From the Editor
by Sydney Tan, PsyD
4 3 2 1
Paul Auster's new novel, 4 3 2 1, takes us through the life of Archie Ferguson. Born in 1947 to middle-class Jewish parents, it is the story -- or rather four versions of the story -- of his life.
Four versions of one boy's life -- each version subject to chance and circumstance. In the first version, a six-year-old Archie falls off an oak tree, breaks his leg, and is confined to a summer of convalescence. In the second version, an unexpected death occurs. In the third version, a tragedy tears Archie's world apart. In the fourth version, the business flourishes and the family attains newfound affluence.
Yet, a few constants remain -- he was born in New Jersey (as was Auster), his father is a furniture salesman, his mother is a photographer. All the versions bear witness to the political and social tumults of the 1950s and '60s. In all of the versions, Archie maintains a relatively close and loving relationship with his mother, Rose Ferguson.
This is a story of "what ifs." It is a story that requires the mourning of that which did not and will never happen, the closing off of a million possibilities, of imaginary alternate realities, of unrealized potentialities, of the lives not lived, of the unlived life.
Auster captures in striking (and sometimes extravagant) detail what it is like to be a young boy at various ages -- six, eleven, fifteen, eighteen. And, not unlike the authors of ancient Mesopotamian literature, Auster often employs the use of repetitive phrases. But, when read out loud, each phrase can be read with different tones of voice such that each word acquires different resonances -- different versions.
At its core, however, this is a story about love and development -- about how we all need love in order to grow. It highlights the necessity of receiving love as a young child -- and having one's love received -- as fundamental to becoming a person. This love comes in different forms, of course, but nevertheless permeates the novel. Perhaps, like Freud says, psychoanalysis is "... in essence a cure through love."