is erratic, not unlike that of a mental patient. A few people enter the room, one at a time (mostly). They gradually bring back pieces of his past. The story of his life however remains fragmented. At a certain moment Mr Blank reads a story and is later asked to complete it. He completes it in his mind with great ingenuity and imagination. How the story is related to mr Blank's past is left in the open. The second story he reads, consists of the first paragraphs of this book itself. It describes Mr Blank sitting in his room (or cell), wondering what he is doing there. He does not however complete that story. So far so good, the book is engaging, with a few nice twists, and very well written. It has a nice theme, namely writing and the life of fictional characters. Only the ending I found annoying. I don't understand why Auster includes the last paragraphs in which he makes it explicit that Mr Blank is a fictional character and where he adds some terrible cliches on the nature of the fictional character (mr Blank in this case).
  • (4/5)
    This book is described as something of a puzzle; fortunately, the secret being easy to figure out doesn't detract from its enjoyment. The way the narration doles out pieces of the old man bit by bit, especially at the very beginning, is a pleasure to behold, and what the novella has to say about aging, memory, and the twofold power and danger of stories is magnificent.
  • (2/5)
    I was so excited at the prospect of this book but was left wondering if my time could have been better spent doing something else .... anyone want to join me in watching paint dry??The concept is great and I enjoyed the initial waking up in a room not knowing what was going on etc. This is what I give the novella 2 stars for, as I so wanted him to open the door and see what was outside but he just didn't dare - it reminded me a lot of Bentham's panopticon (or see Foucault). I liked all the characters coming in to see him without Mr Blank really knowing who they were - they had all provided photographs, but I couldn't work out why the pictures were so old, this confused me. But perhaps, as they were characters from Auster's other books, and appeared as that age in those novels? I don't know with not having read anything else by hime. To be honest I don't think I will if this is anything to go by.The writing style would get a 1 star. I don't enjoy writers who stray from the conventions of syntax and unfortunately Auster didn't use speech marks, a particular bug bear of mine. It was therefore difficult to ascertain on occasions whether we were reading the present day narrative or one of the many stories. Auster has tried to be clever but has seemingly failed. There are other authors out there who can pull off this concept very well. If you've got a few hours spare give it a go but really, I'd recommend trying something else.
  • (4/5)
    Auster can be very mystical. Many of his earlier books have been examples of that – actually, most of them (the exception perhaps being “The Brooklyn Follies”). “Travels in the Scriptorium” is mystical from start to finish. The author excels in easy language that gives a sombre meaning. And “the story within the story”, that Auster does phenomenally well.But what is it about, actually? Who is Mr Black? How come one recognises the names of so many of the characters? I’m still not sure, but I have theories. The good Paus really has twisted my mind. And it feels good.---Auster kan vara mystisk. Många av hans tidigare alster har visat prov på det - egentligen de flesta (med undantag av "Dårskaper i Brooklyn, kanske). "Travels in the Scriptorium" är mystisk från början till slut. Författaren briljerar i lätt språk som ger en dunkel mening. Och "Historien i historien" som AUster är fenomenal på.Men vad handlar det om? Vem är mr Blank? Hur kommer det sig att man känner igen namnen på så många figurer i historien? Jag är fortfarande inte säker, men jag har mina teorier. Den gode Paul har verkligen satt griller i huvet på mig. Och det känns bra.
  • (2/5)
    A grave disappointment. After the liberated narrative of Brooklyn Follies, Auster is back in the same rut, pondering the themes of authorship, identity and reality vs. fiction. Blaah.