The Music of Chance

ISBN: 0140154078
ISBN 13: 9780140154078
By: Paul Auster

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About this book

Finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction, The Music of Chance follows Jim Nashe who, after squandering an unexpected inheritance, picks up a young gambler named Jack Pozzi hoping to con two millionaires. But when their plans backfire, Jim and Jack are indentured by their elusive marks and are forced to build a meaningless wall with bricks gathered from ruins of an Irish castle. Time passes, their debts mount, and anger builds as the two struggle to dig themselves out of their Kafkaesque serfdom.New York Times-bestselling author Paul Auster (The New York Trilogy) brings us back into his strange, shape-shifting world of fiendish bargains and punitive whims, where chance is a powerful yet unpredictable force.

Reader's Thoughts

Ahmet Aslaner

THE THUNDER, PERFECT MINDTranslated by George W. MacRaeI was sent forth from the power, and I have come to those who reflect upon me, and I have been found among those who seek after me. Look upon me, you who reflect upon me, and you hearers, hear me. You who are waiting for me, take me to yourselves. And do not banish me from your sight. And do not make your voice hate me, nor your hearing. Do not be ignorant of me anywhere or any time. Be on your guard! Do not be ignorant of me. For I am the first and the last. I am the honored one and the scorned one. I am the whore and the holy one. I am the wife and the virgin. I am and the daughter. I am the members of my mother. I am the barren one and many are her sons. I am she whose wedding is great, and I have not taken a husband. I am the midwife and she who does not bear. I am the solace of my labor pains. I am the bride and the bridegroom, and it is my husband who begot me. I am the mother of my father and the sister of my husband and he is my offspring. I am the slave of him who prepared me. I am the ruler of my offspring. But he is the one who begot me before the time on a birthday. And he is my offspring in (due) time, and my power is from him. I am the staff of his power in his youth, and he is the rod of my old age. And whatever he wills happens to me. I am the silence that is incomprehensible and the idea whose remembrance is frequent. I am the voice whose sound is manifold and the word whose appearance is multiple. I am the utterance of my name. Why, you who hate me, do you love me, and hate those who love me? You who deny me, confess me, and you who confess me, deny me. You who tell the truth about me, lie about me, and you who have lied about me, tell the truth about me. You who know me, be ignorant of me, and those who have not known me, let them know me. For I am knowledge and ignorance. I am shame and boldness. I am shameless; I am ashamed. I am strength and I am fear. I am war and peace. Give heed to me. I am the one who is disgraced and the great one. Give heed to my poverty and my wealth. Do not be arrogant to me when I am cast out upon the earth, and you will find me in those that are to come. And do not look upon me on the dung-heap nor go and leave me cast out, and you will find me in the kingdoms. And do not look upon me when I am cast out among those who are disgraced and in the least places, nor laugh at me. And do not cast me out among those who are slain in violence. But I, I am compassionate and I am cruel. Be on your guard! Do not hate my obedience and do not love my self-control. In my weakness, do not forsake me, and do not be afraid of my power. For why do you despise my fear and curse my pride? But I am she who exists in all fears and strength in trembling. I am she who is weak, and I am well in a pleasant place. I am senseless and I am wise. Why have you hated me in your counsels? For I shall be silent among those who are silent, and I shall appear and speak, Why then have you hated me, you Greeks?Because I am a barbarian among the barbarians? For I am the wisdom of the Greeks and the knowledge of the barbarians. I am the judgement of the Greeks and of the barbarians. I am the one whose image is great in Egypt and the one who has no image among the barbarians. I am the one who has been hated everywhere and who has been loved everywhere. I am the one whom they call Life, and you have called Death. I am the one whom they call Law, and you have called Lawlessness. I am the one whom you have pursued, and I am the one whom you have seized. I am the one whom you have scattered, and you have gathered me together. I am the one before whom you have been ashamed, and you have been shameless to me. I am she who does not keep festival, and I am she whose festivals are many. I, I am godless, and I am the one whose God is great. I am the one whom you have reflected upon, and you have scorned me. I am unlearned, and they learn from me. I am the one that you have despised, and you reflect upon me. I am the one whom you have hidden from,and you appear to me. But whenever you hide yourselves, I myself will appear. For whenever you appear, I myself will hide from you. Those who have [...] to it [...] senselessly [...]