Dead. Full Report at Eleven:
The Questioning of the Author
Function in City of Glass and The Lizard's Tail
San Francisco State University
unfolds like a game [...] that invariably goes beyond its own
rules and transgresses its limits" (Foucault 102). It is interesting
that Michel Foucault, in his essay "What is an Author?" should
refer to writing as a game. A game implies a set of rules that
keep participation fair on both sides. These rules mark the
distinction between a game and play. A game has structure. Play
is freeform. If writing is a game, what are the sides in this
game? I would posit that the participants in this game are the
reader and the author. In the postmodern novel, as in the cases
of Paul Auster's City of Glass and Luisa Valenzuela's
The Lizard's Tail, the participant is the author against
him/herself. The author plays a kind of literary solitaire,
if you will. These two authors not only go "beyond [writing's]
own rules and [transgress] its limits," they go as far as to
kill the author in the process of their game playing.
of Glass and The Lizard's Tail present intricate
worlds in which the question of authorship and the powers of
this role are called into question, by not only the author but
also the characters in the novel. In these worlds, the characters
write stories in which no one is who they appear to be, even
the authors, who appear as characters in their own narratives.
They surprise the reader by entering into their narrative, only
to slowly fade away and disappear/die out of the text. To this
matter, Roland Barthes states that "the removal of the Author
[¥] utterly transforms the modern text ([...] the text is henceforth
made and read in such a way that at all its levels the author
is absent)" (255). When Barthes refers to the "removal of the
Author," he is referring to the figurative removal of the concept
of the author from the reader's interpretation of the text.
and Valenzuela go beyond Barthes to remove themselves as the
"author" in their texts. This leaves us with the question regarding
our texts, why is the death of the author important? I will
answer this question through the techniques used by each author
in questioning the author's function. The "author" in each text
literally disappears. This is done through a questioning of
the trustworthiness of the narrator, a questioning of authorship
through the insertion of the author as a character, and finally,
the disappearance of the author.
Auster questions the trustworthiness of his narrator from the
beginning of the text in a way that makes this question obvious
to the reader. In his novel, the main character, Daniel Quinn,
is reading in his apartment and comes across the following passage
(also at the beginning of its respective text) in Marco Polo's
will set down things seen as seen, things heard as heard,
so that our book may be an accurate record, free from any
sort of fabrication. And all who read this book or hear it
may do so with full confidence, because it contains nothing
but the truth." (Auster 7)
as the phrase, "it goes without saying..." really means that
it does not go without saying (because if it did go without
saying, it would be unnecessary to say what follows), Auster's
inclusion of this seemingly random citation is a method of encouraging
the reader to consider the truth of the material being presented.
The reader is encouraged to doubt everything (s)he reads, simply
because it is stated to be true; although, as I will discuss
later, Auster will contradict any semblance to truth that the
"author" later mirrors these same claims to fact when he states,
"[s]ince this story is based entirely on facts, the author feels
it is his duty not to overstep the bounds of the verifiable,
to resist at all costs the perils of invention" (Auster 135).
This is a very firm statement, in which, the "author" takes
the claims of Marco Polo and makes them his own. Auster(a) does,
however, provide further clues to the deception being practiced
by the "author" of his text. Throughout the novel the "author"
makes the repeated statement: "In his dream, which he later
forgot, he found himself..." (10, 87, 126). With his brief descriptions
of these dreams, the "author" provides vivid images that are
symbolic of the events of the story and therefore function well
in the story world. However, the reader should not trust a narrator
who, in the same breath, vividly describes dreams that the protagonist
"later forgot." When did he forget them? The "author" has already
informed us that "for many months now [Quinn] had not remembered
any of his dreams" (6). The "author" now claims a level of omniscience
that points to his inability "to resist [...] the perils of
invention," contradicting himself and further calling into question
the course of the novel we learn that Auster(c) is a writer,
but we know nothing about the implied author except his consistent
referral to himself as "the author" (135), which happens more
and more frequently as the novel progresses. In fact, we only
learn a few facts about him in the last few pages of the book.
