First Lines in Paul Auster’s Narrative Prose

Online colloquium.


Is the most important sentence in a book is the first sentence? Is it that “[e]verything follows from it,” as Paul Auster argues? “The first words have to stop the reader in his tracks and tell him that he’s in a different place now, that he’s entered the world of the book.” (2017). Needless to say, a beginning cannot be understood in and of itself. It relates in multiple ways to what precedes it (e.g. language, culture, a canon, a set of critical and/or creative thoughts) and to what follows it (e.g. the narrative trajectory it announces, epitomizes, informs and/or determines). First lines take many forms that, each in their way, implant if only imperceptibly, certain expectations in the reader’s mind and invite us to approach the ensuing story in particular ways. With a special focus on the conceptual and emotional power concentrated in narrative beginnings, this colloquium will look at Paul Auster’s verbal and visual work to address such questions as: How do first lines affect and/or inform the story they open? To what do they refer? How do we respond to different types of verbal inception? Is there congruency between the beginning and ending?


  • I.B. Siegumfeldt, (University of Copenhagen)
  • James Peacock, (Keele University)
  • Aliki Varvogli, (University of Dundee)
  • Francois Hugonnier, (University of Angers)


13:30 Join Zoom Meeting
Meeting ID: 678 1369 8144
Passcode: 110167
13:45 Welcome
14:00 I.B. Siegumfeldt “The most important sentence in a book is the first sentence.” Types of Beginnings in Paul Auster’s Narrative Prose
14:30 James Peacock “These are the last things, she wrote”: Paul Auster’s In the Country of Last Things, Metalepsis and the Problem of Witness
15:00 Break
15:15 Aliki Varvogli "It was the summer that men first walked on the moon": Historicizing Paul Auster
15:45 Francois Hugonnier “According to family legend”: condensation in 4 3 2 1
16:15 Panel discussion