Paul Auster wrote slowly throughout his life. First drafts by hand, then finished manuscripts on the typewriter. He can create about one page a day, Auster once told the German Press Agency. “Two, if I’m lucky, sometimes just half a bit. But if you keep at it, the sides start to loosen up.” Over the decades of his life, he accumulated an impressive catalog of novels, poetry, essays, songs and screenplays, including numerous world bestsellers such as “The New York Trilogy” and “The Book of Illusions”.

Auster collected numerous prizes with his works and became one of the most popular and successful US writers of his generation. Now Auster has died at the age of 77 – he succumbed to complications from cancer on Tuesday at his home in the New York borough of Brooklyn, as the “New York Times” and the British “Guardian” reported, citing his confidant Jacki Lyden. Auster had been suffering from lung cancer for more than two years.

In the years before his death, several of the author’s major works were published. The more than 1,000-page-long novel “4 3 2 1” from 2017, for example, and the approximately 800-page-long biography “In Flames” (original title: “Burning Boy”) about the US author Stephen Crane (1871-1900) – “a “new mountain of the Rocky Mountains,” as the writer joked upon publication.

Auster was born in 1947 to Jewish immigrants in Newark, near New York. Even as a teenager he wanted to be a writer, studied literature in New York and France and then kept himself afloat with teaching jobs and translation work. A first marriage broke up. It was only with the “New York Trilogy” – three loosely interwoven detective stories called “City of Glass”, “Schlagshadow” and “Behind Closed Doors” – that he achieved his breakthrough in the mid-1980s, after which he worked on novels such as ” Moon over Manhattan”, “Mr. Vertigo” and “The Book of Illusions” finally became a celebrated best-selling author.

His often autobiographical characters are strange, broken characters who lose themselves in all sorts of abysses and dark corners in search of themselves. Time and again it is chance, the unforeseen, a fantastic turn of events that determine her life – and that provide an opportunity for philosophical reflections on art and culture, identity, life and death.

His books were translated into dozens of languages, and he was even more popular in Europe than in his own country. He was “obsessed” with writing, Auster once said. “For me, writing is not an act of free will, it is a matter of survival.” At the same time, writing was also a constant struggle for him. “It’s the hardest thing I can imagine.”

For around 50 years, Auster lived and worked in the New York borough of Brooklyn, where many of his stories are also set. His wife Siri Hustvedt is hardly less popular as a writer than her husband, and their daughter Sophie, born in 1987, is successful as a singer and actress.

After his cancer diagnosis, Auster underwent a series of treatments, as he told the Guardian last year when his latest book, Baumgartner, was published. “I feel like my health is so precarious that this might be the last thing I ever write.” But if this is the end, then it was worth it – he leaves surrounded by “human kindness” in his circle of friends.