We learn that he has just returned from Africa and is a friend
of Auster(c)'s; therefore, he is not an omniscient narrator
but one who is also engaged in a "detective's activity of piecing
together the facts of a case" (Sorapure 75). At best this "author"
has a relationship with Daniel Quinn within two degrees of separation,
yet he claims to know the intimate workings of his mind, including
the contents of dreams that Quinn was unable to remember. This
means that the facts of the narrator preclude any claims he
may make to understand the inner workings of Quinn's mind.
author does, at the end of the text, admit to a degree of competency
that is perhaps not perfect: "I have followed the red notebook
as closely as I could, and any inaccuracies in the story should
be blamed on me" (Auster 158). Cleverly placed on the last page
of the novel, when it is too late for the reader to go forward
with the firm knowledge (as opposed to the hints received earlier)
that the "facts" (s)he may encounter are potentially inaccurate,
Auster does not fully point toward the untrustworthiness of
his narrator until it is already too late to warn the reader.
This admission has a devastating effect on the reader's perception
of the "author"/narrator. Instead of taking the story with a
grain of salt, as the reader could if fully armed with the knowledge
of an unreliable narrator, the reader is now encouraged to discredit
the entire story. Not knowing in retrospect what was true and
what was "inaccurate," the reader is left with no other choice
but to discredit everything (s)he has read in the novel.
Auster, Valenzuela challenges the trustworthiness of the narrator.
Her narrator is called into question not due to reliability
of facts, but through a constant questioning of the identity
of the narrator. The voice of the narrator can change voices
at any time, and presumably, its identity. (The voice or the
identity of the narrator can change at any time.) Assuming the
narrator in all of the "Capital" scenes is the same person,
the reader has encountered four narrators by page 53 when the
Egret is introduced as a character/narrator. More importantly,
the voice of the narrator has switched about thirty times before
this point. Valenzuela questions the trustworthiness of the
narrator by causing the reader to question the identity of the
narrator. By keeping the reader in a state of confusion as to
who is speaking, Valenzuela creates a muddling of voices that
precludes the assumption of one "author"ity. Through the use
of three different autodiegetic (character as narrator) narrators
and intrusion upon these of narration in which the narrator
is not identified, the reader does not know where to look for
the "truth." If the reader does not know who is speaking, (s)he
does not have any justification for believing or disbelieving
anything that has been presented as fact.
as we saw in Auster, Valenzuela calls into question the trustworthiness
of the narrator through more subtle means long before she informs
the reader that the narrator is not a person that can be trusted.
The first section of the novel is devoted predominately to the
autodiegetic narration of the Sorcerer. The ability of the Sorcerer
to interject his thoughts and words into the discourse of the
text is realized on the first page during "The Prophecy" in
which his words occupy more space than the prophecy itself.
This confounds the understanding of the text for the reader.
For example, the first two lines of "The Prophecy" read, "A
river will flow / (I want to flow with it)" (Valenzuela prologue),
wherein the parenthetical reference may be the interjected speech
of the Sorcerer into "The Prophecy." Because every reader brings
to a text the passive knowledge of all previous texts that (s)he
has read, it can be presumed that most readers would have encountered
a recitation of poetry, a proverb, or some other form of verse
in his/her past reading. This prophecy, presented in verse form,
contradicts the reader's expectation by containing the interjected
thoughts of the Sorcerer. The reader is faced with the inability
of the "author" to control her own story. If a text, expected
to be narrated by an unknown narrator, is interjected with the
thoughts of others, the reader then questions the source and
motivation of all narration.
finally explains her inability to control the Sorcerer and his
control over her story in section two when she says, "There's
an affinity in the voice as I narrate him, sometimes our pages
are indistinguishable" (126). Even if the reader feels that
(s)he can trust a certain narrative voice, i.e. Valenzuela(c)'s,
that trust is negated by the fact that each voice is "indistinguishable"
from another. This makes any scene involving the Sorcerer untrustworthy
because Valenzuela(c) discerns that the affinity occurs as she
"narrate[s] him," which allows and even encourages the reader
to believe that narration not involving the Sorcerer is trustworthy
as, for example, in the "Capital" scenes.
