Oracle Night

ISBN: 0805073205
ISBN 13: 9780805073201
By: Paul Auster

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About this book

Several months into his recovery from a near-fatal illness, thirty-four-year-old novelist Sidney Orr enters a stationery shop in the Cobble Hill section of Brooklyn and buys a blue notebook. It is September 18, 1982, and for the next nine days Orr will live under the spell of this blank book, trapped inside a world of eerie premonitions and puzzling events that threaten to destroy his marriage and undermine his faith in reality.Why does his wife suddenly break down in tears in the backseat of a taxi just hours after Sidney begins writing in the notebook? Why does M. R. Chang, the owner of the stationery shop, precipitously close his business the next day? What are the connections between a 1938 Warsaw telephone directory and a lost novel in which the hero can predict the future? At what point does animosity explode into violence? To what degree is forgiveness the ultimate expression of love?Paul Auster’s mesmerizing eleventh novel reads like an old-fashioned ghost story. But there are no ghosts in this book—only flesh-and-blood human beings, wandering through the haunted realms of everyday life. At once a meditation on the nature of time and a journey through the labyrinth of one man’s imagination, Oracle Night is a narrative tour de force that confirms Auster’s reputation as one of the boldest, most original writers at work in America today.

Reader's Thoughts


I'm starting to really understand why some people who like Auster well enough don't necessarily look forward to the upcoming Auster book, and think that he should probably take an extended break once in a while, or stop writing novels, period. That probably sounds like a flippant remark, a mark of real dissatisfaction with at least this Auster novel, but it's not, really. Because I like Auster, and I have no problem with artists who endlessly explore permutations of themes and characters that fascinate them, instead of attempting to be "fresh," whatever that's supposed to mean. The downside of that approach, though, is that certain books are inevitably going to seem like too much of the same thing, even if they actually aren't. Invisible, written well after this book, in 2009, treads familiar Austerian character and thematic terrain, and his prose style is pretty uniform across most of his work, but Invisible is pretty fucking good. Oracle Night is just good. I could rate it either the goodreads 2 star [it was ok] or the goodreads 3 star [liked it]. In general, it's pretty forgettable. I just finished it, and don't remember a lot of it, though it was compelling while I was reading it, and some images and passages linger. Paul Auster does what he does well. Sometimes he does it very well. I've yet to come across any duds in Paul Auster's fiction, or even real mediocrities by the broader literary fiction scene's standards, but books like this one and Sunset Park and The Brooklyn Follies aren't particularly memorable, and I suspect several of the Auster books I haven't read are of similar quality. I also suspect there are some Auster books I haven't read that are on par with The New York Trilogy, Invisible, or his film Smoke. In my experience thus far, it never hurts to pick up a book by Auster, but it's also rarely the kind of exquisite literary reward you want it to be, the kind of reward the last three titles I mentioned above are.


Marx once said "History repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce." Sidney Orr (narrator) and the author's alter ego John Trause, through the progression of this recursive and elliptical story gradually come to learn that their words have consequences. That they may unleash a blizzard of coincidences or an avalanche of catastrophe. Words create tragedy, both through hopes and fears. Life will not conform to the dictates of drama or fiction. When Bowen is locked in the basement vault of the Bureau of Historical Preservation, we as readers are conditioned to expect a resolution will be forthcoming. Yet, life gets the last laugh. There are no neat resolutions in Oracle Night, yet everything is connected. Although it may be convenient to place the blame for our misfortunes on the curious effect of a particular blue Portuguese notebook, procured by an inscutable Chinese stationer, we must ultimately bear full and complete responsibility for the constitution of our Selves through the narratives we manifest. An example of the contingency of life and the care that we must exhibit before we undertake to pen our own stories, Auster's Oracle Nights will leave you wondering. If you like this you may also enjoy Auster's Man in the Dark.


After a protracted, mysterious illness, fiction/screenwriter Sidney Orr buys a blue Portugese notebook and returns to writing (writes himself a life??), starting w/ a paratext loosely following on a story-w/in-a-story told in Hammet's "Maltese Falcon." Strange events ensue, making Sidney and the reader question future and past, premonition, love, trust, disappearance, and morality.I personally LOVE Auster's methods, and I never tire of his puzzles. This is the kind of book that frustrates and excites; you want to linger over the parallels; I found myself drawing diagrams on the periphery of my notes re: correlations btw Sidney and Nick, btw Auster himself and Sidney and Trause (anagram of Auster - can't say I picked that up on my first go).Do words have intrinsic power? What about Chang's statement about his stationary store - "Everything in here important to life." You walk away wondering - what impact exactly did the blue notebook (and Chang) have over the story? What impact did Sidney's imagination have? Is he a reliable narrator? Are the connections btw our subconscious and conscious more than spiderwebs and dreams?

