Paul Auster’s City of Glass
Paul Auster’s story
The City of Glass works by displacement upon displacement upon displacement that evokes a space in which a solitary saxophone meanders through the streets of New York among missed identities and a lost self; it delineates an existential solitude in which Peter Stillman is mapped out by Quinn the writer; Stillman is both his father’s double by name and the double to Quinn’s dead son by looks and first name.
Auster’s play with double, even triple and quadruple names, is a vicious game with many names where the continuous displacements of Stillman’s identity just takes us further and further away…, leaving us with a sophisticated note of solitude.
The double is familiar, yet unfamiliar, it is heimlich, yet unheimlich. In other words, the double is Freud’s “the uncanny” that evokes mixed feelings of fear and fascination as the double is me not yet me; it indexes elsewhere... Here, it also seems to evoke melancholy and grief over a lost self as well as the unabridgable gap in intersubjective relations, and in doing so, the double maps out a void in which to get lost.