demonstrates the unreliability of the narrator when, at the
end of section "Too," she gives up writing the biography in
order to silence the Sorcerer: "In this simple ceremony I abandon
the pen. [¥] By being silent now, I think I can make you silent"
(227). One would think that when the "author" gives up writing
the text then the protagonist would cease to exist and, in fact,
that the entire novel would cease to exist. However, on the
following page we run into the Sorcerer yet again with the defiant,
"How well I feel today... How free" (231). He will not die even
if she has given up the task of keeping him alive. The Sorcerer
has again demonstrated that Valenzuela(c) does not have control
over the text.
narration continues, even after the "author" has given up, which
is central the question of the author function. As Barthes states:
"[...] writing is the destruction of every voice, of every point
of origin" (253). Valenzuela demonstrates this by silencing
the "author" in the text and allows the text's continuation
without an author long past the point when she is silenced.
The continuation of the story not only questions the reliability
of the narrator, it points to Valenzuela(a)'s belief in the
life of the text beyond the influence of the author.
as Auster and Valenzuela have questioned the trustworthiness
of the narrator, they also call into question the identity
of narrators and other characters: The author's name is a
proper name, and therefore it raises the problems common to
all proper names. [...] Obviously, one cannot turn a proper
name into a pure and simple reference. It has other than indicative
functions: more than an indication, a gesture, a finger pointed
at someone, it is the equivalent of a description (Foucault
and Valenzuela show, through these works, how clearly they understand
and agree with Foucault. Both make a cat and mouse game of authorship
and the identity of the author by delaying the death of the
"author," characters and the author.
of Glass is a labyrinth of identities in which the challenge
to the reader is to keep track of who is speaking and through
what voice that person is speaking. The true identity of every
author is questionable (Little 140). This labyrinth of identities
is depicted through a constant switching of pseudonyms and questionable
authorship. Peter Stillman, Sr. quotes heavily, in his published
dissertation, from a text written by a man named Henry Dark,
a.k.a. Humpty Dumpty. The reader learns that this text was actually
written by Peter Stillman, Sr. under a pseudonym (96). The protagonist
of the story, Daniel Quinn, has published poetry under his own
name, but his most recent occupation has been writing detective
novels under the pseudonym of William Wilson. However, Quinn
believes less in William Wilson than he does in his detective
protagonist, Max Work: "If he [Quinn] lived now in the world
at all, it was only at one remove, through the imaginary person
of Max Work" (10). Quinn questions his identity not only through
his use of a pseudonym, but also through the claim that he lives
only through his protagonist Max Work. It is as if Quinn no
longer encounters the world himself. He must go through other
personalities. He continues this when he takes on the persona
of Paul Auster(d).
and Peter Stillman Sr. do not just use pseudonyms to publish
their writings; they have taken on the personas of their respective
"proper names." Stillman becomes the madman, Henry Dark, who
writes revolutionary ideas about the Tower of Babel that he
uses to justify the abuse of his son. It could be argued that
Stillman was mad before he wrote his dissertation. In any event
he had become a man that was not the Peter Stillman the public
expected or whom his family knew and loved. Likewise, Quinn
is looking for an escape from the world, and his first course
of action is to take on different personas, to see if he feels
differently inside them. After trying on Auster(d) for size,
the narrator tells the reader: "Something told [Quinn] that
he had captured the right tone, and a sudden sense of pleasure
surged through him, as though he had just managed to cross some
internal border within himself" (40). In this, Quinn has taken
the first step toward fully escaping his own identity. He has
crossed the border between his own identity and that of someone
else and, perhaps, found the right one.
Auster(c) calls into question the identity of Cervantes and
the authorship of Don Quixote when he states, "the book inside
the book Cervantes, wrote the one he imagined he was writing"
(117). Cervantes, he says, went to great pains to make it clear
that he had not written the novel but simply edited a translation
of the text from the original written by Cid Hamete Benengeli.