Babak Fakhamzadeh

A reasonably charming little novel by this New York author who's always been heavy on synchronicity, this volume not being an exception. On the downside, the book, at under 200 pages, takes a very long time to get going and then, at the end of it, I was still wondering whether it was all worth it. Auster, though, is able to lucidly tell what could have been a quagmire of a story: The book is about a writer recovering from a major physical breakdown, who starts to write a story about a man who breaks with his life after reading the manuscript of a book about a man who can foresee the future. On top of this, other stories and manuscripts are dipped in and out of. One of the main characters of the book, his last name, is an anagram of Auster, while the leading character's qualities are a closer parallel of Auster himself. The book was released in 2004 but is set in the early 80s, the leading character recounting what happened some 20 years before his narration. The 80s being the focus for no apparent reason outside perhaps the story requiring a more challenging communication infrastructure.


روند قصه آرام پيش مى‌رود و خواننده هم از اطلاعات و رويدادها لذت مى‌برد. خواننده هم‌پاى راوى در قصه پيش مى‌رود و در اواخر قصه كه حوادث را كنار هم مى‌چيند همزمان با راوى حسى بين شگفتى كشف يك راز و البته حسى غمگين دچار مى‌شود. پايان قصه هم منطقى و تقريبا قابل پيشى‌بينى است. چيزى كه در خواندن كتاب‌هاى استر مهم است اين است كه خواننده از روند داستان و معماهاى موجود و افكار راوى لذت مى‌برد. مثلا روندى كه راوى را به اين جملات مى‌رساند كهاندیشه‌ها واقعیت دارند. واژه‌ها واقعی‌اند. هرچه انسانی باشد واقعی است و گاه ما پیش از وقوع حادثه‌ها از آن باخبر مى‌شويم ولو اینکه از پیش‌بينى خود آگاه نباشیم. ما در زمان حال به سر می‌بريم. ولی آینده را هر لحظه در درون خود داریم. شاید نوشتن به همین مربوط باشد، سیدنی؛ نه گزارش رویدادهای گذشته، بلکه ایجاد رویدادهای آینده.


