Paul Auster, The Brooklyn Follies
60-year-old Nathan Glass moves into a brownstone flat in the gentrified borrough of Brooklyn after his wife has left him. He is recovering from lung cancer and is looking for "a quiet place to die".
I was looking for a quiet place to die. Someone recommended Brooklyn, and so the next morning I traveled down there from Westchester to scope out the terrain. I hadn't been back in fifty-six years, and I remembered nothing. My parents had moved out of the city when I was three, but I instinctively found myself returning to the neighborhood where we had lived, crawling home like some wounded dog to the place of my birth. A local real estate agent ushered me around to six or seven brownstone flats, and by the end of the afternoon I had rented a two-bedroom garden apartment on First Street, just half a block away from Prospect Park. I had no idea who my neighbors were, and I didn't care. They all worked at nine-to-five jobs, none of them had any children, and therefore the building would be relatively silent. More than anything else, that was what I craved. A silent end to my sad and ridiculous life.
The house in Bronxville was already under contract, and once the closing took place at the end of the month, money wasn't going to be a problem. My ex-wife and I were planning to split the proceeds from the sale, and with four hundred thousand dollars in the bank, there would be more than enough to sustain me until I stopped breathing.
At first, I didn't know what to do with myself. I had spent thirty-one years commuting back and forth between the suburbs and the Manhattan offices of Mid-Atlantic Accident and Life, but now that I didn't have a job anymore, there were too many hours in the day. About a week after I moved into the apartment, my married daughter, Rachel, drove in from New Jersey to pay me a visit. She said that I needed to get involved in something, to invent a project for myself. (…)
It was early spring when I moved in, and for the first few weeks I filled my time by exploring the neighborhood, taking long walks in the park, and planting flowers in my back garden—a small, junk-filled patch of ground that had been neglected for years. I had my newly resurgent hair cut at the Park Slope Barbershop on Seventh Avenue, rented videos from a place called Movie Heaven, and stopped in often at Brightman's Attic, a cluttered, badly organized used-book store owned by a flamboyant homosexual named Harry Brightman (more about him later). Most mornings, I prepared breakfast for myself in the apartment, but since I disliked cooking and lacked all talent for it, I tended to eat lunch and dinner in restaurants—always alone, always with an open book in front of me, always chewing as slowly as possible in order to drag out the meal as long as I could. After sampling a number of options in the vicinity, I settled on the Cosmic Diner as my regular spot for lunch. The food there was mediocre at best, but one of the waitresses was an adorable Puerto Rican girl named Marina, and I rapidly developed a crush on her. She was half my age and already married, which meant that romance was out of the question, but she was so splendid to look at, so gentle in her dealings with me, so ready to laugh at my less than funny jokes, that I literally pined for her on her days off. From a strictly anthropological point of view, I discovered that Brooklynites are less reluctant to talk to strangers than any tribe I had previously encountered. They butt into one another's business at will (old women scolding young mothers for not dressing their children warmly enough, passersby snapping at dog walkers for yanking too hard on the leash); they argue like deranged four-year-olds over disputed parking spaces; they zip out dazzling one-liners as a matter of course. One Sunday morning, I went into a crowded deli with the absurd name of La Bagel Delight. I was intending to ask for a cinnamon-raisin bagel, but the word caught in my mouth and came out as cinnamon-reagan. Without missing a beat, the young guy behind the counter answered: "Sorry, we don't have any of those. How about a pumpernixon instead?" Fast. So damned fast, I nearly wet my drawers.
- Onomastics : names of characters in a work of fiction are often significant. Why do you think Paul Auster named his protagonist Nathan Glass?
- Look at the first and last sentences of this passage. What do they tell you about the narrator?
- In what way does this text illustrate the title of the novel (The Brooklyn Follies)?
Part 1 (paragraph 1)
1. Match the following names with the kinds of places they correspond to:
|A borough of New York
|A place in Brooklyn
|A suburb of New York
2. Right or wrong? Justify your answers.
- a) Nathan spent the first three years of his life in Brooklyn.
- b) Nathan rented the first available flat he found.
- c) The flat he got was very close to Prospect Park.
- d) Nathan was craving for the noise of the city.
3. The first paragraph introduces the reader to the protagonist but also to Brooklyn. What elements suggest that the blocks around Prospect Park constitute a highly gentrified neighborhood. Use the internet to learn more about Brooklyn and gentrification. In what way is Nathan’s moving to Brooklyn an illustration of the process of gentrification?
Part 2 (paragraphs 2&3)
1. “The house in Bronxville” refers to:
- Nathan’s new place in Brooklyn
- Nathan’s fomer house in Westchester
- A house in the Bronx
2. Explain in your own words why Nathan will soon have 400 000 dollars in the bank.
3. To commute means:
- to live and work in the city
- to live and work in the suburbs
- to live in the suburbs and work in the city
4. Nathan lives close to Prospect Park and needs « to invent a project for (him)self ». Look up the ethymology of the words prospect and project. What does it tell you about Nathan?
Part 3 (paragraph 4)
1. “planting flowers in my back garden—a small, junk-filled patch of ground that had been neglected for years” If you consider this neglected back garden as a metaphor, what does it stand for?
2. How is the protagonist’s loneliness expressed in this paragraph?
3. Without missing a beat means:
- In a sing song voice
- With sadness in his voice
4. What humorous contradictions are contained in names ‘Cosmic Diner’ and ‘La Bagel Delight’?
5. Sum up Nathan’s vision of Brooklynites?
Search the internet for the following places and find the corresponding numbers on this map of New York City: Bronxville, Brooklyn, Prospect Park, Westchester, Manhattan.
Grammar - PRESENT
1) Read the following extract from paragraph 4:
They butt into one another's business at will (old women scolding young mothers for not dressing their children warmly enough, passersby snapping at dog walkers for yanking too hard on the leash); they argue like deranged four-year-olds over disputed parking spaces; they zip out dazzling one-liners as a matter of course.
What tense is used in this passage? Is it coherent with the rest of paragraph 4?
2) Observe the sentence that precedes these lines. How do you explain the use of this tense?
3) Fill in the blanks: The ________ can be used to assert that something is ___% true. In the context of a narration in the Past, the ________ can thus be used to express a rule or something the narrator considers as a universal truth.
Pour citer cette ressource :
"Paul Auster, The Brooklyn Follies", La Clé des Langues [en ligne], Lyon, ENS de LYON/DGESCO (ISSN 2107-7029), janvier 2013. Consulté le 27/02/2024. URL: https://cle.ens-lyon.fr/anglais/se-former/les-precis-et-le-workbook/workbook/reclaiming-space-in-new-york-city/paul-auster-the-brooklyn-follies