Cervantes claims all of the events in the book are real, yet
Cid Hamete never appears as a character in the novel, so it
could not have been written by Hamete (118-119). Auster(c)'s
theory is that Cid Hamete Benengeli was a pseudonym for four
characters in Don Quixote because one would need to be a character
in order to witness these "real" events, and only the four men,
Sancho Panza, the barber, the priest and Samson Carrasco, could
have witnessed those events.
when we think we know someone's real name, the stability of
that name is somehow called into question. "I am Peter Stillman...
That is not my real name" (18). While, Peter Stillman, Jr. has
an odd manner of speech, his repeated use of the phrase, "That
is not my real name," makes us wonder what his real name really
is. The phrase and its repetition are so infective that Quinn
ends up using it himself: "¥listen to me. My name is Paul Auster.
That is not my real name" (49), which calls into question his
identity once again. The reader is aware that Quinn is not Paul
Auster, but the reader is getting used to the idea that he is
Paul Auster. With two Peter Stillmans, Henry Dark, Humpty Dumpty,
William Wilson, Max Work and now Paul Auster(d), it is plausible
to the reader that Quinn can just pick a name and live as the
person he chooses. We already know he is prone to this, as he
lives "at one remove" through Max Work. Why not then, Paul Auster?
all, Quinn was certainly beginning to enjoy it: The effect
of being Paul Auster, he had begun to learn, was not altogether
unpleasant. Although he still had the same body, the same
mind, the same thoughts, he felt as though he had somehow
been taken out of himself, as if he no longer had to walk
around with the burden of his own consciousness. By a simple
trick of intelligence, a deft little twist of naming, he felt
incomparably lighter and freer. (50)
seems that being Paul Auster is something just about anyone
can do, even the reader. All it takes is "a simple trick of
intelligence," and Quinn can be whomever he wants to be, including
the author of the text in which he is the protagonist. This
is a way of behavior we have come to expect from Daniel Quinn.
He seems to enjoy trying on other names. In fact, through the
course of the novel he refers to himself with several different
pseudonyms, Paul Auster being just one of many.
all it takes is some intelligence and a different name to be
someone else, how do we explain the intrusion of the author
himself into the narrative? The answer is, on the surface, quite
simple. Because Auster is demonstrating the death of the Author,
it is important that the Author of the text appear in the story.
This allows him to more clearly kill the author. For all other
authors the death is a metaphorical one. By disposing of himself
as author, Auster has made the death a more literal one. In
this sense I am suggesting interchangeability between Auster(a)
and Auster(c); when the reader is introduced to Auster(c) he
is a stand-in for Auster in more ways than just a namesake.
As Carl D. Malmgren points out, "The Paul Auster that Quinn
calls on in the novel is an aspiring writer with a wife of Norwegian
extraction named Siri and a son named Daniel, just like the
'real' Paul Auster, the one whose name appears on the cover
of the novel" (195). The knowledge of the similarity between
the two Austers makes their interchangeability only a metatextual
leap. Even though Auster can describe himself and even his family
in the text, this is still nothing more than a representation
of the author in the text, "a gesture."
role of the author as a character in City of Glass is similar
to the one I have discussed and will further discuss with Valenzuela's
text. Like Valenzuela(c), Paul Auster(c) is somehow expected
to take responsibility for the story. "As for Auster, I am convinced
that he behaved badly throughout. If our friendship has ended,
he has only himself to blame" (158). The narrator is criticizing
the character/author for not having taken better care of Quinn
and for having allowed him to disappear. This is perhaps too
heavy of a criticism coming from the narrator. It would be one
thing for him to criticize Auster(a) for not having saved Quinn,
for it is in his hands alone that Quinn lives or dies. However,
what was Auster(c) supposed to do, tie him down? Besides, he
is only dragged into this mess because Quinn decides to impersonate
him. It is not a character that should be called to task for
the disappearance of Quinn, but Paul Auster himself. Auster(a)
has provided for the criticizing of his behavior, however, because
as I am discussing the author's function is being called into
question, there is no one to criticize. If the author is dead,
who can take responsibility for Quinn?
questioning of identity in The Lizard's Tail is not wrapped
as much in names as it is in City of Glass. There are,
however, a few analogous questions of identity that do persist.