هذه اول رواية اقرأها لبول أوستر، احد اشهر كتاب امريكا المعاصرين، ولن تكون الاخيرة ان شاء الله...شيقة جدا وذات حبكة قوية.. متداخله الأمكنة والازمنة...تدور عن كاتب روائي يدعى "سندي أور" يشرع في كتابة رواية جديدة بعد تماثله للشفاء، مستخدما دفتر أزرق برتغالي الصنع، سيكون له فيما بعد سحرا ابداعياً على بطله وينقلنا أوستر بين روايته هذه وبين نص الرواية التي يكتبها بطله "سندي" وبطلها الاخر "نيك بوين" وهو محررا في دار نشر في نيويوركمعاناة الكاتب ومخاض الابداع الروائي هما جوهر الرواية، الأحساس بالزمن، الحاضر، الماضي، والتنبأ بالمستقبل، هي ادوات الكاتب في حبكته السردية المتداخلةكيف لحادثة عشوائية ان تغير حياة انسان؟ وتجعله بمواجهة قدراً جديدا؟ وهل ينجح في ألاّ يفكر في الماضي ويمضي قُدماً؟هل نحن مسجونون بالحاضر؟ ان تركنا للماضي وتنبئنا بالمستقبل، كلاهما قد يقضيان علينا.. فاللحظة الراهنة وإن كانت "سجناً" هي الأهم وربما الأفضل.هل هناك فعلا قدرة تنبؤية للكتابة الابداعية؟ ومن هذه الفكرة بالذات تبرز فكرة" ليلة التنبؤ " و ليلة التنبؤ هي نص روائي -فلسفي قصير عن التنبؤ بالمستقبل- يصل الى نيك بوين، لكن يكون له دورا في حياته فيما بعد.. إذ يبدأ بوين في رؤية رابطة بين نفسه وبين قصة الرواية، بطريقة مجازية غير مباشرة " كان الكتاب يتكلم معه بشكل وثيق وحميم عن ظروفه الخاصة الحالية". يصل سندري اور الى طريق مسدود في روايته، ونحتار معه في كيفيه اخراج بطله " بوين" من سجنه.. لكنه في النهاية يمزق روايته هذه بعد ان عجز عن اخراج بطله، وبعد ان تتعقد حياته مع زوجته واصدقائه. وفي شدة معاناته مع كل هؤلاء، يتذكر سندي دفتره الازرق، وبطله المسجون، فيقرر ان يكتب قصة اخرى " قصة تخيلية تحليلية" عن زوجته وعن شكوكه نحوها. وبعد امتلاء الدفتر الازرق، يقرر تمزيقه الى قطع صغيرة، وحتى الصفحات البيضاء يمزقها، وهو بهذا يشير الى تركه للماضي وقراره ببدأ حياة جديدة مع نص جديد..دخولي لعالم " بول أوستر" بدأ برؤيتي لفلم "دخانSmok" وهو من تأليفه، من الفلم ومن هذه الرواية " ليلة التنبؤ" اعتقد ان أوستر يستخدم عناصر اساسية في رواياته، فلابد من ان يكون هنالك كاتب يعاني فيما يكتب، وهناك دخان، وهناك تنقل بالزمن من خلال الصور واستخدام الكاميرا، واستعراض مراحل الحياة من خلال الصور ايضا، فبعض ابطاله " كما في دخان" يستخدم كاميرته في تصوير نفس الزاوية- وهي الجادةالي امام دكانه- وبنفس الوقت يوميا ولمدة خمس سنوات، لكن كل لقطة هي لقطة جديدة، اذ هناك مارة جدد وصباح جديد. وفي هذه الرواية " ليلة التنبؤ" ايضا هنالك البومات صور تؤثر في حياة بطل روايته واشخاص آخرين يمرون بنا سريعا في الرواية..السرقة وتعارض الحاجة للمال، من قبل الكاتب، وتسرعه في إنتاجه الابداعي زاوية اخرى يسلط عليها اوستر الضوء..ليلة التنبؤ رواية ارشح قراءتها بشوق و" دخان" فلم ورواية ارشحهما بقوة اكبر.. ربما لتمتعي بهما اكثر.


Auster's favourite theme is randomness, chance. And we see it again in this novel, which is a story within a story within a story, told in Auster's favourite narrative style. Given that there is so much ground to cover in this short book, I'm not sure there is any other way but to "tell" this story. However, only the main story line heads towards any type of conclusion in this book, while the others stall midway, again, demonstrating randomness, perhaps?I like this book because it deals with the life of a writer, Sydney Orr, who has suffered a long illness and is just picking up his interrupted life. It is also a good study on plotting, for Auster weaves plot within plot in his embedded stories - quite deftly, it seems. Sometimes randomness can be a cop-out, when new plot points are introduced just to hype things up or slow things down. The late arrival of Jacob Trause, the truant son of Syney's mentor John Trause, and his suddden but drastic impact on the course of the narrative, pushes the concept of "chance" a bit too far. Auster also experiments with putting back-story and other non-essential detail into lengthy footnotes that overlap several pages and that can be read ( or not) to enhance the depth of the main storyline - this device worked for me..The lesson of randomness however, is quite powerful, because after the random event, all previous efforts by those affected seem trivial and unecessary.Which begs the question of whether one should strive in life or just go with the flow?


A story within a story within a story, with intersecting characters. Fiction is interspersed with facts. It would have been confusing, but Paul Auster’s narrative ensured otherwise. Probably it was because of the many footnotes that explain certain events and characters...It was actually all good until the end. The story and the sub-stories have a lot of peaks, but why does it feel like I’m in a valley after I’ve finished the book? Is it the same case as the sub-stories in the book – for one manuscript, our protagonist got into a bind when he didn’t know how his main character would be able to get out after he was locked in the underground room so he abandoned that project; in another case, the manuscript got lost somewhere inside the subway train - this book seems to also have lost the last chapters that would have been the proper conclusion. I felt I was left hanging and asking, “what’s the point?” I don’t get it. I would have given this 3 stars if only because of the high points, but that would be cheating.


