I shook his hand for the first time in the spring of 1967. I was a second-year student at Columbia then, a know-nothing boy with an appetite for books and a belief (or delusion) that one day I would become good enough to call myself a poet, and because I read poetry, I had already met his namesake in Dante's hell, a dead man shuffling through the final verses of the twenty-eighth canto of the
Inferno. Bertan de Born, the 12th-century Provençal poet, carrying his severed head by the hair as it sways back and forth like a lantern – surely one of the most grotesque images in that book-length catalog of hallucinations and torments. Dante was a staunch defender of the de Born's writing, but he condemned him to eternal damnation for having counseled Prince Henry to rebel against his father, King Henry II, because de Born cause division between father and son and turned them into enemies, Dante's ingenious punishment was to divide de Born from himself. hence, the decapitated body wailing in the underworld, asking the Florentine traveler if any pain could be more terrible than his.
This is how [a:Paul Auster|296961|Paul Auster|http://d.gr-assets.com/authors/1287451428p2/296961.jpg] introduces us to the protagonist and his nemesis in the novel, [b:Invisible|6345193|Invisible|Paul Auster|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1317063578s/6345193.jpg|6448995]. This novel takes one year in the life of a bright, attractive, troubled college student, scarred by a family tragedy, and examines it in retrospect in the unfinished manuscript written by his adult self, dying of leukemia. This manuscript is entrusted to a college classmate, now a famous author, to whom he has recently reached out in order to gain something, though what is not clear, through the sharing of the manuscript. The author struggles to discover what if anything, in the shocking manuscript is actually true. It is a fascinating and unsettling tale that takes the reader from New York to Paris and to an invented Caribbean island.
This is not my favorite of Auster's novels, but it was a quick and engrossing, if somewhat disturbing tale.