. Take me [... understanding] from grief. and take me to yourselves from understanding and grief. And take me to yourselves from places that are ugly and in ruin, and rob from those which are good even though in ugliness. Out of shame, take me to yourselves shamelessly; and out of shamelessness and shame, upbraid my members in yourselves. And come forward to me, you who know me and you who know my members, and establish the great ones among the small first creatures. Come forward to childhood, and do not despise it because it is small and it is little. And do not turn away greatnesses in some parts from the smallnesses, for the smallnesses are known from the greatnesses. Why do you curse me and honor me? You have wounded and you have had mercy. Do not separate me from the first ones whom you have known. And do not cast anyone out nor turn anyone away [...] turn you away and [... know] him not.[...]. What is mine [...]. I know the first ones and those after them know me. But I am the mind of [...] and the rest of [...]. I am the knowledge of my inquiry, and the finding of those who seek after me, and the command of those who ask of me,and the power of the powers in my knowledge of the angels, who have been sent at my word, and of gods in their seasons by my counsel, and of spirits of every man who exists with me, and of women who dwell within me. I am the one who is honored, and who is praised, and who is despised scornfully. I am peace, and war has come because of me. And I am an alien and a citizen. I am the substance and the one who has no substance. Those who are without association with me are ignorant of me, and those who are in my substance are the ones who know me. Those who are close to me have been ignorant of me, and those who are far away from me are the ones who have known me. On the day when I am close to you, you are far away from me, and on the day when I am far away from you, I am close to you. [I am ...] within. [I am ...] of the natures. I am [...] of the creation of the spirits. [...] request of the souls. I am control and the uncontrollable. I am the union and the dissolution. I am the abiding and I am the dissolution. I am the one below, and they come up to me. I am the judgment and the acquittal. I, I am sinless, and the root of sin derives from me. I am lust in (outward) appearance, and interior self-control exists within me. I am the hearing which is attainable to everyone and the speech which cannot be grasped. I am a mute who does not speak, and great is my multitude of words. Hear me in gentleness, and learn of me in roughness. I am she who cries out, and I am cast forth upon the face of the earth. I prepare the bread and my mind within. I am the knowledge of my name. I am the one who cries out, and I listen. I appear and [...] walk in [...] seal of my [...]. I am [...] the defense [...]. I am the one who is called Truth and iniquity [...]. You honor me [...] and you whisper against me. You who are vanquished, judge them (who vanquish you) before they give judgment against you, because the judge and partiality exist in you. If you are condemned by this one, who will acquit you? Or, if you are acquitted by him, who will be able to detain you? For what is inside of you is what is outside of you, and the one who fashions you on the outside is the one who shaped the inside of you. And what you see outside of you, you see inside of you; it is visible and it is your garment. Hear me, you hearers and learn of my words, you who know me. I am the hearing that is attainable to everything; I am the speech that cannot be grasped. I am the name of the sound and the sound of the name. I am the sign of the letter and the designation of the division. And I [...]. (3 lines missing) [...] light [...]. [...] hearers [...] to you [...] the great power. And [...] will not move the name. [...] to the one who created me. And I will speak his name. Look then at his words and all the writings which have been completed. Give heed then, you hearers and you also, the angels and those who have been sent, and you spirits who have arisen from the dead. For I am the one who alone exists, and I have no one who will judge me. For many are the pleasant forms which exist in numerous sins, and incontinencies, and disgraceful passions, and fleeting pleasures, which (men) embrace until they become sober and go up to their resting place. And they will find me there, and they will live, and they will not die again. James M. Robinson, ed., The Nag Hammadi Library, revised edition. HarperCollins, San Francisco, 1990.


