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


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.


la primera vez que abandono un libro de Auster, que pesado, que pedante...en fin alguno malo tenia que tener...


بعد از کشور آخرین‌های پل استر مدت‌ها بود که هیچ کتابی منو شگفت زده نکرده بود اما باز هم پل استر در کتابی دیگر منو کاملا به وجد آورد. این کتاب با ایده‌ی جالبی که داره و توصیفات دقیقی که ارائه می‌ده با ذهن خواننده به راحتی و با ظرافت بازی می‌کنه و در نهایت درست وقتی که ذهن آرام گرفته اونو به هیجان می‌یاره... توصیه می‌کنم اول کتاب "کشور آخرین‌ها" رو بخونید از پل استر بعد بیایید سراغ سفر در اتاق تحریر ( همونطور که دوستی به من این توصیه‌ی ارزشمند رو کرد) اما به این کتاب 5 ستاره‌ی کامل رو ندادم چون انتهای ِبسیار مبهمی داشت... شاید اگر دوباره این کتاب رو بخونم 5 ستاره بهش خواهم داد ...


This book was brilliant! I was completely sucked into the story and just wanted to devour it page after page. It was so unpredictable, I had no idea where the story would go and how it would be resolved or if it even would that I couldn't put it down. It was mind-boggling, a little creepy at times but very engaging.A number of people say this is Auster's worst book. Well, this happens to be the first of his works that I've read and if that's the case, then he really is one fantastic story teller. I can't wait to read more if him.

Gertrude & Victoria

I have to say this was the worst Paul Auster book I've read, and I've read most of his works. If you must read Travels in the Scriptorium, it is best that you keep your expectations in check. That way you won't be bitterly disappointed. From the very first words I thought this story was going nowhere. I was correct. When I had finished it it had gone nowhere. It was a tedious read. And a bore. At least though, the second half was a little better than the first, but overall I thought it was a lame story and poorly written, not the work of Paul Auster at his best. If you're thinking of reading this book I suggest you borrow it from your local library and save your money for something decent. I have generously given this two stars, but I was tempted to give it one.


Okay, well I read this entire book (90 pages) within a few hours in the Barnes & Nobles. Truth be told, I read it there for two reasons: (a) I have been told to read something by Paul Auster by a few people and (b) I didn't want to pay $16.00 for it.(My daughter read the Guiness Book of World Records for Kids, lol)It's an interesting story within a story. The writing, initially, is pretty solid, pretty tight. But the story is hard to keep interested in. A lot of the plot is a description of the main character, Mr. Blank, and his activities. You get bits and pieces of the story as you go along, and there is to be some great reveal/allegory at the end. I wouldn't say it was a great revelation, but it was interesting - I'll give Mr. Auster that much.I've also been told this isn't the best of Auster's works, and I can accept that. It wasn't painful to read; it went quite smoothly for the most part, but I didn't find it particularly memorable or inspiring. Just meh.Which is how it ended up with three stars...PS The cover *is* great, isn't it? lol

M. Sarki

Notes while reading this book: I can say that after reading the first twenty-three pages I am hooked. So much going on for me here. I especially enjoyed the sponge-bath happy ending. Beautifully done.Immediately thinking of Quentin Tarantino's Mr. Black, Mr. Pink, in Austen's character Mr. Blank. The mystery. Also the simple and sparse theater set in the novel reminds me of a stage play being acted out and a response of some sort to Endgame by Samuel Beckett. Again, the mystery is what does it for me. While reading this novel I am made to feel the old boy Mr. Blank is on his last legs. I certainly do relate to that as I myself was crippled and forced to a wheelchair after my fall from my cabin roof the morning of Easter Sunday in 2010. But though I recovered I will never be the same and something tells me this old man won't be either. Simple pleasures such as the happy ending given by the pretty woman who happened to serve as his caretaker was such a beautiful passage and something many of us men can only hope for when we near our own time of dying. But the novel was puzzling to me in the end when the writer fell silent. I felt robbed and was disappointed with the last few pages. It felt as though Auster had grown tired of the work and found a way to bring it all to a stop. The pace had been exhilarating to me, the rhythm sweet, and I was excited to learn what comes next. I did not want the story to end. But it did, and not so gracefully either. It is possible the tale is just a simple circle and I am not bright enough to know that in my heart of hearts. Paul Auster had us, along with Mr. Blank, attempting to keep the characters straight. Blank knew he would never remember tomorrow what happened today so he wrote names down in order to remember them and somehow fudge his memory awake enough to recall and make the association. Perhaps it was dementia. Alzheimer's disease is the most common type of dementia, but it didn't seem to be the problem with Blank. He knew what the function of things were and it was proven when they switched all the tags on things in order to test him or confuse him more. It was never very clear what his keepers were up to. He was an old man who had memories of things he liked. When his shoes were off he rediscovered ice skating and imagined his floor into a rink. But he slipped and fell down and wet his pants in the course of the jarring crash to the floor. Blank could also still tell a made-up story and anxiously wanted to finish it but they wouldn't let him and that is perhaps the issue here. It is possible they wouldn't let us finish either. We have so many loose ends here. We want closure, especially in regards to Anna. Mr. Blank wasn't the only one infatuated with this girl. I am now, just in the last few minutes because of an internet search, painfully aware that all the characters found in Travels in the Scriptorium are from previous books by Paul Auster. I have not read any of them at this writing, only this one. And I am sort of glad I hadn't. But now that I am hot on the trail of Auster I imagine I will be more intimately reacquainted with all these folks in due time. At that point I will reread the Scriptorium and I am sure I will have a totally different experience. The point that Blank was being kept in a scriptorium suggests he was a writer, which makes sense now knowing what I know today. But every word I wrote at the beginning of this piece was composed with no knowledge of the past works of Auster. The fact is, in real time Auster himself is getting older. He has quit driving a car, and he has suffered many illnesses throughout his life and aware it will only be getting worse as he continues to age. Dementia is the norm for the aged. Memory is also suspect as time goes by. Keeping things straight is obviously for those who care, or can. Having additional experiences such as loving or being loved, conversations, good food, happy endings, ice skating, and even reading would seem what is most important to a person at the end stages of a long and fulfilling life. I loved the book but know I got most of it wrong. I like the idea of revisiting Travels in the Scriptorium again at a later date. That is, if I get there. Seems I am starting with Auster's latest works and hustling my way in reverse. And this method is probably not the brightest of my better ideas.


