Travels in the Scriptorium

ISBN: 0805081453
ISBN 13: 9780805081459
By: Paul Auster

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About this book

L’homme qui, ce matin-là, se réveille, désorienté, dans une chambre inconnue est à l’évidence âgé. Il ne sait plus qui il est, il ignore pourquoi et comment il se retrouve assigné à résidence entre les quatre murs de cette pièce, percés d’une unique fenêtre n’ouvrant que sur un nouveau mur et d’une porte qui, pour lui demeurer invisible, doit bel et bien exister puisque des “visiteurs” vont la franchir… Sur un bureau, sont soigneusement disposés une série de photographies en noir et blanc, deux manuscrits et un stylo. Qui est-il ? Et que lui veulent ses interlocuteurs, dont cette Anna qui lui donne du “Mr Blank” et lui parle de comprimés, d’un traitement en cours, mais aussi, étrangement, d’amour et de promesses ? Une journée se passe, lors de laquelle les “visiteurs” qui se présentent reprochent au vieil homme de les avoir jadis envoyés accomplir de mystérieuses et périlleuses missions dont certains sont revenus irrémédiablement détruits. Et cependant qu’entre deux vertiges, corps et mémoire en déroute, Blank interroge des souvenirs qui refusent de se laisser exhumer, qu’il cherche dans le manuscrit l’hypothèse d’une explication, une caméra et un micro enregistrent le moindre geste, les moindres bruits de cette chambre où il subit son ultime et interminable épreuve…

Reader's Thoughts


I'm not the biggest Paul Auster fan. In fact, I've never really read any of his other books. I got attracted to this book because of its odd cover and a recommendation from another person new to Auster's worlds and he loved it. This is a terrible place to start for any Auster virgin because from what I can gather, its a bunch of in-jokes from characters that were in his previous novels. Like all meta-fiction, things take a turn for the absurd and questions of truth, art and honesty run abound. I'm holding off on any judgment pertaining to how I feel for Mr. Auster until I read his other work The New York Trilogy . While I know people are predominantly split with their feelings on both sides of the spectrum with no middle-ground, I do not have any feelings towards the mans work yet. Soon hopefully, but not yet.Overall, this work was a piece of fluff that can be easily read and forgotten much like the antagonist of the book, Mr. Blank. I don't even want to get started on how pompous I think the whole Mr. Blank thing is because I don't want to give any the ending. Suffice it to say, its a bit pretentious and heavy handed.A very minor work.


Like Alexander taking his sword to the Gordian Knot, Paul Auster chops away at the knotty loop he's tangled throughout Travels in the Scriptorium -- inelegantly solving the very problem he created while invalidating the reader's input.Until the ending, this was an obtuse work and brilliant for it's wide angle of perspective because the potential meanings were myriad. Mr. Blank could have been anyone. His crimes could have been anything. His victims could have been everyone or no one. This was a text begging for the reader to engage with the tale and finish it off, much as the "Final Report of Sigmund Graf" was begging Mr. Blank for completion, and my delight was in letting imagination wander about from allegorical possibility to allegorical possibility, and when Auster let this happen, Travels in the Scriptorium was marvelous.Unfortunately, Auster couldn't walk away from the knot he'd tied and let us all face it on our own. He carried his sword, carried it as mercilessly as Alexander of Macedonia, and he hacked at the knot until it slumped into an uncoiled mess, cleaved into pieces, ensuring that the power of the knot was no more.All the untangling I'd been doing was for naught; while i was reading, the untangling was everything. By the end, Auster left me with nothing.

Bill Kerwin

Light-weight meta-fiction. Not much going on here really, but--as always with Auster--his style makes it worthwhile.


** spoiler alert ** Here’s something I wish I’d known before reading this book: Travels in the Scriptorium should not be the first Paul Auster you read. (Why didn’t I read a review?!) If I’d done my research rather than impulsively grabbing this off a table because of its quirky cover (a horse! in a room!) I would have known that this is Auster’s thirteenth novel and his most navel-gazing, almost a note to longtime fans. As a newcomer, I didn’t realize that all of the secondary characters were drawn from his previous novels, meaning that the entire book is a send-up to his past work, full of oblique references. Obviously I read the book completely differently than a fan would and, let me tell you, it suffered for it.The back cover copy made this seem like a classic closed door mystery: a man trapped in a room, having lost his memory, seeking to discover the sinister force that may have imprisoned him. I’ve seen plenty of great films and books that use this as a frame, so I was intrigued. If you want the “a-ha” moment, you literally only have to read the last three paragraphs of the book. That delivery felt thin, like Auster had dashed off those paragraphs, then built a loose story around it. I was left thinking I’d wasted my time, which isn’t a good sign for a book so short that it’s practically a novella. Travels in the Scriptorium felt like a gimmick.Would I recommend? If you’re a diehard Paul Auster fan, I think you’ll find some fun winks and nods. If you’re a newbie, avoid. There’s not enough substance here to make it worthwhile.To read more of my reviews, visit my blog at