I wasn't sure what to expect; it started off in a fairly blase fashion, talking about poker and obscene bets. Some of the early scenes with Jack play out like a second-rate early 90s Hollywood flick. But it quickly descends and twists in a darker, psychologically disturbing direction. I finished the bulk of this book in two days, not because I was so enthralled I could not put it down, but because it was so grim and bleak that I could not bear to have more than a few days weighted down by its heavy themes. To aggravate the situation, half of the characters are so cliche I was a little embarrassed by their mannerisms and dialogue, but Nashe and Murk are fascinating studies of human character, albeit of a fairly stripped-down nature. The simple, digestible style of Auster's writing is decidedly deceptive. The themes of this novel are almost startlingly thought-provoking, if you look past the somewhat nonsensical plot. This is a story that, like Ian McEwan's Amsterdam, cannot be read as a realistic replication of what we find in real life. The overall point of the novel was, I think, to question our own perception of how much control we have over our own lives, and how this control is exercised through our actions. Auster has reminded me that I really must read more work by female writers. My reading list is too male-dominated for good conscience. I am glad I finally got around to reading Auster, but I think this novel was a poor choice, just as choosing Amsterdam as a follow-up to Atonment was a mistake because, in the end, McEwan's Atonement was a one-off in that author's career, at least at this point. If Auster's bibliography includes an equivalent to Atonement, I would be happy to read it, but for now I think I have had enough of his work.


A friend spoke to me once of "concretizing the metaphor" when trying to write evocative and symbolically pregnant prose. Auster manages to do that very effectively in almost all of his works, and The Music of Chance is no exception. No one reading this work could help but be struck by the three cases of concrete metaphor on display here. The first is Stone's City of the World. The second is Flower's museum of unwanted objects, but the third and most compelling is surely The Wall. William Jennings Bryan once said, "Destiny is no matter of chance. It is a matter of choice: It is not a thing to be waited for, it is a thing to be achieved." Auster shows that choice, chance and destiny are not nearly the separate things that Bryan may imagine them to be. That it may be our choices that put us on destiny's path and that chance may play a role in us fullfilling our destiny, but also that it is our choice to be the victim of chance or the author of our own destiny.


auster has a tendency for ambiguous, detached endings that leave you with several questions unanswered.. and for the stories in the ny trilogy i think it works perfectly, but for this book it kind of left me a might disappointed. he starts to tell a real straight forward story, and it almost seems as though he ran out of ideas towards the end, left a lot of really important questions unanswered, and frantically put together a closing chapter. besides that... it was an entertaining read. the characters are authentic. it's worth it if you like auster's stuff... but i wouldn't recommend it to anyone who hasn't read city of glass.


Mais um livro que, provavelmente, irá receber uma opinião negativa e que está poderá ser um tanto injusta. Fui obrigada a ler este livro para a faculdade e, portanto, nem me dei ao trabalho de ler a sinopse, apenas encomendei; a boa parte é que gosto sempre de ler e não iniciei a leitura desaniada mas, rapidamente, o fiquei - a apresentação das personagens é um pouco reboscada e são banais, ou melhor, demasiado banais que, por vezes, apenas apetecia gritar 'acorda para a vida!'. Existem algumas partes boas nesta leitura: as mensagens que vão sendo passadas de forma subentendida, a luta entre o que é correto e o que é mais fácil, o desejo de vingança. Também achei interessante o facto de terem utilizado como 'plano' o vício do jogo, não é um tema comum.O final é um choque mas, por lado, penso que foi melhor ter terminado assim, sempre deu algum interesse ao livro.No final, foi uma leitura aborrecida e que apenas se arrastou, uma pena pois o autor não conseguiu aproveitar elementos tão importantes como a simbologia da música, os vários valores que apresentou, apenas deixou como que pequenas ideias que mereciam ser melhor exploradas.