We never learn the true full name of the Sorcerer, the Egret,
or the Dead Woman. We are expected to learn these either from
research, or through previous knowledge of the history of Argentina.
The Sorcerer is the fictional equivalent of the Minister of
Well-Being to Isabel Perón, José López Rega.
Likewise, the Dead
Woman is the spirit of Eva Perón (Gartner 203, 212). With the
exception of Luisa Valenzuela, no one is referred to by his/her
"real" name. These pseudonyms are not meant to confuse the reader,
but they do come short of creating any metatextual clarity for
further question of identity lies in that of the narrator. Who,
indeed, is narrating the text? The reader is given different
clues at different times. We know that at some points the narrator
is the Sorcerer: "It's certainly not worth mentioning that I
am the protagonist, that point has been made only too clear,
but now I'm also my antagonist and I'm growing bigger every
day" (Valenzuela 48). Written in the "voice" of the Sorcerer
before the introduction of Luisa Valenzuela(c), this statement
makes it clear to the reader that the "I" is the narrator and
the protagonist. In other words, the Sorcerer is in control
of this story. He will be the narrator we rely on for information.
He further claims control of the text by telling the reader:
"My novel is working out marvelously" (Valenzuela 48). He is
not only claiming control over the story, he is claiming ownership
of the entire novel.
claiming of the novel is a further complication in the battle
between the Sorcerer and Valenzuela(c) to maintain control of
the text. As they battle for control, they perform a dance in
which "¥both the male and the female narrators are at once the
active and the passive subjects of [the] discourse. Like the
writers they will simultaneously weave their tales and be woven
into them" (Magnarelli 50). This simultaneous weaving creates
ambiguity as to the identity of the narrator at times. In fact,
there are many passages in which the narration cannot be attributed
to anyone with any assurance. For example: "The colonel withdraws
when General Durañona enters, and the president comes straight
to the point" (43). This sentence, marking the first intrusion
by a narrator into a "Capital" scene, is attributable to no
one. This inability to attribute the identity of the narrator
to any given person creates a sense of the disappearance of
a narrator. The reader expects the narrator to be some sort
of guiding force that is keeping the story moving along the
right path, and when that path cannot be established, the entire
identity of the narrator is further challenged.
the beginning of part "Too," Valenzuela(c) is introduced to
the reader through a curious form of address. She opens the
section by saying, "I, Luisa Valenzuela, swear by these writings
that I will try to do something about all this¥" (Valenzuela
125). Just as the introduction of Auster into his own text was
unexpected on the part of the reader, the same applies to the
text of Valenzuela(a). It is in this section that the reader
first understands the battle between the Sorcerer and Valenzuela.
Her wanting "to do something about all this" is an admission
that the story is not in her control and that she is going to
attempt to take that control back. We then follow her through
her many adventures, including an aborted attempt to attend
a ball thrown by the Sorcerer. Like Auster(c), Valenzuela(c)
is roughly equivalent to the author Luisa Valenzuela. Although
we are not given as much information about Valenzuela(c) as
Auster(c), a woman does say to her, "I had black hair and curls,
too... I had curls just like yours" (Valenzuela 135). The reader,
at least of this edition, need only look at the back cover to
find that Luisa Valenzuela indeed has black, curly hair. This
adds to the fact that both Valenzuelas are Argentine writers,
who share a common name, and the reader can make the assumption
that the author and Valenzuela(c) are roughly equivalent. Knowing
that the two women look alike, and that one is in the process
of writing a biography of the Sorcerer, while we are reading
a biography of the Sorcerer, is enough information for the reader
to equate Luisa Valenzuela with Luisa Valenzuela(c).
