In philosophy, absurdism does not mean ridiculousness, as one would assume or understand it to believe in other contexts. Rather, it refers to mankind’s futile tendency to look for meaning in life and rationality in a chaotic universe. American writer, Paul Auster, often blends elements of absurdism, existentialism and criminality into his work. A multi-award-winning author, his novels have been translated into over forty languages.
One of Auster’s popular absurdist works is a 1990 novel called The Music of Chance. In it, a fireman called Jim Nashe inherits a fortune having been left by his wife and forced to send his daughter away to live with his sister. Revitalized by his new-found wealth, he buys a car and drives around the country for a year until the money runs out.
His fortune almost squandered, Nashe needs a new blueprint for his existence and finds one when he meets Jack Pozzi, a fiery young gambler. The two decide to relieve rich bachelors, Flower and Stone, of their money during a game of poker, but things don’t go to plan. There are many ways to be defeated at poker, perhaps by playing a weak ace-ten hand or just by bad luck. Regardless, Nashe loses his car during the game and, with Pozzi, is forced into building a wall for the rich eccentrics as a way of paying off their debt.
The two main protagonists are effectively imprisoned on the estate of Flower and Stone and watched over by a slave master named Murks while they work. The two are charged extra for living off the estate and forced to continue working. This is more than Pozzi can stand, who is beaten into a coma by persons unknown when he tries to escape. Hospitalized, Pozzi then disappears from hospital and is believed dead by Nashe, who must continue building the wall alone.
At the end of the novel, with the debt paid off, Nashe is taken on a celebratory night out by his captors. However, convinced they were responsible for his friend’s disappearance and suspected murder, he takes his revenge on them.