The New York Trilogy showed me that Paul Auster has a dark side. I liked it. He brought it out to play again in this book, with a touch of insanity. The book built to a fantastic ending. Jim Nashe inherits a sizable sum when his absentee father dies, but it comes too late to save his marriage, after which he gave his daughter to his sister to raise. When he gets the money, he quits his job and spends months driving aimlessly around the country. He meets Jack Pozzi, a young poker player who is skilled at the game. Their fates involve a stone wall and two men named William. Food: black pudding. Dark, rich, and good in small portions, but you're not sure you really want to know what went into making it.


James Nashe s'est fait plaquer, avec sa jeune fille, par sa femme Thérèse. Étant pompier, il confie la gamine à sa soeur, car il peut être appelé à tout moment par la caserne. Sa vie va prendre une autre tournure le jour où il reçoit un courrier le prévenant de la mort de son père, qu'il n'avait jamais connu, et dont il hérite d'une petite fortune. Il va alors quitter son boulot, s'acheter une voiture, et partir... Il va rouler pendant des kilomètres et des kilomètres, ne se lassant jamais du paysage défilant derrière la vitre, vivant parfois dans des petits motels, parfois dans de beaux hotels... mais un jour, il va faire la connaissance de Jack Pozzi, dit Jackpot. Le jeune garçon errait sur la route, salement amoché. Nashe va alors l'embarquer et s'occuper de lui... Jack va alors lui faire une proposition au sujet d'une partie de poker où il doit se rendre... un plan qui leur ferait gagner beaucoup d'argent...Pour la suite... à vous de le lire...

Carlos Bennett

Cuando era muy chico y en la televisión me dedicaba principalmente a ver el cartoon network, un día en la tarde puse HBO mientas comía pan con palta y empecé a ver una pelicula muy extraña. Habia dos tipos que viajaban hasta una mansión my tétrica para jugar poker con otros dos tipos mas tétricos aún que (por alguna razón) tenían una ciudad en miniatura construida dentro de su casa, y que entre otras extrencidades habían importado un castillo desde Europa (piedra por piedra: en el cesped enorme de su mansión estaban amontonadas las piedras). Los dos tipos (los protagonistas) pierden la apuesta en el poker, y como no tienen tanto dinero para pagar tienen que quedarse trabajando como casi-esclavos, construyendo con las piedras del castillo una pared que cruzara el enorme campo de pasto verde en las afueras de la mansión. Creo que fue la primera pelicula que vi con escenas de sexo implicito (era HBO a las 14:00 hrs no mas), con algo de violencia moderada pero sobre todo con un trasfondo super fuerte. La pelicula era rara. Me quedo pegadisima para siempre la escena en que Pozzi (el protagonista mas joven), después de que hubieran terminado parte del muro, caminaba por sobre él, feliz. Tiempo después, cuando ya me gustaba mucho Auster y me había leído casi todos sus libros, uno de los últimos que agarré fue este, y ahi recién me di cuenta de que estaba leyendo esa película (Doh). Este para mi es el mejor Auster. No soy un fanático de la primera época, la de la trilogia de Nueva York, cuando esta demasiado precocupado por existencialismos (a mi parecer) un poco baratos, con muchos artefactos literarios que parecen sacados de un libro de castellano. Tampoco me gusta la ultima época, desde Oracle Night (y sobre todo "Travels in the scriptorium"), en que lo unico que hace es mirarse el ombligo, escribir sobre-escritores-que-escriben-sobre-escribir y usar lugares comunes.Pero para mi tiene un periodo dorado, principalmente: La Musica del Azar, Leviathan y El palacio de la luna (este ultimo, ocasionalmente lo considero como mi libro favorito. En la historia). Y podriamos colocar a lo mejor Mr vertigo. Estos son los libros en que pareciera que deja que las imagenes que tiene dentro fluyan, sin ponerse a interferir él. Imagenes como la ciudad miniatura de la pareja bizarra en La Musica del Azar, o Pozzi feliz corriendo sobre el muro. O el viaje de M.S. Fogg a pie a través de l desierto americano en el Palacio de la Luna. O las estatuas explotando en Leviatán. O las 36 pruebas a las que es sometido el protagonista de Mr Vertigo por el maestro Yehudi.Auster tiene muchos detractores, y creo que muchas de las cosas que se dicen son ciertas. Los personajes son a veces increiblemente similares en todos los libros, y es cierto que su existencialismo a veces puede ser un poco adolescente y reiterativo, y que incluso a veces apela a la mistificación, sin realmente crear misticismo. Pero a mi en lo personal, que no leo los libros de literatura como ensayos, me parece que es el es escritor mas talentoso de su generación (teniendo en cuenta que el mas talentoso no siempre es el mejor). Un "natural". El mayor argumento que puedo dar es que ya pasaron varios años desde que me leí el libro, he leído desde entonces varios libros de Philip Roth, de McEwan y otros que supuestamente estan dos o tres pasos mas arriba en el canon oficial... y todavia me acuerdo mucho más de Pozzi corriendo sobre su muro. Recomiendo mucho este libro; es realmente hermoso.


