Mr Vertigo, a fantastical no-fantasy book


This was my first reading of Paul Auster`s work. My friend Juan Pablo had told me this writer and baseball lover is a harsh narrator of solitude and life… I had expectations of his talent I needed to prove out.

The first sentence of the book is really captivating: “I was twelve years old the first time I walked on water”. I felt completly sure the story was a kind of magical novel about a blessed boy that one day found out how to go against the law of gravity. But then I discovered this book was pretty different… very well written indeed and the “magical thing” is handled very soberly. It is not a fantasy book and that’s what I liked the most. The story happens in during the years of the great Depression in the United States and the book demonstrates it, almost sociologically.

Step by step, master Yehudi (a tall and mystic jewish) teaches young orphan motherless Walter Clairbone how to work and live in the farm, how to learn and discover the important things of life. After a harsh training, one day Walt, lying on the floor, suddenly  started to hover in the air. The mystery came to him and his life changed for ever.

But not everything went good for the master and the learner… After the murder of his friends by the Ku kux clan, they both went away to find a career in circus sideshows  acrooss all United States. The first half of the book is about this folks and the way they almost succeed.

The second half is about Walter after the death of the master. I was convinced both characters were going to reach the end of the story but just after “Walt the Wonder Boy” suffered unbearable headaches his beloved master died. The life of the boy kept on but with the only purpose of hunting down his uncle Slim. He needed to kill him. So he poisoned him… That’s how Walt turned into a strong gangster… after gaining some resources he opened the bar Mr Vertigo. Years passed by and married a woman that very unfortunately died too soon… He found himself alone again. Finally he decided to visit Wichita where he met with the woman that helped him and the master so many years ago.

Mr Vertigo
Faber and Faber
London – Boston 1994

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