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Odd Jobs in Paris and Translating

It seems that Davis got into some trouble in Ireland in 1972 while Auster was visiting—t hey were reconciling. “A plainclothes detective drove up to her cottage and presented her with a summons to appear in court,” he wrote. They found a lawyer from “the firm of Argue and Phibbs”—good material for Auster. By late 1972 their “on-again off-again romance seemed to be on again” and they were back together in Paris.57 But they needed money, so when the charming “Monsieur X” offered Auster $2,500 to help “Madame X” with her novel, he accepted. He and Davis moved into a new apartment on rue Descartes, then he went to Mexico for a month to help Madame X. But her book went nowhere. Auster returned to Paris around Christmas 1972, but found that Monsieur X wanted the money back. Auster refused.

Auster and Davis put together a third issue of Living Hand composed solely of Auster’s work. This is the material that he remembered as having been written at the Dupins’ place. It would eventually appear, when Auster and Davis were living in Weston, Connecticut, as Unearth—Poems 1970-72. Its spare, abstract poems were clearly influenced by Dupin, and one might say that his expertise on Miro is evident, for Auster seems to echo the painter’s humor.58

In the ecology of gatekeeping, it is critical to the older artist, as Bourdieu points out, to have a younger artist take up his program, not only to spread his fame as the creator of an aesthetic position, but to ensure that it continues, that it has a legacy. It was not yet clear that Auster could do that for Dupin; the book still had not been published. Meanwhile translation work kept the couple afloat. Auster translated for Maeght, and with Davis he did Arabs and Israelis: A Dialogue (New York: Holmes & Meier, 1975), one of several assignments that arrived through the Jewish community. Then European Judaism in London commissioned Auster to write “Pages for Kafka” and it would later ask for an article on Charles Reznikoff. Auster also placed his Dupin introduction in Books Abroad under a longer title: “The Cruel Geography of Jacques Dupin’s Poetry.” And he wrote a piece on Laura Riding, not published until 1975. The trouble was that these acceptances didn’t pay until publication, often years later. “We had both run out of money by then,” Auster wrote.59

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