He was born in Newark, New Jersey and after graduating from Columbia University in 1970, Auster moved to France, where he began translating the works of French writers. Since returning to America in 1974, he has published his own poems, essays, novels and translations.
He gained renown for a series of experimental detective stories published collectively as The New York Trilogy[?] (1987). It comprises City of Glass (1985), about a crime novelist who becomes entangled in a mystery that causes him to assume various identities; Ghosts (1986), about a private eye known as Blue who is investigating a man named Black for a client named White; and The Locked Room (1986), the story of an author who, while researching the life of a missing writer for a biography, gradually assumes the identity of that writer.
These books are not conventional detective stories organized around a mystery and a series of clues. Rather, he uses the detective form to undertake existential issues and questions of identity, creating his own, distinctly postmodern form in the process. The search for identity and personal meaning has been a red thread between all of Auster's later publications.