The idea that any life is a garden of diverging paths and that by passing each fork we thereby cut off and cross out other scenarios, is not new and is implicitly present in any biography. However, Paul Auster, in his opus “4 3 2 1”, chooses a defiantly unconventional strategy: instead of finding one mainstream in the hero’s biography and sticking to it, he prefers to tell all versions of what would happen to Archie Ferguson, a Jew, the son of Stanley and Rosa, a third-generation emigrant, a native of New York, turn the circumstances of his life differently.
Archie Ferguson was born in 1947. His father is a furniture merchant and the youngest, the most intelligent, honest and enterprising of Ferguson’s three brothers, the sons of Ike’s loser and his wife, Fanny, a crazy hysterical. Stanley’s wife, beautiful Rose, is a photographer, owner of a photo studio in a suburb of New York. Perhaps this is the only constant in the book – all other events in Archie’s life move in four parallel streams, sometimes – in some key details – overlapping, but for the most part completely autonomous.
Stanley got rid of his stupid brothers, got rich, and when Archie passed eight, his family moved into a bigger house. Stanley’s business collapsed due to the betrayal of the brothers, but Stanley managed to keep afloat, and now his family lives in modest prosperity. Stanley died in a family store fire. The store burned out, but Stanley survived. Of these four starting points, a slow, quiet and very deep romance-river (or rather, a river-delta with several sleeves) develops about one human life — ordinary and unique, like any other life, coupled with all the key events of the second half. The twentieth century, but obviously not reducible to them.
Slightly twisting the parameters at the entrance and observing how the indicators at the exit change, Paul Auster thus explores the relationship between predestination and freedom in each individual destiny; Once again, it uses the original methods to consider the role of the individual in history (including its own history) and tries to find out what actually defines this very person – and what remains unchanged when external circumstances change.
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