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The Invention of Solitude by Paul Auster: A Book Summary and PDF Download Guide

As we become more sane, as our world becomes sane, we also grow less capable of confronting the other, of sustaining the proper distance from others. We have become a little too human, Homo eccelsus, the average man removed. This is not to say that a human being is not, in fact, happiest in the company of others, for as Hegel says, the life of the world is the life of the family. But, in so far as we are dominated by a common collective consciousness that is conservative and conventional, the type of solitude to which we aspire is less and less likely to be attainable. Those who go out into the world do so because the rest of the world is not yet the world, because they are still part of the whole. A sort of enlightened provincialism. A certain remoteness, a certain separateness, a certain distance. Do we want to be more like David in The King of Kong than Freud, who, taught by his Jewish upbringing, required solitude and by his very attitude towards this solitude, caused others to recede from him? Is the error of Romanticism best remedied by reversing the order: solitude following on the necessity of being with others? Can the same person be both ephemeral and ephemera, a solitary who is capable of being with others, or can he himself alone be ephemera, an aloneness who is aloneness and therewith alones, or must he remain isolated, a loner who is also a nobody?

The Invention of Solitude book pdf

Like solitude, then, irony is learned, a product of culture and education, particularly the study of language and literature. In Thoreau s view, the comedy of life lay in the fact that reality, whether physiological or intellectual, was always better than the imagination. The best part of education, for him, was cultivating one s realism with such a clarity and joyousness that one could both practice it and communicate it to others. It is not unlike how postmoderns in our own time have made irony the hallmark of intellectual culture, attempting to broaden the range of the view and to shake up the smugly realistic assumption that all values are equally valid. They make a charming game of it, as if nothing could ever be less like a pun than irony, but this is to forget that irony is a response to our confusion over the nature of the world. To be cold and distant in one s life, then, was to recognize the coldness and distance of the world. It was also to abandon cynicism, whether in politics, academia, or literary and artistic creation. We have invented irony as a substitute for solitude, and it too has become a cherished, perhaps even an expected part of life. But, like the solitary poet and author, the ironist, too, must guard himself from being carried away by the weight of society s view of itself. He must embrace the humorous and ironic world of human relations, and recognize the potential for tragedy and altruism. The irony of solitude is that it remains a solitary enterprise as long as one refuses to admit that solitude may be worse than solitude.


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