x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Images of decay: Paul Auster's Sunset Park

Miles Heller begins Sunset Park working for an organisation that reclaims foreclosed homes in Florida.

Sunset Park
Paul Auster
Faber and Faber
Dh72

Miles Heller begins Sunset Park working for an organisation that reclaims foreclosed homes in Florida. A world-weary loner who distanced himself from his close family some years before when he dropped out of college, Heller finds solace in photographing the abandoned possessions he stumbles across in each house he enters. He is, though, as scarred by the circumstances of his own life as those decaying homes he obsessively documents.

When Heller is subsequently forced to leave Florida, he washes up in Sunset Park, a squat in Brooklyn. The authorities will, of course, eventually come knocking to reclaim their home, but not before Auster has explored the lives of each of its residents.

These include Alice Bergstrom, a post-graduate studying The Best Years of Our Lives, a 1946 movie about war veterans attempting to adapt to the once-familiar, now alien landscape of civilian life and Bing Nathan, Heller's high-school buddy, who runs a small repair shop called The Hospital for Broken Things. If these references lack subtlety, Auster is otherwise surefooted in this gloomy portrait of America in the midst of economic and social meltdown.