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Authors: Paul Auster


BOOK: Leviathan
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Paul Auster and
receive rave reviews

“Auster’s most accessible, engaging book. He treats us to his best clear-eyed prose.”

The New York Times Magazine

“Brisk and compelling … Auster’s powerful narrative engine keeps us reading and rushing toward a breathless conclusion.”

Los Angeles Times

“Paul Auster’s novels are beautifully designed artifacts, intellectual puzzles dedicated to the proposition that life is a mystery ruled by chaos and chance. In counterpoint to their message, they are propelled by the most fluid and graceful of prose styles.”

New York Newsday

“Unnerving … Contains occasional patches of gorgeous prose, but more often the style is deliberately spare, a stainless steel string for all the gaudy narrative prose.”

The Washington Post Book World

“Auster’s sleight of hand imbues his work with a haunting sense of the uncanny.”

San Francisco Chronicle

“Contains bounties of intelligence, mystery and literary magic sufficient to nourish and delight the mind.”

Chicago Sun-Times

“The allure of Auster’s elegant plotting, the play of his ideas, and the sensuous pleasure of his prose keep us firmly hooked.”

Chicago Tribune

“A master of the modern novel … Auster combines good old-fashioned mystery narratives with intensely literary forms.”

Harper’s Bazaar

“Compelling, exhilarating … Literary art can work some powerful magic after all.”

St. Petersburg Times

“Suspenseful and meditative … blends a crime story with a thoughtful examination of important psychological and moral questions.”

Library Journal



is the author of the novels
The Brooklyn Follies, Oracle Night, The Book of Illusions, Timbuktu, Mr. Vertigo
(awarded the 1993 Prix Medicis Étranger),
The Music of Chance
(nominated for the 1991 PEN/Faulkner Award),
Moon Palace
In the Country of Last Things
, and the three novels known as “The New York Trilogy”:
City of Glass, Ghosts
, and
The Locked Room
. He has also written two memoirs (
The Invention of Solitude
Hand to Mouth
), a collection of essays, and a volume of poems, and edited the book
I Thought My Father Was God
And Other True Tales from NPR’s National Story Project
. Auster was the recipient of the 2006 Prince of Asturias Award for Letters and was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 2006. He has won literary fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts in both poetry and prose, and in 1990 received the Morton Dauwen Zabel Award from the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters. He wrote the screenplays for
Blue in the Face
, and
Lulu on the Bridge
, which he also directed. His work has been translated into more than thirty languages. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.

The author extends special thanks to Sophie Calle for permission to mingle Fact with fiction


Published by the Penguin Group

Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014, U.S.A.

Penguin Group (Canada), 90 Eglinton Avenue East, Suite 700, Toronto, Ontario,

Canada M4P 2Y3 (a division of Pearson Penguin Canada Inc.)

Penguin Books Ltd, 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England

Penguin Ireland, 25 St Stephen’s Green, Dublin 2, Ireland

(a division of Penguin Books Ltd)

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Australia (a division of Pearson Australia Group Pty Ltd)

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New Delhi - 110 017, India

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(a division of Pearson New Zealand Ltd)

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Rosebank, Johannesburg 2196, South Africa

Penguin Books Ltd, Registered Offices: 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England

First published in the United States of America by Viking Penguin,

a division of Penguin Books USA Inc., 1992

Published in Penguin Books 1993


Copyright © Paul Auster, 1992
All rights reserved


This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.


Auster, Paul, 1947–

Leviathan/Paul Auster.

p. cm.

ISBN 0-670-84676-7 (hc.)

ISBN 978-0-14-017813-5 (pbk.)

I. Title.

PS3551.U77L48 1992

813’.54—dc20 92-1282

Printed in the United States of America

Set in Garamond No. 3

Designed by Cheryl L. Cipriani

Except in the United States of America, this book is sold subject to the condition that it shall not, by way of trade or otherwise, be lent, re-sold, hired out, or otherwise circulated without the publisher’s prior consent in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition including this condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.

The scanning, uploading and distribution of this book via the Internet or via any other means without the permission of the publisher is illegal and punishable by law. Please purchase only authorized electronic editions, and do not participate in or encourage electronic piracy of copyrighted materials. Your support of the author’s rights is appreciated.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

For the Best in Paperbacks, Look for the

for Don DeLillo

Every actual State is corrupt

—Ralph Waldo Emerson



Six days ago, a man blew himself up by the side of a road in northern Wisconsin. There were no witnesses, but it appears that he was sitting on the grass next to his parked car when the bomb he was building accidentally went off. According to the forensic reports that have just been published, the man was killed instantly. His body burst into dozens of small pieces, and fragments of his corpse were found as far as fifty feet away from the site of the explosion. As of today (July 4, 1990), no one seems to have any idea who the dead man was. The FBI, working along with the local police and agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, began
their investigation by looking into the car, a seven-year-old blue Dodge with Illinois license plates, but they quickly learned that it had been stolen—filched in broad daylight from a Joliet parking lot on June 12. The same thing happened when they examined the contents of the man’s wallet, which by some miracle had come through the explosion more or less unscathed. They thought they had stumbled onto a wealth of clues—driver’s license, Social Security number, credit cards—but once they fed these documents into the computer, each one turned out to have been either forged or stolen. Fingerprints would have been the next step, but in this case there were no fingerprints, since the man’s hands had been obliterated by the bomb. Nor was the car of any help to them. The Dodge had been turned into a mass of charred steel and melted plastic, and in spite of their efforts, not a single print could be found on it. Perhaps they’ll have more luck with his teeth, assuming there are enough teeth to work with, but that’s bound to take some time, perhaps as long as several months. In the end, there’s no doubt they’ll think of something, but until they can establish the identity of their mangled victim, their case has little chance of getting off the ground.

As far as I’m concerned, the longer it takes them the better. The story I have to tell is rather complicated, and unless I finish it before they come up with their answer, the words I’m about to write will mean nothing. Once the secret is out, all sorts of lies are going to be told, ugly distortions will circulate in the newspapers and magazines, and within a matter of days a man’s reputation will be destroyed. It’s not that I want to defend what he did, but since he’s no longer in a position to defend himself, the least I can do is explain who he was and give the true story of how he happened to be on that road in northern Wisconsin. That’s why I have to work fast: to be ready for them when the moment comes. If by some chance the mystery remains unsolved, I’ll simply hold on to what I have written,
and no one will need to know a thing about it. That would be the best possible outcome: a perfect standstill, not one word spoken by either side. But I mustn’t count on that. In order to do what I have to do, I have to assume they’re already closing in on him, that sooner or later they’re going to find out who he was. And not just when I’ve had enough time to finish this—but at any moment, at any moment beginning now.

BOOK: Leviathan
8.86Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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