discussed the trustworthiness of the narrators, the identities
of characters and the author, it is time to get down to the
business of killing the author. As Roland Barthes states in
his essay "The Death of the Author": As soon as a fact is narrated
no longer with a view to acting directly on reality but intransitively,
that is to say, finally outside of any function other than that
of the very practice of the symbol itself, this disconnection
occurs, the voice loses its origin, the author enters into his
own death, writing begins." (Barthes 253) The author remains
alive as long as the written text is composed with a "view to
acting directly on reality." If the author is trying to accomplish
something through his/her writing then (s)he remains alive,
both within and outside the text. For example, when Valenzuela(c)
states, "I tell his story so his existence won't go unnoticed.
[...] Something has to be done" (Valenzuela 126), she acknowledges
that there is a purpose to her writing. If it is a factual account,
hopefully she can affect a change in her country by making people
aware of this tragedy. If she is successful in publishing her
biography, according to Barthes, Valenzuela(c) will not die
as an author.
Madeline Sorapure claims in "The Detective and the Author: City
of Glass," "Auster's speculations about the authorship of
Don Quixote clearly have reverberations for the model of authorship
enacted in City of Glass. His theory, in effect, writes Cervantes
entirely out of the picture" (Sorapure 84). Just as Auster(c)
removes Cervantes from authorship of Don Quixote, Auster works,
through the removal of all authors, to remove any trace of himself,
the author, inside his text. He does this so thoroughly that
at the end of the text every author has disappeared/died. For
instance, Peter Stillman Sr. writes his last work "THE TOWER
OF BABEL" (Auster 85) rambling through the streets of New York.
While following Stillman, Quinn realizes that he has been mapping
out letters as he wandered on his daily walks. Each day consists
of a new letter. It seems that this is the summation of Peter
Stillman Sr.'s career; for he takes leave of the mental institution
he has been in for the last 13 years and begins his "writing"
on the following day. After 15 days of wandering through the
city, writing, he disappears. The reader later learns that he
Auster(a) has removed the first author from the picture. In
his path toward the complete obliteration of the author, and
for Barthes it must be complete, "[...] writing is the destruction
of every voice, of every point of origin" (Barthes 253), Auster
will kill or cause the disappearance of each of his authors.
Quinn, in fact, works the entire novel in an attempt to disappear.
He only works on the case in a futile attempt to do so. He wonders
in the red notebook near the end of the novel, "To be inside
that music, to be drawn into the circle of its repetitions:
perhaps that is a place where one could finally disappear" (Auster
130). The reader has been aware of this desire to disappear
from the outset. It is only after the death of his wife and
son in a car accident that he takes his first steps into a pseudonym,
preferring to live vicariously through Max Work than to live
the pain of the loss he feels. Quinn discusses repeatedly the
need to be someone else, to live through William Wilson, Max
Work, and then Paul Auster(d).
Peter Stillman, the second to go is Max Work, and in short succession
William Wilson. In the span of a paragraph Quinn reasons through
both their deaths: "He remembered the books he had written under
the name of William Wilson. In his heart, he realized that Max
Work was dead. [¥] The two William Wilsons cancelled each other
out, and that was all" (153). Early in the novel Quinn not only
imagines that he lives "at one remove" through Max Work, he
also likes to pretend that Max Work is the true author of his
detective novels. It is logical then that Max will be the first
to perish. Then, with the canceling out of William Wilson, we
experience the death of the pseudonym under which all of Quinn's
detective novels are published.
next author to disappear is Quinn himself. In contrast to both
Barthes and Foucault, it is not through writing that Quinn is
able to disappear, but the abandonment of all communication.
He survives without human contact for months while he continues
to write in the red notebook, which keeps him alive. When the
red notebook is finished with the ominous question, "¥What will
happen when there are no more pages in the red notebook?'" (157),
Quinn disappears. He survives for years following the death
of his son and wife, "as if he had managed to outlive himself"
(6), while writing as William Wilson. Then, in the interim between
novels, he takes on the persona of Paul Auster(d), which keeps
him alive for another few months. It is unclear how long after
the end of the red notebook that Quinn stays alive in the apartment;
we only know he is not there when the narrator and Auster(c)
go to the Stillman apartment to look for him. It seems that
the act of writing, paradoxically, keeps Quinn from disappearing.