I guess this is one of those cases of why you shouldn't judge a book by its cover. I had high expectations, but this book just didn't measure up. If it wasn't such a short book, I probably would have thrown in the towel half way through.


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.


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.


** 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

Simon Cleveland

Auster always surprises me with his stories. In Timbuktu I met a dog and saw the whole story through the animal’s point of view. In Travels In The Scriptorium I meet an old man with suffering from amnesia, but portrayed in a sense that embodies us, the readers. Mr. Blank (strange name for a character), wakes up one morning in a room of what appears to be some sort of sanatorium. Except Mr. Blank feels strangely like a prisoner in this place. The windows are bolted; the room is completely bare, yet the essence of it yields certain kind of strangeness to the casual observer. And the more Mr. Blank digs into his own memory to recover the string that connects his past to his current situation, the more we, the readers, hold our breath in anticipation of the revelation. Written with a vibrant style and exceptional character development, Travels In The Scriptorium will keep you glued to the pages until the very end. Do try to make sense of Auster's meaning behind this book and beware - you may discover your own Mr. Blank.

Pilar Merino

** spoiler alert ** Paul Auster, considered as one of the great writers nowadays, both for the great quantity of works he has produced and because he offers a kind of narrative escaping from the traditional story-telling. He has been given many prizes and awards; in 2006 he received the Príncipe de Asturias for Literature.The story is about a quite old man living in a room, ignoring if he is free. He seems quite sick, with problems to get dressed, to feed himself and to move safely. Five people go and visit him: two women and three men, an ex policeman, his doctor and his solicitor who tells the many serious charges he is acused of.Paul Auster has always been very fond of existentialist thinking; his staying in Paris gave him the chance of absorbing Sartre's ideas.His books are full of good stories, he is a good narrator,being able to create a world that lies on the edge of the unreason.However, I think that his creative process was different this time. Being close to the old age, on the verge of the unavoidable must be quite hard, it means you are at the point of no return. In my opinion, this is the state of mind with which Auster began the writing of "Travels in the Scriptorium", a book full of symbols. Beginning with the main character's name, Mr Blank,- blank= empty,- is very explanatory. The room where he is kept is full of labels each of them with the name of an object in the room. Is it because old people forget things or because he suffered a kind of accident? Mr Blank represents the old age with all its disadvantages and discapacities, when everything, sooner or later, begins to work in an improper or irregular way. Another feature of the ancientness is that your mind flies to the past, to those sweet memories of childhood, what Mr Blank often does. But as well as you remember the good times, bad times appear with their effects: sorrow, repentance, anguish, guilt (pages 18,26,35,43).There is another metaphore in the story: the room can represent the brains where the intelligence and the soul are. The room is almost empty because of the loss of memory of people at that age. The door for the closet he couldn't find may be those areas of the brain where we place the discarded ideas or those zones still well kept with well organized information but where we forgot how to get to. It reminds me of a book I have recently read "El cuarto de atrás" de carmen Martín Gaite.The last symbol concerns the name of the book. The SCRIPTORIUM was a room that all medieval monastic communities had for the making of manuscripts: the copy of texts and the decoration of some pages, as well as the design of initial letters, what was known as the illumination of the text. Paul Auster calls his book "Travels in he Sciptorium" because of the comings and goings from the outer world into the inner world, and having Mr Blank as the person who,like the monks, sat at a desk to read and make a story. We move between fantasy and reality.Mr Blank finishes the story giving it the name of "Travels in the Scriptorium" by N.R.Fanshawe. And as in the theatre, the play finishes when lights go out.


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".

Bill Kerwin

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

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