نیوتن معتقد بود هر آنچه که نوشته شده است محقق می‌شود. با نوشتن می‌توان دنیاهای منحصر بفردی را خلق نمود. دنیاهایی که قوانین مورد نظر خالق آن (نویسنده) در آن حاکم است و شخصیت‌های داستانی در آن دنیاهای خلق شده اگر نویسنده بخواهد می‌توانند تا ابد به زندگی ادامه دهند و من هیچ دلیلی نمی‌بینم همه این دنیاهای فعلی و دنیاهای بعدی نوشته نشده باشند حتی دنیای خودمان.


When I read this I did not know it was largely based on Auster himself and his fictive universe so far (as other reviews have since told me). It was an odd, yet intriguing man-without-memory-in-a-small-room story.


First things first: I am an Auster fan. I’m not sure I’d have been able to enjoy this book were I unfamiliar with his work. Yes, its gotten mixed reviews. Yes, it is self-referential. (Honestly, is this a surprise to anyone? Get over it.) Worth reading for Auster-philes? Without a doubt. The issues Auster takes on in this novella (really, it’s only about 150 pages) are familiar to his readers: questions of identity, memory, the nature of narrative, among others. The writing is tighter, more compact than that of “Brooklyn Follies,” and I enjoyed it more. This book is fun to puzzle over . . . Highly recommended. If you're new to Auster, start with the New York Trilogy or "Book of Illusions."

Trixie Fontaine

The first Paul Auster I've read where I totally get why some people dislike not just him, but his writing.Felt like a little self-indulgent quick smarty-pants bullshit project/trick, or maybe I'm just not sophisticated enough to appreciate it. Glad it was short or I never would have finished it (though, annoyingly, it IS something you feel like you need to get to the end of which only helps make you feel manipulated into "getting" it in more ways than one).I guess I was supposed to feel really depressed about life at the end, but I did finish it right before falling to sleep and that was perfect and not-disturbing at all for me.I've also been slogging through Murakami's After Dark off-and-on for months so both of these books all-seeing-camera-recorder things and narrators remind me of each other. Neither as compellingly crafty or interesting as they want them to be.


Auster se encierra en un sanatorio con algunos de los personajes del resto de su obra. Me planteo si tal vez me hubiera gustado más de haber tenido más recientes sus otros libros, pero me parece que no. Decepcionante, pretencioso y con bastante de paja mental.


I like to make my own mind up about books so I don't generally read reviews or research books before I read them. Good thing too because I would have been warned not to start my first foray into Austerland with this book, but I'm glad I did. There were things in the story, names mentioned that to an Auster reader/fan would be almost like an inside joke of sorts & I wasn't in on them thus allowing me to enjoy the story without guessing what was going on. As it was, I didn't get what was happening & what the truth was until halfway through & by then I'd been suckered into this room with the protagonist, Mr.Blank. I felt very much like I'd been written into this room with this man & his story & I was quite pleased to be there until the very end. Meeting Auster this way was great because I get the sense I got to know more about him from this story than I will from his other work. This book clearly came from the mind of someone very intelligent, someone whose mind is always at a green light, never red. It makes me really eager to read his other work. I know now that out of all his books this is the least liked but I would guess that other writers quite enjoyed it & understood it in a way that fans cannot. I see it as a book for writers, a book for fans, & very much a book for himself.


