Paul Auster, postmodern author behind 'The New York Trilogy' and 'Smoke,' dies at 77

Paul Auster, the bestselling postmodern author, noir novelist and screenwriter behind “Smoke,” “Lulu on the Bridge” and “The Inner Life of Martin Frost,” has died. He was 77.

“The New York Trilogy” and “4 3 2 1” author’s death was confirmed Wednesday by his literary representatives at Carol Mann Agency, according to the Associated Press. No details about his death were given and representatives for the agency did not immediately respond Wednesday to The Times’ request for comment.

The New York Times reported that Auster died Tuesday evening at his home in Brooklyn from complications of lung cancer. The writer had been diagnosed with cancer in 2022.

Auster, who also enjoyed a rich career as a poet and memoirist, was awarded several prizes during his prolific career, including the Prince of Asturias Award for Literature, the Prix Médicis étranger, an Independent Spirit Award and the Premio Napoli. He was also a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and was a Commandeur de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres.

Referred to as the “dean of American post-modernists” and “the most meta of American meta-fictional writers,” Auster crafted fiction that hinged on reality but also challenged the definition of it. His breakthrough 1985 novel, “City of Glass,” combined hard-boiled detective fiction with existential inquiry and featured a character called Paul Auster. Its 1986 follow-ups, “Ghosts” and “The Locked Room” comprised Auster’s famed “New York Trilogy.” His 1994 fable, “Mr. Vertigo,” featured quite literal flights of fancy; and his 2008 work “Man in the Dark” created dreamscapes that conjured parallel visions of modern-day America, according to Times contributor Malcolm Forbes.

His work imposed a sense of irreality on his readers, and his oeuvre was replete with writers and the themes of the elusiveness of human nature and the insufficiency of language to investigate the matter (or even to faithfully record experience), according to one Times review.

Auster’s other works included the nonfiction compilations “Groundwork” and “Talking to Strangers”; a family memoir, “The Invention of Solitude”; the novel “Leviathan” and the poetry collection “White Space.” In 2021, he chronicled the life and work of 19th Century author Stephen Crane in “Burning Boy.” His most recent novel, 2023’s “Baumgardner,” told the story of a widowed professor haunted by mortality and was considered a late-career triumph that cut back on his usual “postmodern pyrotechnics.”

This story is developing.

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