2003. This book started out amazing. It breathes New York City. It has a main character, a writer, named Sidney Orr, age 34, whom I really like. It tells Sidney's story over a few days in 1982, when his life is particularly crazy. It also tells several stories he's writing, one of which I found extremely compelling and wanted to get back to, but he never finishes that part. The story reaches a dead end. Some of the other stories were told such a way that it was like a writer was telling you about what he was writing instead of actually writing it. This was cool, in small doses, but was carried too far, and lost my interest. The original story about Sidney is also quite compelling, but I was disappointed in how it ended. The book as a whole seemed to be saying something profound about life in general using writing as a metaphor for life. Life is random. Life altering things happen when you least expect them, you can't control them and they don't mean anything, they just happen. And they don't tie up neatly like a Hollywood Movie, or even most novels. So it doesn't tie up neatly either, and it was unsettling, and ultimately unsatisfying too. I don't want to read a long rambling book about randomness and lack of cohesion in the world, even if it's very well written. So while it definitely has some brilliant moments and good prose, I didn't love it.

MacDara Conroy

Paul Auster is the kind of writer who makes you wish you were one too. He might be too self-referential or self-indulgent for some, and this particular story isn't without it's shortcomings - too many loose endings, things left unexplained - but he has this gift for conjuring a lucid dreamworld that could easily intersect with your life, or mine. That alone makes it worth a read for the uninitiated.


رواية داخل روايةعندما تقرأ لأول مرة لبول أوستر لا يسعك بعد ذلك إلا البحث عن مجمل أعماله..متعة فائقة أن أتقرأ لكاتب يحترم عقليتك و يضع ذكاءك موضع المسائلة و الإختبار كأنه داخل إلى متاهة ذهنية و يريدك أن تعمل على حل عقدها و التكهن بالخطوة القادمة التى لن تقدر على التنبؤ بها أو حتى التفكير فيها..دائما توقعات صادمة تنهش فى لحم الحقيقة لتعرى ما هو مختفٍ تحتهاالرواية قائمة على تداعى السرد و تشابك الأزمنة و التقل فيما بينها من الماضى للحاضر و المستقبل و بالعكس ، و تداخل حياة الراوى- الذى يعمل بالأساس كاتب قصة- مع الشخصية التى يقوم بتخيلها و التى طيلة قراءتك للرواية تتساءل أيهما الحقيقى الرواى/ الكاتب/الشخصية المتخيلة..بينهما دائما نقاط إلتقاء فى الحياة و فى التفكير و فى المفردات المادية و المعنوية التى تشكل عالميهماتحكى الرواية عن كاتب يدعى"سدنى أولا" و الذى أصابه حادث فكان على شفا الموت ..و قام من موته ليكتب قصة فى دفتر أزرق صنع برتغالى كان له الأثر الفعال فى تغيير منحى القصة من آن لآخر...يكتب عن شخصية كانت سابقاً بطلة فى رواية"الصقر المالطى" لكاتب آخر إسمه داشيل هامت..مع تحوير فى الصفات الجسمانية و كذلك الحياة الإجتماعية غير أن الذى يربط بينهما هو حادث سقوط جسم هائل من أعلى بناية يمر من تحتها فكاد أن يسقط عليه لولا تفاديه و إصابته بجروح طفيفة.كان لهذا الحادث أثره عليه بعد ذلك فى تساؤلاته عن الموت العشوائى و الغير منظم و تتابع أسئلة الكثيرة عن معنى الحياة و الوجودضمن الرواية يحاول أيضاً الكاتي"بول أوستر" أن يعطينا فكرة عن التكنيكات المتبعة فى كتابة قصة..الخيط الأول، أول كلمة، تداعى الأفكار و التحكم الواعى بها..إعادة التنسيق و البناء المادى و المعنوى للشخصيةهى رواية محيرة و مثيرة و تشد الأنفاس نظرا لكتابتها بطريقة سرد بوليسية تعطيك إنطباعا أنك تعيش فى عالم فنتازى لا واقعى و لا منطقى و غير مارابط و لا يمت لحياتنا الواقعية فى شىء ..لكنك تقع فى مغالطة كبيرة إن تيقنت من هذا