This book left with so much thinking to do and had so many philosophical metaphors that I ended up pushing it on my friends, fully thinking that I had their best interest in mind. But when I actually, thought about it I realized that what I really wanted was someone to discuss the book with. I wanted to talk about the characters and the metaphor and what it was all really trying to say. Yeah, this is a fabulous book. It deals with existentialism, freedom and captivity, chance and coincidence and obsession. Most of all I feel this book deals with how one should live one's life. Whether to except things as they come or to struggle for what you want. Man, there's so much to this book. I'm just going to stop here, but don't miss this one.

Pablo Guzmán

En La música del azar me encuentro con el Auster de la gran imaginación, del azar, de personajes que intentan vivir y guiar sus propias vidas. Cierras el libro con un final inesperado, tras haber pensado durante 250 páginas que te gustaría lanzarte a la carretera, conducir tu vida; te quieres desatar de personas, trabajo y situaciones, para luego encontrarte y construir con tu pasado, junto a un nuevo amigo, un gran muro hecho de escombros de un castillo, levantando piedra a piedra, metro a metro, a quien has encontrado y eres en realidad. AUSTER, ERES GRANDE.


Cái kết của truyện khi Nashe lao cả người cùng chiếc sabb vào trong ánh đèn pha sáng lóa và cái kết của bộ phim chuyển thể khi Nashe chỉ đâm xe vào gốc cây, rồi bê bết máu loạng choạng bước đi - người ta có thể chọn thích một cái kết hơn cái kết kia, nhưng xét cho cùng, hai cái kết ấy chẳng khác gì nhau cả: đều phi lý đến tột cùng!Trong truyện bàng bạc cả cái phi lý của Camus (điển hình chính là vụ đâm xe cuối truyện) và của Kafka (việc xây dựng bức tường trong giữa khoảnh rừng và chuyện xẩy ra sau cùng với Pozzi dễ làm người đọc liên tưởng đến Lâu đài và Phiên tòa), cả cái hiện sinh có phần hơi quá lãng mạn của Sartre. Nhưng rõ ràng ở đây, luận điệu về tự do của Sartre không được ủng hộ cho lắm: người ta chỉ có thể luôn bám vào cái gì đó để sống (với Nashe là vợ và con gái, hoặc sau này là việc xây dựng bức tường), còn một khi người ta được tự do tuyệt đối, người ta chỉ còn lại bản thân mình với hư vô mà thôi (khoảng thời gian rong ruổi khắp đất Mỹ trên chiếc sabb của Nashe)... [to be continued]

