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Book Cover Design: Baumgartner by Paul Auster

Sy Baumgartner is seventy and widowed. Although he is living alone, his life is filled with the memory of his late wife Anna: memories so luminous they overflow, imbuing light and love into objects in their shared home, shimmering through interactions with the community around him and gleaming throughout the city where they fell in love.

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I knew early on that the cover needed to convey its message with simplicity.

To distil the essence of this book, I felt it had to suggest a sense of love and romantic memory, without shying away from the fact that this book deals with grief. To do this I started my cover design process by looking at typography options, and after some time I landed on the font Steiner, by Superior Type. A confident typeface that looks both beautiful and romantic, but not without its sharp edges.

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Building on the typography, I initiated my picture research by looking at imagery with a focus on Anna as our subject matter.

A memory of Sy and Anna at the beach, dancing in New York, or simply just being together in their home. Embellishing the cover with watercolour texture felt appropriate, as it is a fluid medium that echoes the impermanence and mutability of memory. This also gave me the opportunity to introduce colours that gave the cover a sense of warmth true to this novel. Taking this to a cover meeting, however, uncovered that perhaps the border was making this book feel smaller than it was, and the type and image needed to work more cohesively.

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I produced a second round of visuals with images spanning the full height and width of the cover, both in colour, and black and white (see next slide).

However, a conversation I had with the editor kept pulling at me. His initial pitch was that these images should capture a luminous quality of memory. Although I had produced a variety of colourful cover visuals, this word luminous was starting to translate differently to me.

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It wasn’t that the image itself needed to be colourful, but its luminosity and warmth should come across through a quality of tone.

That was what I needed to focus on. The ultimate unifying theme of this is novel is love. A picture from this round of visuals that captured this succinctly was a photograph by Paul Almásy taken in the 1960s. What strikes you first is the gaze of the man – pure adoration.

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With this we were able to land on our final cover, simplified to its most basic form:

A black-and-white cover, which I hope helps to articulate a memory of light and love, even when engulfed in grief.

Baumgartner by Paul Auster is out now in hardback, ebook and audio.

A signed limited edition of Baumgartner is available exclusively from faber.co.uk.

Read more Book Cover Design articles from the Faber Journal.

 

Browse all of Kishan’s references:

 

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Buy the Book
Paul Auster
£18.99
£16.99

A late masterpiece of love, memory and grief by Paul Auster, ‘one of the great American prose stylists of our time’

About the Author

Paul Auster is the bestselling author of 4 3 2 1, Sunset Park, The Book of Illusions, Moon Palace and The New York Trilogy. He and Spencer Ostrander collaborated on Bloodbath Nation. In 2006, he was awarded the Prince of Asturias Prize for Literature. His other honours include the Prix Medicis Étranger for Leviathan, the Independent Spirit Award for the Screenplay of Smoke, the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Burning Boy, and the Carlos Fuentes Prize for his body of work.

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About the Author
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Limited Edition
Paul Auster
£125.00

A beautiful, signed and limited edition of Paul Auster’s Baumgartner, a tender masterpiece of love, memory and loss from one of the world’s great writers. Available exclusively from faber.co.uk.