* Prices may differ from that shown
Travels in Scriptorium by Paul Auster is in short quite a strange book. To be honest I'm not even sure if strange covers it because after reading the book I'm not even certain if I know what actually happened, although I am reasonably certain that this was probably the intended effect. Either way the book left me more than a little confused and the ending was... well strange.
I'd just like to point out at this point that books don't normally confuse me and that I can usually follow most threads without difficulty but on finishing this book I was overcome by the feeling that I wasn't actually certain about what I had just read and this made me want to read it again. Even after reading it a second time, the book is only short at 130 pages, I'm still not 100% clear on what the book is all about or even what it is trying to tell us. This lead me to the conclusion that I came up with in the first paragraph - that the book is intended to leave us a little confused about what has happened.
Because of the fact that I'm not dead certain as to what the book is actually about the plot summary I am now going to give you is simply the one given on the blurb on the inside cover:
'An old man sits in a room, with a single door and window, a bed, a desk and a chair. Each day he awakes with no memory, unsure of whether or not he is locked into the room. Attached to the few objects around him are one-word, hand-written labels and on the desk is a series of vaguely familiar black and white photographs and four piles of paper. The middle-aged woman called Anna enters and talks of pills and treatment but also of love and promises
Who is this Mr Blank, and what is his fate? What does Anna represent from his past - and will he have enough time to ever make sense of the clues that arise?'
This plot summary is what really made me want to read the book and it is this summary combined with one other sentence found on the inside cover that makes me want to read the book again and again. That sentence states that Travels in the Scriptorium is 'a dark puzzle, and a game that implicates both reader and writer alike, it in an ingenious exploration of language, responsibility and the passage of time'.
I know that I have been rather vague about this book but that is because the book itself is somewhat vague in its contents. Saying this however I must admit that it is superbly written and gripping from start to finish because as a reader and an outsider you always want to know what is going to happen next. The ending also doesn't fail to disappoint although it doesn't sum up things like you may imagine. Some may find this a bit of a let down but I personally found it very unique, extremely clever and desperately intriguing. The way that the novel is brought to a close without in many ways being finished brings to the forefront how much of a compelling author Auster is and how for the most part by withholding more information that he tells he can get you so wrapped up in a story that you never want to put it down.
I hope that this has given you an insight into the book without giving too much away, as with the book being so short and rather confusing at times it would have been so easy for me to spoil the ending and tell you why the confusion escalates. I have however refrained from doing this allowing you to make up your own mind about the novels content.
I would strongly suggest however that you read the novel a second time once you have finished it because a second reading does allow the content to filter through slightly better and push you towards making new conclusions and developing new ideas.
All in all Travels in the Scriptorium is a fantastic short novel that can easily be devoured in a day and one that I would recommend. You may finish the novel feeling more confused than when you started it but for me this only made the whole book seem more intriguing and mysterious.
The scenario is set in a room, with Mr Blank who has limited memory, and everything in the room is labelled.
Thus the mystery unfolds......
Just a nice, clever little read to tickle your brain. Thankfully, it's short and sweet and leaves you pondering darkly on its crafted, open-ended mystery at its centre(s).
It's not often that you get the chance to read such a book. You'll find out at the end, so I can't give much away, but just urge you to pick it up. I'd not read any previous Paul Auster books, so have no previous references. Apparently some of the characters feature in his other books.
It's a bit similar to 'The Dumb Waiter' in its reflections on the human spirit, where characters are confined. But this is no theatre or 'Waiting for Godot', but a well-conceived taut little novel, about control, being controlled etc....Also, the implications of writing - the power of writing - feature here, in a sort of sub-plot.
It's a bit of a long, short story like Stephen King's Shawshank Redemption (where the short story is just as good as the film).
Nothing truly deep, but top quality writing, for the little mystery that is life.