Jose Gaona

Sorpresa mayúscula la que me llevé al leer este libro. En mi prejuicio por un autor al que apenas conocía, irreflexivamente catalogué a Paul Auster como autor "best seller", por tanto prescindible. Sin embargo, "La Música del Azar", lejos de poseer los lugares comunes y la prosa impersonal de esa clase de libros, se revela como una joya en miniatura. Auster traza los motivos y porqués de un tipo, que de la noche a la mañana, y tras recibir una suculenta herencia, decide romper con su vida anterior e irse de casa para conducir. Sin ningún destino en particular, sin ninguna meta concreta que cumplir. Conducir por el placer de conducir. Y en su periplo encuentra a un joven jugador de poker, "Jack Pozzi", que le convencerá para emprender juntos una vida de buscavidas profesionales. "La Música del Azar" es un "road book" (si es que existe el término) que rápidamente transmuta sus formas y continentes para convertirse en una novela kafkiana. Auster, con este libro, se ha ganado mi respeto, descubriéndose como un demiurgo de mundos surrealistamente jodidos. Imprescindible si no le temes a las espirales que proyectan geométricamente la degradación del ser humano.


A perfect gem of weirdness by the master of biographical synchronicities.


This is a super fun, smart, and ultimately powerful story about chance and money. The tone is both strange and familiar. Much of the dialogue is ripped right out of the experimental crime novels of the 1930s and 40s. The characters are fascinating creeps and lost lovers, and the setting is just bizarre enough to seem both very real and eerily prophetic. It felt timely - re: occupy movement - and timeless - re: chance. A fun roller coaster ride of a plot. Wow... talk about texture. This books is it! And interestingly it kind of denies any lyrical movements in favor of ellipsies and stress points until the denial itself feels lyrical. Highly recommend for lovers of the crime-ish novels of Denis Johnson (Nobody Move) and Charles Portis (Dog of the South).


In the early zeros, when I worked at the village IGA, Georges, one of the older baggers, came back from lunch with a stricken look on his face. He held up a receipt he found crumpled up by the bank machine across the street. "Hey. Check!" he said, holding it too close to my face. "Balance $200,000 tabarnak! My life is fucking garbage and always will be fucking garbage." An unhappy bagger can make for a long afternoon, so I examined the paper, clapped a chapped hand on his shoulder and said, "Only an idiot would leave $200,000 in a savings account." This seemed to cheer him up a bit, and it gave us a good discussion topic for the rest of the day. When Nashe, in Paul Auster's 'The Music of Chance' plops his $200,000 inheritance into a bank account, I know I'm in for a nervous read about a man will run out of money somewhere awful. Will it be fast? Will it be painful? Even when he's just driving the roads to nowhere in the beginning of the book, there's a lot of suspense over that money in the bank, and later, the glove box; sort of a fiscal musical chairs where I know from the start, Nashe is going to be 'out' in a big way. This is my first Paul Auster book, and I thought it was damn clever the way he wove suspense out of something sitting somewhere and running out. Once the money is gone, he continues to build a good story from other things running out on Nashe; strength, energy, clarity of mind, liberty, companionship, until the end where he finds out what he is made of. And the verdict isn't bad. He's lost everything, but Nashe is made of adequate stuff. He also appreciates how: "All of a sudden, the stones were turning into a wall, and in spite of the pain it had cost him, he could not help admiring it. Whenever he stopped and looked at it now, he felt awed by what he had done." I've never understood gambling, but the stones turning into a wall is a familiar state of mind, and I like how Auster let it sneak up on me, his lovely voice pulling me along. Does he, perhaps, feel this every time he writes a book? And how about this: "As Nashe and Pozzi discovered, it was one thing to lift a sixty-pound stone, but once that stone had been lifted, it was quite another thing to lift a second sixty-pound stone, and still another thing to take on the third stone after lifting the second. No matter how strong they felt while lifting the first, much of that strength would be gone by the time they came to the second... Every time they worked on the wall, Nashe and Pozzi came up against the same bewitching conundrum: all the stones were identical, and yet each stone was heavier than the one before it." This is the best book I have ever read about art, that's not about art. For what are great works of art, especially novels, made of? Heavy-lifting and geologic patience.

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