However, it is not enough to put off his disappearance in perpetuity.
Sooner or later the writing process has to end, and with its
end comes the end of Quinn.
surprisingly, Auster pulls out of the text himself, and thus
dies, giving control to the unnamed narrator: "As for Auster¥
If our friendship has ended, he has only himself to blame" (158).
This statement on the part of the narrator effectively writes
Auster(c) out of the picture, as the narrator claims control
over the entire narrative. Along with the disappearance of Auster(c)
it is important to note the most curious "death" of the text.
The "real" Paul Auster(d) never does appear in the text. The
reader encounters Daniel Quinn as Paul Auster(d), and Paul Auster
as Paul Auster(c), but the actual detective Auster(d), the one
Quinn impersonates when contacted by the Stillmans, is never
found. Having once practiced as a private investigator in New
York, he has disappeared, and no one knows how to find him.
This Paul Auster(d) is, I believe, Paul Auster, the author,
and the search for the detective is the search for the author.
According to Foucault:
all the contrivances he sets up between himself and what he
writes, the writing subject [author] cancels out the signs
of his particular individuality. As a result, the mark of
the writer is reduced to nothing more than the singularity
of his absence; he must assume the role of the dead man in
the game of writing (Foucault 102-3).
points to the fact that Paul Auster, the author, is nowhere
to be found in the text. Quinn can look for him, even Auster(c)
could have looked for him, but he would never be found.
sets up the disappearance of the narrator when she acknowledges
her existence within the text and discusses the power of the
Sorcerer to take control of her story: "I know now that he,
too, is writing a novel that superimposes itself on this one
and is capable of nullifying it" (Valenzuela 125). The Sorcerer
is capable of "killing" Valenzuela(c), the author, by taking
over her story. She has not had control over the story from
the outset. Her insertion into the text is a hope that her more
overt presence will give her the power she needs. However, she
only succeeds in furthering her own disappearance. She has control
over her own narrative only when she is narrating her own story,
not his. He is not concerned with her story and thus allows
it to continue unimpeded.
enacts her own "death," a form of literary suicide, at the end
of section "Too." After having attempted to write the story
from an authorial base, by inserting herself in the narrative,
she decides that the only way to silence the Sorcerer is to
silence herself (227). With her signature she removes herself
from the narrative, but it continues without her. She, the narrator
has disappeared, yet the text continues. The Sorcerer remains
to tell the tale of his continued adventures. Thus, the author
is not needed for the text to be written. Writing can survive
without an author.
the Sorcerer continues the narrative, he himself eventually
comes to an end, which again can be considered the death of
author. Since the voices of the Sorcerer and Valenzuela(c) intermingle
in the production of the text (126), it is not enough for just
one of them to disappear. They must both be removed from the
text for there to be a complete disappearance of the author.
In the last pages the Sorcerer "gives birth" to his son, which
is the literal death of him. At this point, even he, who has
been left in control of the narrative with the death of Valenzuela,
has died out, yet the writing continues on. The Egret takes
the torch of narrator and carries on until he collapses at the
foot of the pyramid, atop which the Sorcerer lies dead (Valenzuela
278-279). Not wanting to let the idea go too quickly, Valenzuela(a)
continues the narrative for one more page after the "death"
of Valenzuela(c), the Sorcerer, and the Egret. This continuation
further reinforces the existence of writing beyond the realm
of the author. Every author's voice in the text has been silenced,
yet the text goes on without him/her.
conclusion, Auster and Valenzuela have very meticulously and
very thoroughly brought about the death of the author in their
works, City of Glass and The Lizard's Tail. As
William Little states in his analysis of City of Glass:
"It is a desperate critical effort, made by an other reader
at the very moment the book is cracked (open), to establish
a primal unity for the work by locating an original literary
site, to reach the Author at a permanent address" (Little 148).
