What is friendship? Especially what is male friendship?
Paul Auster gives us an answer in his novel, Leviathan.
Leviathan is an Old Testament reference meaning a dragon-like monster, serpent or even a crocodile that represents evil. While, Auster’s novel is not biblical or religious on the surface, there is definitely a strong philosophical underpinning that made it interesting to read.
The novel begins with a man blowing himself up on the side of the highway in Northern Wisconsin. And we find out immediately that man was Ben Sachs and his story will be told by the novel’s narrator, Peter Aaron.
Peter was Ben’s best friend and he decided to tell the story of their friendship right up to the point of Ben’s tragic end. While reading Peter’s version of their friendship, I’ve learned that friendship can have a tighter bond even than with siblings. But, what appears to the outside world of a person’s life is definitely not what’s going on behind close doors.
One of the most fascinating scenes in the novel is where Ben finds out that Peter had sex with his wife and that conversation between them(Ben reveals his own adultery as well) was the saddest and most authentic I’ve read in modern fiction. It made me read Proverbs 5, where Solomon gives a stark warning against adultery and how one must steer clear of that temptation or it will definitely pull you in.
I got the sense the author felt the random events and coincidences are things that could shaped a person’s life in one direction or another. While, I disagree with his premise. I did find those coincidences in the story make me think about those things that happened in my life. Where they coincidences? Or orchestrated by something beyond myself?
Leviathan was the smoothest novel I’ve read in the past few years. The pace and flow of the first 100-150 pages was nearly perfect. Auster is a very talented writer. However, the last 100 pages or so, I’ve felt a little let down and thought the random events and coincidences became too convenient in order to finish the novel.
I don’t think this is a novel for everyone but it does reveal the real nature of friendship and how self-deception and idealism can cause self-destruction. An interesting read and recommended.