Paul Auster presents us with yet another must-read. This novella takes place in an unnamed city that has suffered complete ruin. There is no consistent government to speak of and anarchy rules supreme. But, the fascinating premise is that this is not a world problem, this is a city problem. It is a land cutoff from the world, and the world seems to have forgotten about it. Sound familiar? (Keep in mind this book was first published in 1987.) However, newspapers are still trying to get the scoop on what’s going on, and so reporters are occasionally sent in, though most never return.
One such reporter who never returned left behind a younger sister who has traveled to the country of last things in order to find him. From a privileged family, it takes her a surprisingly short amount of time to adapt to the horrific conditions under which she must survive. She is primarily the narrator of her story, and we follow her as she experiences tragedy, death, suffering, but also, as impossible as it may seem, love and hope.
I’ve heard this book is about everything that can go wrong in a society and how it can leave the reader with a sense of despondency; however, I found the book to be a testament to the power of hope and love.
To touch upon Auster’s style: I’ve read many of Auster’s books, and while he explores similar themes, I’ve never read two books that were written in the same manner. Auster gives us something fresh and artistically progressive with each book he writes. In the Country of Last Things is virtually a how-to for any budding writer as it uses sparse detail and very limited dialogue to completely drive home the potency of the theme.
I’ve yet to read a book I did not like from Paul Auster, and In the Country of Last Things is certainly no exception.