I have gone in search of the author and not only never found
the address, I was assured that they would not be home if I
got there. The trustworthiness of the narrator is challenged
through questioning the identities of the narrators and their
credibility as narrators, as well as their constant claims to
be placing the truth before the reader. Both further challenge
the position of the author by presenting authors of ambiguous
identity and authority. By placing themselves in the text as
character, they blur the line between their identities as intertextual
and metatextual identities.
question is the story itself, and whether or not it means something
is not for the story to tell" (Auster 3). With this in mind,
the task of establishing the "death" of the author in the text
would be the responsibility of the reader. However, both Valenzuela
and Auster have attempted to wrest this control out of the hands
of the reader and place it back in the text, leaving the reader
without a doubt as to the status of the author. In the light
of postmodern theory, it is clear that both believe in Barthes
concept of the death of the author. In standard literature the
author exists only as a metatextual device outside the text.
By including the author in their works, they have pointed to
this idea, and applauded it, while at the same time deconstructing
their own roles as authors. In response to Foucault and his
question of "What Is an Author?" and Barthes's question of the
death of the Author, Auster and Valenzuela proudly proclaim,
"We are Author and we are dead."
will be used to refer to the author Paul Auster, while Auster(c)
and Auster(d) will refer to Auster the character and Auster
the detective respectively.
will use Valenzuela when referring to Luisa Valenzuela the
author, and Valenzuela(c) when referring to Valenzuela the
term "author" (in quotes) will be used in reference to the
implied author. In Auster the implied author is the unnamed
friend, in Valenzuela the implied author is Valenzuela(c).
The term author (without quotes) will refer to the actual
author of the text.
Paul. "City of Glass." The New York Trilogy. New
York: Penguin Books 1990. 1-158.
Roland. "The Death of the Author." Falling into Theory: Conflicting
Views on Reading Literature. Ed. David H. Richter. Boston
/ New York: Bedford/St. Martin's 2000. 253-257.
Georg. "Watching the Detectives: Identitätssuche und Identitätsverlust
in Paul Austers New York Trilogy." "As strange as the world":
Annäherungen an das Werk des Erzählers und Filmemachers Paul
Auster. Eds. Andreas Lienkamp, Wolfgang Werth, and Christian
Berkemeier. Münster/Hamburg/London: Lit Verlag 2002. 119-130.
(Quoted from: Holzapfel, New York Trilogy)
Michel. "What Is an Author?". Trans. Josué V. Harari. The
Foucault Reader. Ed. Paul Rabinow. New York: Pantheon Books
Bruce S. "'Un Regodeo en el Asco': Dismembered Bodies
in Luisa Valenzuela's The Lizard's Tail." Indiana
Journal of Hispanic Literatures. 2.2 1994. 203-225.
William G. "Nothing To Go On: Paul Auster's City of Glass."
Contemporary Literature. 38.1 1997. 133-164.
Sharon. "Framing Power in Luisa Valenzuela's Cola De Lagartija
[The Lizard's Tail] and Isabel Allende's Casa De Los
Espiritus [The House of the Spirits]." Salmagundi. 82-83.
Carl D. "Detecting/Writing the Real: Paul Auster's City of Glass."
[TITLE?] Ed. Theo D'haen and Hans Bertens. Amsterdam/Atlanta, GA: Rodopi,
Patricia. "Fragmentation in Luisa Valenzuela's Narrative." Splintering
Darkness: Latin American Women Writers in Search of Themselves.
Ed. Lucia Guerra Cunningham. Pittsburgh, PA: Latin American
Literary Review Press Series: Exploitations 1990. 287-296.
Madeleine. "The Detective and the Author: City of Glass."
Beyond the Red Notebook. Ed. Dennis Barone. Philadelphia, PA:
University of Pennsylvania Press 1995. 71-87.
Luisa. The Lizard's Tail. Trans. Gregory Rabassa. London:
Serpent's Tail 1987.
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