Travels in the Scriptorium opens like this: a man, known only as Mr. Blank, is apparently imprisoned within a room. He remembers snippets of his childhood, but nothing of how he came to be in the room, and has little to no recollection of his adult life. During the course of the story, he is visited by a number of people - two women who take on nurse/carer roles, an ex-policeman, a lawyer and so on - and recognises them only vaguely, if at all. He contemplates escaping from the room, but seems incapable of attempting to discover whether the door is locked from the outside, despite the fact that he is able to move around and the room is small. To pass the time, he begins to read a manuscript on his desk, which turns out to be an account of a man's adventures and imprisonment in 'the Confederation', a vaguely sci-fi fictionalised version of America.This book is really an extended short story, with a strong surreal flavour. It becomes obvious quite quickly that the character of Mr. Blank is supposed to represent the author - if not Auster himself, then something of the writer's spirit, perhaps the part of him that makes him an author. Blank's visitors frequently refer to themselves as 'operatives' who he has sent on 'missions', often with seriously detrimental effects on their lives. Whether the visitors are benign, or seeking revenge, is unclear, but it does seem to be the case that by the conclusion, they have 'won'. Apparently, this story contains references to every one of Auster's other novels; I can't account for all of them, as I've only read three so far. But I did recognise the title (also the name of one of the unseen Hector Mann films in The Book of Illusions) and a number of character names, particularly those from The New York Trilogy. The story itself is very reminiscent of the tales in The New York Trilogy, with heavy use of symbolism and motifs. Altogether, it's extremely, and obviously deliberately, self-referential.I was a little disappointed in this, compared to the other Auster books I've read in the past month. I wasn't sure what the minutiae of Mr. Blank's activities (and by 'activities' I mean things like going to the toilet or getting an erection) added to the story, which was already scant enough. The story contained within the manuscript, ostensibly penned by John Trause of Oracle Night, was interesting, but didn't end up going anywhere - though of course that's kind of the point of it (the story 'ends' halfway through, and Mr. Blank invents a range of possible endings which rather spoil the illusion). After how much I've enjoyed Auster's novels, this left me feeling a bit short-changed, and while his talent was still evident in the prose style, it definitely wasn't a favourite.

MacDara Conroy

A slight but worthy volume that harkens back to Auster's early work, revisiting themes like the nature of meaning and identity and even referencing characters from his formative novels.


Patinazo de Auster, una novela de misterio tiene como misión primordial enganchar desde la página -1.Traspasado el meridiano de la historia hay una composición muy interesante sobre como desarrollar una idea para un libro de manera veloz, pero escaso bagaje para tan gran escritor.No es el Auster que conocí, tampoco es la clásica historia de Auster, te lo diré sin concesiones: "zapatero a tus zapatos".


If I am to be honest, the most powerful part of this slim volume is its cover art, a spectral, haunting tableau which, along with long hearing good things about the author, was admittedly instrumental in my picking the book up. I don't regret being suckered in by that hook. I simply wish the story itself had been stronger.To be sure, the scenario set up in the story is fascinating... the old man, trapped in a room, with no memory of how he got there or where he is. Outside characters and events come through in hushed tones, and add much to the suspense, keeping you on your toes and guessing. You're continually hoping to find out more... to see what you can see. In many ways, it's like the "room escape" games that populate the internet. You want him to click the desk and have the desk state "you cannot open the desk". You want to check the window. The door. On and on. Knowing these items exist and are not fully explored makes the suspense build up in your chest.The upsetting part, though, is that it never really gets there. The old man is too weak, distracted, or fearful to truly explore to the extent he could, or should. Extended sequences of him reading a manuscript put that anxiety of this man in his solitary, unsettling, constantly monitored room on pause, which frustrated me more than excited me. The worst part, though, for me, was guessing the ending a good halfway through the book. It made getting there and being right feel like finishing a chore. Not that the ending truly tells you what is going on. It remains shrouded to the last. But anyone who can get to the end and not grasp what is supposedly going on might wish to leave books of this nature alone.What this book DOES do right is the excellent framing of scene, and building a knot tight in your stomach waiting for what's next in a story where not much truly happens. And the cover. That still rocks. It's just a shame that, for me at least, it devolved so thoroughly as time went on, until the suspense and intrigue that made it so appealing disappeared, and took the appeal with it.


It took me a while to start this book, I got it as a gift a year ago, what put me off was the mixed reviews, but now I realize why... you shouldn't read this if you haven't read anything by Paul Auster, and you specially shouldn't if you don't like his stuff/style. Fortunately, I really like how he writes, although I've only read 5 of his books so far (counting The New York Trilogy as one since I read it all at once). I should have probably read some others before this (In the Country of Last Things, Oracle Night, Moon Palace, and probably Leviathan) I'm not sure if anything from those stories has been "spoiler-ed" for me.There is only one way to describe this story: meta. It's all about Auster, who else?, it reads like his personal nightmare. The book features a lot of his previous characters, some play a part, some are mentioned by name, and some only by description. I was pleasantly surprised to find a small mention to Willy G. Christmas, from Timbuktu (one of my favorites): "A bearded, scraggly-looking homeless person sitting on a sidewalk with his arms around a large mutt."I rate it the highest because I was hooked from the start, it's short and I read it all in two days, it's probably the best way to read it since your memory can betray you with all the names and situations mentioned - not that it's important to remember, I guess. And as an end note I must add: I even forgive the scatological and sexual stuff because they were written so awesomely that I couldn't help but laugh and underline.

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