Author:
• Saturday, March 03rd, 2007

Audrey Niffenegger was born in June 1963 in south Haven Michigan. She grew up in Evanston, Illinois, which is the first suburb north of Chicago. She is a spinster with a permanent boy friend, a writer and an artist.

She obtained a BFA in 1985 from the school of The Art Institute of Chicago, and an MFA in 1991 from Northwestern University.

She is a full time professor in the Interdisciplinary Book Arts MFA program at the Columbia College Chicago Center for Book and Paper Arts, where she teaches writing, letterpress printing, and fine edition book production.

Audrey Niffenegger loved writing books and illustrating them since she was a young girl, as a part-time.

Her first book was about an imaginary road trip that she went on with The Beatles (the pop group). She was eleven years old when she wrote and illustrated this book.

But Niffenegger’s first real book is The Time Traveler’s Wife published in 2003. It was a bestseller when it came out.

She says: “The title came to me out of the blue, and from the title sprang the characters, and from the characters came the story… I got the title first, and played around with it for quite a long time, slowly evolving the characters in my head. I wrote the end before anything else, and then began to write scenes as they occurred to me.
The Time Traveler’s Wife was written in a completely different order than the one it finally took. I understood early on that it would be organized in three sections, and that the basic unit was the scene, not the chapter. It has a rather chaotic feel to it, especially at the beginning, and that is deliberate-there is a slow piecing together, a gradual accumulation of story, that mimics the experience of the characters. I made a lot of notes about the characters. I had two timelines to help me stay organized, but no outline of the plot.”

The Time Traveler’s Wife is a love story in a science fiction setting.

Clare and Henry love each other very dearly. Clare knows that she is destined to marry Henry, which creates an element of fatalism in the story.

They have to live with each other, go through the every day tasks, Clare being a free- lance artist, and Henry De Tumble a librarian in the famous Newberry Library in Chicago, while overcoming Henry’s genetic disorder called Chrono-Displacement Order. Which whisks him around in time. He disappears against his own will, to find himself transiting somewhere in a different year at any time or season.

For Clare to have Henry appearing and disappearing without any notice, spontaneously, and unpredictably, when he is needed, is quite a challenge for her love. She fears the consequences of Henry’s disappearance since she doesn’t know each time he comes back how that is going to affect her life in real time, according to whether he is returning from the past or the future.

Periodically, Henry finds himself travelling in time, faced with very emotional and sometimes dangerous situations in his existence. He is struggling to keep his sanity and is coping with his disease quite well.

Like Tamino and Pamina in Mozart’s Magic Flute, Clare and Henry had to undergo the Love Test in order to come out of it worthy of each other.

Niffenegger says:” I wanted to write about a perfect marriage that is tested by something outside the control of the couple.”

But then, The Time Traveler’s Wife is not only about love, it’s also about the notion of time, about the endless waiting, which is one of the themes in the novel we discover in the prologue.

” I wanted people to think about the intimacy of time, how ineffable it is, how it shapes us. I wanted to write about waiting, but since waiting is essentially a negative (time spent in the absence of something) I wrote about all the things that happen around the waiting.”

Clare is six years old when she meets Henry for the first time, while Henry has travelled back thirty-six years to meet Clare. But then, when they get married Clare is twenty-three and Henry thirty- one.
They both have to be patient in order to fulfil their destiny, and to prove that no matter how long it takes nothing alter their passion for each other.

Henry summarizes his love for Clare in the letter she is meant to read after his death: “ Clare, I want to tell you, again, I love you. Our love has been the thread through the labyrinth, the net under the high-wire walker, the only real thing in this strange life of mine that I could ever trust.”

Clare on the other hand, carries on living patiently waiting for the right time when Henry will come to her, when she is in her eighties, and takes her with him. Henry had seen that day and told her about it.

Niffenegger likes to go into the minute details in order to bring some life and plenty of essence to her story. We learn about different places in Chicago, about the pop groups of the time, about the taste of various characters. Even the couple’s sex life is described in details.

The author says in one of her interviews: “I am interested in mutants, love, death, amputation, sex, and time (the themes of my novel, The Time Traveler’s Wife)

She has also written two other books. The Three Incestuous Sisters, a 176- page graphic novel or “novel in pictures” as she calls it. And The Adventuress published 1st September 2006.

The actors Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston bought the rights to the film, which is going to be released in 2008.

In an interview, Audrey Niffenegger was asked: “How much of Clare or Henry is you?
The answer was: “Contrary to popular belief, not much. I died my hair red as a way of saying goodbye to Clare, as I was finishing the book. She makes very different art from mine, and she’s much quieter and more patient. Henry and I share a quirky sense of humour and a taste for punk, but not much else. First novels are often said to be thinly disguised autobiography. This one uses my places and things I know something about (libraries, paper making) but alas, this is not my life, and these characters are not me.

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