The brooklyn follies
I. Short Biography
Paul Benjamin Auster was born on February 3, 1947 in Newark, New Jersey. His father, Samuel Auster, was a landlord; his mother, Queenie was about 13 years younger than her husband; the marriage was not a happy one. When Auster was about 3, his mother gave birth to a daughter; sadly by the time she was five it was apparent that she was psychologically unstable, and later suffered mental breakdowns.
Auster's passion for reading began when he was about 12 and his uncle, Allen Mandelbaum (a professor of Italian literature, a poet, and a prolific translator) left several boxes of books in storage in the Auster's house while he travelled to Europe. Paul read the books avidly and developed an interest in writing and literature that further accentuated his feeling that he was "an internal émigré, an exile in my own house" (from his memoir, Hand to Mouth).
He went to school in Maplewood, New Jersey and then to Columbia University. In 1967 he left the USA to attend Columbia's Junior Year Abroad in Paris, but found it uninspiring and undemanding so quit college and lived in a small hotel in Paris, before returning to the USA where he was reinstated at Columbia. A high lottery number saved him from worrying too much about being drafted during the Vietnam War. Instead he took a job with the Census Bureau and began working on In The Country of Last Things and Moon Palace, which he would not finish until many years later. In the early 70s he moved to France where he worked as a translator. While in France he published a detective story, Squeeze Play, under the pseudonym Paul Benjamin in the hope of making some money. He returned to the USA in 1974.
In 1979, just after he had completed White Spaces (non fiction), one of his uncles called to say that Auster's father had died. His inheritance, although not huge, was sufficient to alleviate his immediate money worries and allow him to focus on his writing. Over a 30