Critical Context

(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

A little-known poet, translator, critic, and editor before the appearance of City of Glass, his first novel, Auster was a student of French literature, and the influence of existentialism can be seen throughout The New York Trilogy. A more significant influence, perhaps, is the work of writers such as Jorge Luis Borges, Italo Calvino, and Vladimir Nabokov, creators of self-conscious, self-reflective works that question the nature of narrative and delight in playing tricks on their characters and readers. (All three also occasionally employ the conventions of detective fiction.) Auster constantly forces his readers to be aware that they are reading a narrative about narratives. The narrator of City of Glass observes, “The question is the story itself, and whether or not it means something is not for the story to tell.” The narrator of The Locked Room calls attention to the similarity between his story and the other parts of the trilogy: “These three stories are finally the same story, but each one represents a different stage in my awareness of what it is about.” Does this mean he is the creator of all three? Is he an unreliable narrator, and if so, to what degree is he unreliable? Auster forces his readers to distrust any resolution to these intertwining mysteries and calls into question authorship itself by appearing as a character.

The New York Trilogy is also part of another literary tradition; it is...

(The entire section is 467 words.)