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Auggie Wrens Christmas Story

Paul Auster was born in New Jersey in 1947. After attending Columbia University he lived in France for four years. Since 1974 he has published poems, essays, novels, screenplays and translations. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.

by the same author Novels: the new york trilogy in the country of last things moon palace the music of chance leviathan mr vertigo timbuktu the book of illusions oracle night the brooklyn follies travels in the scriptorium man in the dark invisible Non-Fiction: the invention of solitude the art of hunger hand to mouth Screenplays: smoke & blue in the face lulu on the bridge the inner life of martin frost Poetry: selected poems Illustrated: city of glass (adapted by Paul Karasik and David Mazzucchelli) Editor: true tales of american life

Auggie Wrens Christmas Story

paul auster
Illustrations by Isol

This edition first published in 2009 by Faber and Faber Limited Bloomsbury House, 7477 Great Russell Street, London wc1b 3da Typeset by Faber and Faber Printed in Italy by Graphicom All rights reserved Paul Auster, 1990 Originally published on The New York Times Op Ed page, 25 December 1990 Illustrations Isol, 2003 Illustrations reproduced courtesy of Random House Mondadori All rights reserved The right of Paul Auster to be identified as author of this work has been asserted in accordance with Section 77 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 A CIP record for this book is available from the British Library isbn 9780571249770

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Auggie Wrens Christmas Story

I heard this story from Auggie Wren. Since Auggie doesnt come off too well in it, at least not as well as hed like to, hes asked me not to use his real name. Other than that, the whole business about the lost wallet and the blind woman and the Christmas dinner is just as he told it to me. Auggie and I have known each other for close to eleven years now. He works behind the counter of a cigar store on Court Street in downtown Brooklyn, and since its the only store that carries the little Dutch cigars I like to smoke, I go in there fairly often. For a long time, I didnt give much thought to Auggie Wren. He was the strange little man who wore a hooded blue sweatshirt and sold me cigars and 5

magazines, the impish, wisecracking character who always had something funny to say about the weather or the Mets or the politicians in Washington, and that was the extent of it. But then one day several years ago he happened to be looking through a magazine in the store, and he stumbled across a review of one of my books. He knew it was me because a photograph accompanied the review; and after that things changed between us. I was no longer just another customer to Auggie, I had become a distinguished person. Most people couldnt care less about books and writers, but it turned out that Auggie

considered himself an artist. Now that he had cracked the secret of who I was, he embraced me as an ally, a confidant, a brother-in-arms. To tell the truth, I found it rather embarrassing. Then, almost inevitably, a moment came when he asked if I would be willing to look at his photographs. Given his enthusiasm and goodwill, there didnt seem to be any way I could turn him down. God knows what I was expecting. At the very least, it wasnt what Auggie showed me the next day. In a small, windowless room at the back of the store, he opened a cardboard box and pulled out twelve identical black photo albums. This was his lifes work, he said, and it didnt take him more than five minutes a day to do it. Every morning for the past twelve years, he had stood at the corner of Atlantic Avenue and Clinton Street at precisely seven oclock and had taken a single color photograph of precisely the same view. The project now ran to more than four thousand photographs. Each album represented a different year, and all the pictures were laid out in sequence, from 1 January to 31 December, with the dates carefully recorded under each one. 10