Paul Auster, the Patron Saint of Literary Brooklyn, Dies at 77

Paul Auster, the prolific novelist, memoirist and screenwriter who rose to fame in the 1980s with his postmodern reanimation of the noir novel and who endured to become one of the signature New York writers of his generation, died of complications from lung cancer at his home in Brooklyn on Tuesday evening. He was 77.

His death was confirmed by a friend, Jacki Lyden.

With his hooded eyes, soulful air and leading-man looks, Mr. Auster was often described as a “literary superstar” in news accounts. The Times Literary Supplement of Britain once called him “one of America’s most spectacularly inventive writers.”

Though a New Jersey native, he became indelibly linked with the rhythms of his adopted city, which was a character of sorts in much of his work — particularly Brooklyn, where he settled in 1980 amid the oak-lined streets of brownstones in the Park Slope neighborhood.

As his reputation grew, Mr. Auster came to be seen as a guardian of Brooklyn’s rich literary past, as well as an inspiration to a new generation of novelists who flocked to the borough in the 1990s and later.

“Paul Auster was the Brooklyn novelist back in the ’80s and ’90s, when I was growing up there, at a time when very few famous writers lived in the borough,” the author and poet Meghan O’Rourke, who was raised in nearby Prospect Heights, wrote in an email. “His books were on all my parents’ friends’ shelves. As teenagers, my friends and I read Auster’s work avidly for both its strangeness — that touch of European surrealism — and its closeness.

“Long before ‘Brooklyn’ became a place where every novelist seemed to live, from Colson Whitehead to Jhumpa Lahiri,” she added, “Auster made being a writer seem like something real, something a person actually did.”

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