I'm not exactly sure how to tackle my feelings on this book. Like a lot of American novels it sort of reads itself--the prose is quick and paced to have you turning the page. And Auster's endless vault of ideas helps to keep the pages moving as well, but there was something missing in this one I felt. Before this the only things I've read by him were The New York Trilogy (which is great) and the utterly fantastic introduction he wrote to Knut Hamsun's Hunger, but both of these seem to have a vision. Not to say that Oracle Night doesn't have a vision, but it doesn't seem to have such a clear one as those other two. I found the very last paragraph in the novel to be really interesting, but it was one of the first times that it seemed like looked directly at a feeling and analyzed it--all the rest of it was motion. Some of the motion was very strong, such as the interlaced novels and characters which the narrator wrote in his notebook, and some of it felt like it didn't quite fit in, such as the late introduction of Jacob. The last character is where I think I had the most problems. But I don't want to come down too harsh because some of the earlier sections of the book were quite fantastic. I still feel like I haven't fully gotten Auster--sometimes he seems deconstructionist and impossible to write off, and other times he seems somewhat pop at which times I feel justified in not much liking contemporary American authors. But I'm going to see him speak later this month, so hopefully that will help me to understand my own feelings about him a bit better. Fairly ambivalent, no?

melanie berlin

this book was totally SPELLBINDING and CAPTIVATING! a real PAGE-TURNER..until the last third of the book, when it totally fell apart and became pointless and lame. thanks a lot, auster. ...dick.


'If you have never read Auster before,' proclaims a quote displayed on the cover of this edition of Oracle Night, 'this is the place to start.' I hadn't read Auster before beginning this book, but I'd been meaning to for a while - especially since I've now read three of his wife (Siri Hustvedt)'s books and have gathered that their work ie very similar in style and theme. I wasn't out looking for an Auster book, I was just browsing at the library, but when I spotted it, the intriguing summary and that quote were good enough for me.Oracle Night is short, but packed with detail. It's a multi-layered story, beginning with Sidney Orr - a novelist who is recovering from a severe illness - buying a unique Portuguese notebook in a rather odd stationery store. On the recommendation of his friend, also a novelist, Sidney begins to flesh out an idea for a story concerning a man who suffers a near-death experience and impulsively leaves his wife and home, resolving to start his life anew in a different city. The narrative follows both the progression of this tale and its protagonist Nick Bowen, and the 'real' story of Sidney, whose relationship with his wife Grace (the history of which is detailed in a number of footnotes) begins to flounder soon after he acquires the notebook. Meanwhile, Sidney attempts to re-write HG Wells' The Time Machine as a modern film script, turning it into an unconventional romance, and the Nick narrative also has a further strand wherein the character is profoundly affected by the contents of a lost manuscript, the title of which is Oracle Night. Like I said, multi-layered.There are definitely elements of the weird about this story - the disappearance and relocation of the Paper Palace and its enigmatic proprietor, the 'powers' of the notebook - but it isn't a paranormal or fantasy novel. This really appealed to me - I love the combination of literary prose and hints of the unexplained. I also LOVED the writing. It is very like Hustvedt's, though it's also quite easy to tell the difference. Despite all the intricacies of the plot, it often seems secondary to the way the story is told, the ideas it explores. There are parallels galore and the book often touches on the relationship between fiction and reality and/or language and action.I'd have liked this book to be longer (and it easily could have been), but overall it was a fantastic read which piqued my interest in Auster enough for me to go straight on to another of his books - The New York Trilogy - after finishing it.

Ada Bonnefoi

The novel plays on multiple nested levels: On top, Sidney Orr, a writer, telling two weeks of his life in 1982. He has had an accident and is currently on the road to recovery. After buying a notebook he takes up his literary activities again. He writes his story almost in a trance. It is about Nick Bowen, an editor who wants to start his life anew. A motif that Sid has stolen from the "Maltese Falcon". Nick, in the story, proofreads a book titled "Oracle Night". A book of the long-dead author Sylvia Maxwell, just only now resurfaced. Sid sends Nick in an almost hopeless situation and his own life also seems to become more and more complicated. His wife Grace begins to behave strangely, and their mutual friend Trause (an anagram of Auster) is ill at home ...Auster manages a tight and gripping novel, in which he deals with the vagaries of life. He uses very long footnotes, dealing mostly with the past of his characters. Many storylines will not be completed, but this fits well with the novel. Linguistically very clear with an appealing language, the book contains many descriptive paragraphs. It is just a tiny bit too dramatic. But Auster writes skillyfully in the first person, inserting flashbacks and perspective and makes it an exciting story. It is sometimes deliberately confusing and chaotic, then again full of devotion and sincerity. A powerful book.

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